A well-functioning kitchen needs the right variety of pans to help you curate your recipes.
The first thing to look for while buying the pans is the types and the purpose.
While a frying pan is used to sauté the vegetables, a saucepan to make a soup, and a grill pan to attain that crispy crust of your meat, you must know that there’s a separate pan for every purpose.
With plenty of options available, it is often difficult to pick the right one for the right need.
You might have a passion to try out various pans but not all of them are made of the same materials and each of them tends to cook the food differently.
From the traditional cast iron and stainless steel to today’s non-stick pans, each type of material has its role in distributing heat to the food being cooked.
If you are a novice or an expert, you must start with the basics and try to look at the types of pans, to make the right purchase.
In this article, we guide you through the types of pans and the types of materials used to make your search easy.
Types of Pans:
1.Saute’ Pans – for that perfect Potato Fry!
Best For Stir-frying vegetables, browning meat, roasting and is meant for everyday use.
A frying pan or saute’ pan is the most used cookware. It has a flat bottom with circular base and straight walls. They come with long handles and sometimes with a lid.
The flat bottom prevents the ingredients from getting together and helps in even-frying. The bottom of these pans is generally thick to provide better heat distribution.
To hold on the weight, a strong handle is attached which can also be used to flip the ingredients while frying.
How to choose?
- Though a non-stick saute’ pan comes as a viable option, we suggest you go with a stainless-steel pan as it is more durable.
- Go with strong metal handles attached with screws. This type of pan can hold more weight.
- Curved side walls prevent the food from sliding out of the pan.
- Wide bottom helps in spreading the heat evenly.
- Food can sometimes stick to the bottom at high temperatures.
2. Skillets – TheHealthifying cookware!
Best for: Skillets are for those who are on diet and looking to reduce oil content while cooking. They can be used for frying and roasting.
A skillet is similar to a frying pan except the tall edges. It can even resist high flames of fire. It is a heavy-duty pan that can be used on stovetop and oven.
Skillets have long handles and do not come with a lid. They have a wide opening at the top of the pan which prevents the food from getting stuck to the edges.
They also come in non-stick and stainless-steel materials and each material has its own uses.
Non-stick skillets are light-weight and can be used for cooking delicate foods with eggs and fish.
The stainless-steel skillet is a lighter alternative of the cast iron. It has some non-sticking ability which is missing in the cast iron skillet.
How to choose?
- Cast iron skillets can be used to make fries, steaks on high flame without burning.
- Stainless-steel skillets require little oil or butter and can give that perfect browning to the food.
- Cast iron skillet heats evenly without leaving any hotspots.
- At high temperatures, the iron can get imparted into the food.
3. Grill Pan – For that perfect barbecue at home!
- Attaining the crusty layer to the meat while cooking.
- Cooking kabobs, vegetables, or chicken breasts without intermixing the juices and sauces.
- Can be used to collect juice for the preparation of sauces.
A grill pan comes with a grilled bottom which allows better air circulation. The grills are usually placed 1 to 2 centimeters apart and 0.5 centimeters high to allow the juices to drip down from the food.
It is also called a “broiler pan” and usually comes with a non-stick surface.
How to choose?
- To get the best crust layer, choose a cast-iron grill pan. It gives the right crisp to the food without getting stuck to the pan.
- Can be used indoors.
- Square grilled pans have better heat conduction.
- Cast-iron grilled pans too have non-stick features.
- Most of the grilled pans are usually heavy.
4. Double burner griddle
- Cooking breakfast like eggs or pancakes.
- Can also be used to sear burgers or even steaks at higher temperatures
A double burner griddle helps you cook food with less oil and without the food getting stuck to the surface.
The griddles are made of cast iron or aluminum that helps in getting the desired heat faster without much effort.
Double burner griddles are mainly used to give that smoky flavor to your food. They have a flat surface and look sleek which makes them easier to clean and store.
They have specially designed handles that remain cool even at high temperatures.
How to choose?
A cast iron griddle can be used at high temperatures for preparing steaks. You can also go for electric griddles that recently entered the market. Electric griddles are easy to maintain and lightweight.
- Cast iron griddles are durable and give a rich flavor to the food.
- Can be used on open flames, stovetops, induction cooktops and ovens.
- Flat surface enables even heat distribution.
- Can develop hot spots when used at high temperatures.
5. Saucepan – for that mouthwatering Pasta!
Best For: Sauce pans can be used to cook liquid foods. They are great for simmering, stewing, making soups and sauces.
Sauce pans are used to heat small amounts of sauce and also to prepare rice or quinoa. They have long handles; a lid and the pan are smaller than the rest.
Sauce pans are made with various materials like stainless steel, copper and aluminum.
How to choose?
- To heat small amounts of sauce, you can go for 1-quart sauce pan.
- Stainless steel saucepan is best for heating and also for storing.
- The sides of a saucepan are flared which allows good stirring.
- Can be cooked for a long time at lower temperatures.
- Wide bottom allows maximum heat conduction.
- Saucepans made of cast iron can be difficult to clean.
6. Essential Pan/ Egg Poaching Pan
Best For: Frying, simmering, braising, preparing egg recipes and many more.
It is an everyday pan that is versatile and has the qualities of both saute’ pan and sauce pan.
The egg poacher which is used for preparing everyday breakfast also comes under an essential pan.
