Buying Guide to Frying Pans

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6 Things to Know Before You Buy

A frying pan comes in handy for just about anyone: from college students making their first foray into feeding themselves, to seasoned chefs creating their umpteenth meal. It's a must for sauteing veggies and the go-to pan for making that steaming pile of scrambled eggs. Here are a few must know facts about this classic piece of cookware.

Fact #1: A frying pan and a saute pan are not the same thing.

A frying pan (or skillet) has sloped sides. A saute pan has sides that are vertically straight. That said, technically you can saute veggies and meats in a frying pan.

Fact #2: Not all metals conduct heat equally well.

Frying pans are typically made from aluminum, anodized aluminum, copper, stainless steel and cast iron. The first three options are all highly conductible metals, meaning they heat up and cool down very quickly. As a result, you want to use these on a low to medium heat. Otherwise you risk burning both the pan and the meal.

Stainless steel takes more time to heat up. Frying pans made with this material almost always have a base or inner layer of copper or aluminum to aid in shortening the cook time.

Cast iron frying pans take the most amount of time to heat up. That said, once they reach their desired temperature, they retain the heat better than many of the above options. Also, with proper care, your cast iron pan will last for generations.

Fact #3: Some pans aren't dishwasher safe.

While all of the above metals are durable, their upkeep requirements may not be conducive to every wanna-be chef.

Copper is expensive and requires polishing to keep it in tip-top condition. It's probably not the best choice for a recent grad sharing a house with roommates, or a parent whose packed schedule doesn't allow time for pan maintenance.

Both anodized aluminum and stainless steel are dishwasher safe. This makes them top choices for those who don't enjoy hand-scrubbing their cookware.

And while cast iron may be considered the mother of all durable metals, it can't be put in the dishwasher or even cleaned with soap and water. Instead, it needs to be rinsed down or wiped off immediately after using.

Fact #4: Fry pans come in sizes.

Use an 8-inch frying pan or larger for omelettes, sautéed vegetables, and meats. Smaller fry pans are meant for making sauces or a single fried egg.

Fact #5: Handles are not all created equal.

Keep this all-important tid-bit in mind while shopping: riveted handles are permanently secured to the pan, welded or screwed-on handles have the potential to come loose or fall off after repeated use. For durability purposes, the former is probably the better choice.

If you're looking for a handle that is going to stay cool while your pan heats up, try either a hollowed out stainless steel handle or a stainless steel handle wrapped in silicone. The latter style is also known for being easy to grip.

Fact #6: Go non-stick.

This is an extra that means you don't have to use butter or oil when you cook, which many view as a healthier way to cook. The nonstick coating means the food slips from the pan to your plate with ease, making for easy cleanup.