What do you call that handy pan you use for nearly everything—a skillet, frying pan, fry pan, or just a pan?
No matter what you call it (or whether you feel that these are all different names for the same pan), this type of pan is ubiquitous for good reason. It’s a reliable piece of cookware with countless practical applications, and every chef or home cook should have one they love. This pan is simple but mighty in anyone’s hands!
Let’s take a look at the features of a fry pan.
What Is a Fry Pan?
A fry pan is a shallow pan. You’ve seen one hundreds of times, and if you like to cook, you probably already have several.
Fry pans must have sloped sides, long handles, and flat bottoms in order to be called fry pans. They may optionally have additional features like fitted glass or metal lids, rubber handles for protection from heat, or even spouts for easy pouring as well.
Skillets without lids may be called open skillets and skillets with lids may be called covered skillets or saute pans. Our versa skillet, a slightly a deeper pan with two handles and a lid, may be used as a frying pan or a braiser.
Fry pans are one of the most affordable types of cookware you can get given their relatively simple construction. Whether you purchase them in a set with small, medium, and large sizes or buy your fry pans individually, you will likely spend less on these than you do other pans.
Fry pans may measure anywhere from four to 12 inches in diameter.
Fry Pan vs. Skillet
Are fry pans and skillets the same thing under different names?
No one is exactly sure where the terms fry pan and skillet come from, which means that definitions vary. This makes classifying these pans separately a purely subjective matter.
Whether they’re the same or different depends on who you ask.
People in the different camp often believe that skillets have higher sides than fry pans, making skillets better for boiling and braising and fry pans better for searing and sauteing. But to make matters more confusing still, others claim the opposite.
Some differentiate between fry pans and skillets only by the material they’re made of, referring specifically to cast iron pans as skillets and all other shallow, flat-bottomed pans as fry pans.
You may also notice generational differences in the way that these pans are referenced. Your grandmother might refer to all of her pans as skillets.
Either way, it’s usually fine to just use these terms interchangeably. Professional chefs use both names, and you can too. Most cookware manufacturers use one term or the other.
Fry Pan vs. Saute Pan
An easier question with a more straightforward answer would be: What makes a fry pan different from a saute pan? This is important to understand because both fry pans and saute pans can be used to saute and fry ingredients, but they are not the same.
A saute pan has straight sides that are usually much taller than the sides of a typical fry pan or skillet. This gives the flat bottom of a saute pan greater surface area than that of a frying pan. Saute pans also usually have lids whereas this is not a necessary component of fry pans (nice to have, but not necessary).
Why Every Home Cook Needs a Great Frying Pan
A reliable, well-crafted frying pan under any name is just about the most important piece of cookware you can have.
There is almost no cooking technique that a good fry pan can’t execute. Chefs use fry pans or skillet to saute, sear, and even braise. And of course, you can fry with a fry pan, but only using a fry pan for frying would be a waste!
Most people would probably agree that one of the best things about frying pans is that they come in so many sizes. This is truly one of the easiest pans to get your hands on and can meet the needs of single people, families large and small, and bustling professional kitchens.
Never underestimate the importance of owning the best version of a staple pan like this.
Features of a High-Quality Frying Pan
Many frying pans sold today are coated with a nonstick material to prevent food from sticking and make them easier to clean. However, PFOA and PTFE coatings like Teflon contain toxic chemicals and don’t last.
You’ve probably seen how the coating on a nonstick pan flakes and scratches after just a year of heavy use (which most fry pans get), especially when using metal utensils or putting it in a dishwasher rather than hand washing.
All in all, you would likely end up spending more money over time replacing nonstick pots and pans than you would just investing in a pan made of high-quality materials.
Your fry pan should be easy to handle and heavy-duty because you’re going to use it all the time.
Fry pans made of a single material such as cast iron, stainless steel, or pure ceramic are easiest to clean, longest-lasting, and most durable. Those built using natural organic materials like ceramic are generally considered to be healthiest and most eco-friendly.
Oven-safe fry pans can be transferred from stovetop to oven to make your life that much easier. Even if you don’t see yourself using your fry pan in the oven often, it’s worth it to make sure your pan of choice can do both.
What Fry Pans Do Chefs Use?
Professional chefs typically prioritize quality and longevity when choosing pans. They prefer pans that are versatile and easily maneuverable in busy kitchens, so most stick with solid metal and ceramic cookware.
With proper use and maintenance, these fry pans can last for years even with frequent use.