This pan comes with a lid, a handle and flat bottom for easy stirring and frying. They can cook your eggs in a number of ways, be it soft boiled, scrambled eggs or even an omelet.
They are usually made of stainless steel that can be used on a stovetop but electric egg poachers are also available.
How to choose:
- An electric egg poacher can be more durable and an efficient alternative that can cook up to 7 eggs at a time.
- High sides allow for easy flipping, and tossing of ingredients without spilling.
- Essential pans have dense surfaces that can be durable.
- The bottom surface is generally non-stick.
- The grease on the essential pans can be difficult to remove.
7. Roasting Pan – for all the crunchy food lovers!
- Cooking meat, roasting vegetables, baking,
- Can also be used for cooking in the oven at high temperatures.
Roasting pans are large rectangular dishes that are oven-safe for cooking roasted vegetables and other similar items.
They come with two standalone handles on two sides for easy oven loading and unloading.
A roasting pan can be used with a rack that can be placed inside the pan which lets the meat sit above the juice dripping.
They can be made of aluminum, stainless steel, and cast iron.
How to choose?
- A non-stick roasting pan is easier to clean.
- Stainless steel is also a viable option as it doesn’t react with food.
- Heavy duty construction of the pan helps in roasting heavy meat.
- Easy to carry and clean.
- Stainless steel pans can be dish washed.
- Paint tends to peel off after a few uses.
8. Wok – for Restaurant-like Chinese!
Best For: Stir-frying, rapid tossing and stirring small ingredients at high temperatures.
A wok is a typical stir-frying cookware which has a round bottom and sloping sides. It is the best cookware for most of the Asian recipes.
A wok generally has a long stick and one handle and comes with a lid for steaming.
Woks generally use very little fluids, so they can create healthier meals when used correctly.
They work their best when used on gas stove tops even at high temperatures.
How to choose?
- For gas or electric burners, you can choose a flat bottom wok. Stainless steel or non-stick woks can be used for better durability.
- Go for round bottom woks with a ring when using it on a standard burner.
- Deep curved sloped sides allow good food movement.
- Cast iron woks take time to heat up.
9. Braiser – An artistic Pan for art lovers!
- Long-hours cooking which allows the liquids to penetrate into the ingredients to add flavor.
- For heating sauces and also blanching certain vegetables.
Braisers are short and wide pots that are often made of stainless steel. They can be used on induction and also glass cook tops. They resemble Dutch ovens and are mainly designed to cook foods that are immersed in liquids.
A braiser is a large container that allows cooking of meat and vegetables on a stove stop and can also be transferred to the oven.
Braiser pans are also available in aluminum and cast iron models.
How to choose?
Opt for a cast iron braiser as it features an enamel coating which is non-sticky in nature. This type of braiser is strong and durable.
- Wide surface allows easy cooking.
- Can be used on all types of cooktops.
- Not ideal for bulk cooking.
10. Casserole Pan – for the baker in you!
Best For: Cooking stews and over-baked casseroles, meat, fish, chopped vegetables.
A casserole pan is a deep pan or bowl which can be used for cooking and serving. It is similar to a Dutch oven but has shorter sides.
Traditional casserole pans are made of cast iron and come with a lid. They can be used on stovetops and ovens.
Recent casserole pans come in ceramic, glass and cast iron. Most casserole pans are square and round.
How to choose?
Ceramic pans are expensive and tend to look more decorative. They can be served directly from the oven to the table. Glass casserole pans are great for everyday cooking and are affordable.
Cast iron casserole pans are usually non-stick and good for everyday use.
- They maintain steady heat while slow cooking.
- Less chances of spot formation.
- Prevents rusting.
- Un-enameled casserole pans can react with acidic foods.
Choosing the right material:
1. Cast Iron:
This is the most durable material used in cookware that can last for generations. It heats slowly but retains the heat and helps it to spread evenly. Pans made of cast iron are heavy and can turn rusty if not stored properly.
Best For: High-heating tasks like frying and browning.
Non-stick pans can be used by beginners as the non-stick Teflon coating releases even the most delicate food. They are dishwasher safe and can be cleaned easily with little effort. They require very little oil for cooking.
However, the non-stick coating can wear off after a few uses.
Best For: Cooking sticky foods including eggs and fish and oil-free cooking
3. Stainless Steel:
Steel coated pans are multi-functional with which you can cook and store. They are dishwasher and broiler safe and can be maintained with little effort. They can last longer even with repetitive use. When repeatedly cooked on high temperatures, stainless steel pans are prone to scorching.
Best For: Multitasking and everyday cooking. Suits all food types.
A healthy option and the best material that can react to heat with changing temperatures. Copper pans can get heated and cooled down quickly. These are perfect option for cooking and also serving. However, dents can be developed quickly after rapid use. Copper pans can react with food and release harmful chemicals.
Best For: With best heat distribution, Copper pans give you the control while cooking any recipe.
5. Cast Aluminum:
An inexpensive alternative to cast iron pans. They can prevent rusting and sticking to the food. Cast aluminum pans can react to acidic foods and change the taste.
Best For: Preparing sauces and deep-frying vegetables.
It is often a long journey from preparation of a recipe to serving. The end result depends on the ingredients, and the equipment you use.
It is always wise to keep the right pan at your fingertips depending on the type of cooking you do.