However, when it comes to choosing frying pans, it can all get a bit confusing. Don’t they all do the same job? How many do you actually need? There are so many different types of pan available, and in various sizes and shapes - it’s often hard to know what the difference is.
Well, after much research, home experimentation and even visiting Classic Interiors in Worcester, foodie and online blogger D. Murphey has decided that this sizzling issue boils down to the list below. Join us in taking a closer look at 7 popular types of frying pan - lifting the lid of mystery on which cooking tasks they are best suited to…
A skillet, or regular frying pan, is an essential workhorse in the kitchen. Available in different sizes and probably the most versatile pan you can have in your pan drawer, a skillet has a flat bottom and curved edges. The rounded sides make it easy to move the pan contents around without anything getting burnt, while pancakes and omelettes can be flipped without much ado.
Skillets are great for fast cooking with oil over a very high heat. Use your skillet for sautéing vegetables, scrambling eggs, searing or browning meat, and for pancakes and omelettes.
2. Sauté Pan
Sautéing is a basic cooking term that originates from the French sauter (to jump); it means frying (or browning) food quickly over a moderately high heat using a minimal amount of fat in an open shallow pan where the food can be moved around easily.
A sauté pan is similar to a skillet in the sense that it has a flat bottom, but instead of having rounded sides, this pan has straight sides. It is also a bit deeper than a frying pan and may have a lid.
These pans are perfect for frying and searing/browning meat. The long handle, straight sides and lid means you can also use them for simmering sauces, braising or reheating dishes. The high edges help contain the food better than a round sided frying pan, which is great for cooking sauces and avoiding dangerous oil spills.
3. Griddle or Grill Pan
A griddle or grill pan can be square or round; it has a large flat or ridged surface that is ideal for grilling meat, fish or vegetable with a minimal amount of oil. Griddle pans are usually quite heavy (made of cast iron) and may have one or two short-ish handles that are often removable for oven use.
Grilling is done at high temperatures, searing the food and sealing the juices inside. The ridged surface is great for draining away any liquids, while leaving those lovely grill marks on your food. Without the need for much fat, you can cook breakfast foods (eggs, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, black pudding, hash browns), pancakes, steaks and a wide range of other foods.
4. Oriental Wok
The ever popular all-purpose Asian pan, a wok has high sloping sides and either one long or two short handles. It is a large pan, traditionally made of carbon steel but widely available in stainless steel, cast iron or non-stick cookware too. Woks have a hot cooking surface at the bottom, with cooler surfaces up the sides.
Wok cooking is all about high heat; the pan is perfect for preparing dishes that are meant to be stirred, tossed or otherwise agitated during cooking for quick results – sautéing noodles, making stir fries, cooking fried rice, steaming and also deep frying.
5. Paella Pan
Used in Spanish cuisine for the popular dish of the same name, paella pans are typically associated with cooking for large numbers. Catering versions of up to 1500 mm in diameter are easily obtainable, but they also come in much smaller sizes.
Paella pans are traditionally flat and shallow, with sloped sides and two D handles. The shape is designed to maximise the amount of rice touching the bottom of the pan, thus ensuring that it cooks evenly in a thin layer with liquid able to evaporate quickly. According to Valencians, the cooked rice should only be as thick as the width of one finger.
Designed specifically for cooking Spanish Paella, there are many other dishes you can create in your Paella pan too.
6. Crêpe Pan
A special type of frying pan designed for French super thin French crêpes, this pan is very shallow and relatively wide, and has a single pan handle. Crucially, it has a very shallow edge. Of course, you can cook crêpes and pancakes in a regular skillet, however this pan’s thin edge gives you a clear advantage when dealing with delicate pancakes. Invest in a non-stick variety and turn and flip your pancakes with ease, using nothing but a spatula or palette knife.
7. Blini Pan
Blinis are mini pancakes from Eastern Europe, traditionally made from buckwheat flour and often served with salmon, caviar and sour cream. Blini pans are tiny, almost toy sized frying pans that are perfect for cooking 1 blini at a time.
To speed up the process, or to cater for a larger group, you can also purchase larger pancake pans with several pre-formed spots for baking several pancakes at a time.