The authors of The New Cooks' Catalogue
certainly know what to look for when choosing cooking equipment. These leading culinary experts have been evaluating cooking
equipment for over 25 years. The following information is what they consider important when selecting skillets and fry pans.
A frying pan is a skillet with moderately high, slightly flared sides. It is used for all-purpose pan-frying and omelette making.
8-, 10- and 12-inch are the most useful sizes.
The best frying pans are made of metals that conduct heat efficiently like lined copper, stainless steel-wrapped aluminum, anodized aluminum and cast iron.
High-quality nonstick pans are especially recommended as omelette pans.
Frying pans are skillets that have moderately high, slightly flared sides. They are useful for all kinds of pan-frying,
as opposed to deep-fat frying (in which food is completely immersed in hot fat). They’re what you reach for when you want
to cook foods like pork chops, potato pancakes, or soft-shell crabs, as well as peppers and onions.
You may also use a frying pan to sauté, which involves rapid frying in a small amount of fat followed by the addition of
other ingredients to the pan, but that technique is better left to a true sauté pan with high straight sides.
A good frying pan also doubles as an omelette pan. Traditionally, omelette pans featured a slightly rounder bottom
than classic frying pans to assist rolling or flipping the eggs, but the terms are often used interchangeably. In fact,
any decent frying pan can turn out a good omelette, especially if it has a nonstick coating. A 7-inch pan is the perfect
size for a two-egg omelette, choose an 8-inch if you like three eggs.
Oval omelette pans, sometimes called oval sauté pans, are useful for cooking fish filets, shell steaks and other foods
that clearly fit better inside a long oval pan than in a round one. Oval pans are also intended as serving pieces and
often feature beautiful materials like copper or stainless steel. They are usually 10- to 12-inches long.
A copper pan lined with tin or stainless steel is the first choice for delicate items that need precise timing –thin
veal scaloppini or sea scallops, for example. Copper is the most responsive metal; it picks up heat immediately but it
will also lose heat as soon as the pan is removed from the burner.
For everyday cooking, whether sautéed mushrooms, hamburgers or chicken cutlets, pans made from stainless steel-wrapped
aluminum and anodized aluminum are excellent choices.
Some foods require steady, even heat to brown. An old-fashioned cast iron skillet that doesn’t cool down when you
take it off the burner would be a good choice for hash browned potatoes, bacon or a grilled cheese sandwich.
Stick v. Nonstick
One advantage of nonstick pans, besides their quick-release feature, is that you can reduce the fat called for in a recipe.
Some pans have more "release" than others do: top-of-the-line coatings are "arc-sprayed" or "grit-blasted" onto the pan.
Most manufacturers recommend using moderate heat to avoid damaging nonstick coatings, which may limit your ability
to brown foods well. Other experts maintain that the coating interferes with heat transfer to the food, so ingredients
may not brown as well as in an ordinary pan. To minimize this tendency, select a high-quality nonstick pan with a heavy,
heat-conducting, thick-gauge metal base. Pans with an aluminum sandwich core are excellent options.
A few nonstick pans are manufactured with the nonstick material integrated into the pan itself, rather than applied
as a coating. Their ability to release food may be somewhat inferior to other nonstick pans, but they often heat better.
Although it is a good idea to use a potholder when you cook, it is important that the frying pan handle stay as cool as
possible. Look for metal handles that are hollowed in some way or that are made of a different metal than the pan itself.
"Phenolic" handles stay cool, even after prolonged frying, but you can't use the pan under the broiler. Wooden handles
stay the coolest, but are not oven- or dishwasher-safe.