Choosing a Frypan

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Non Stick Frypan

What type of Frypan is right for you?  I know some of you have concerns about some types of frypans.  I can’t tell you what frypan to buy unless I know how you cook and what your needs are.  But, after reading this post, I hope I can help you make a more informed choice.

In my evening meals classes, we use WOLL pans, and many of my customers have purchased them because they’ve seen how they work: I’ve shown them the method of using them and how to look after them.  But I own other pans in my home too.

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before you can make the right choice.

  • Do you want non-stick?
  • Do you cook everything at a high temperature? (you shouldn’t, but I know some of you do, I’ve seen ya! lol)
  • Do you want your frypans to last a lifetime or are you happy to buy something you’ll know you’ll have to replace eventually?
  • Do you want to put them in the dishwasher?
  • Do you want to put them in the oven?
  • How important is the feel and type of handle? If the pan is full, is it easy to lift; can the handle be removed; or will it fit in your oven if you want to use it that way?
  • Do you need them to suit induction? Even if you don’t have an induction stove top, I would go for one of these anyway.  Because you may have one in the future.

 

Here is what I know about each style of pan.

Stainless Steel Frypans – Good Quality of course

Robust and last a lifetime.  Not non-stick but with the use of oils or fats and cooking correctly, you can sort that problem out.  If you leave them on very high heat for too long, they can burn, warp or their base (if layered) can bubble and separate.  Mind you, if you do that to any frypan that can cause issues.  These are probably the most stress-free frypans concerning everything but cleaning.  Although, I don’t hesitate to pop mine in the dishwasher after a little soak.

Carbon Steel Frypans

Never heard of it? Most restaurants use carbon steel frypans.  Similar to Cast Iron without so much weight.  These fry pans are robust and non-stick after you’ve developed a patina. They usually have a steel handle so the whole thing can go into an oven and last a lifetime if you prepare and follow the carbon steel instructions.  Which are not that hard, if you know the rules.

Carbon Steel will work on any stovetop, including induction.

Oh, by the way, that Wok you had? The one that always rusted because you didn’t know how to season it correctly?  That’s made of Carbon Steel. The price for Carbon Steel ranges from very little to a lot. The thinner the carbon steel the more chance it will warp, which makes them pretty useless on an induction stove top.  So, pay a little more if you have or are planning on having an induction stove.

First, you need to temper them; good ones will come with instructions, and you can pay a little more and get one that the surface has already been started for you.

How do you do it?  When I trained to be a chef, we had a new shipment of pans come into the college, and we were shown how to temper them. Loads of people complained, but I really valued that lesson because without that new shipment I may have never learnt the correct way.

What will you need? 

  • You will need your pan,
  • paper towel,
  • an oil that has a high smoke point and
  • a stovetop, of course.

When you receive your new pan, you need to wash off the manufacturing grease or oil with hot soapy water; don’t stop now or your pan will rust.

Set the pan on the stove over a high heat to dry it.

Remove the pan from the heat, let it cool a little then tip about 1 tsp – 1 tbsp of oil into the pan, (depending on the size of your pan) and wipe it around the surface making sure to cover the entire inside surface.  Leave no drips or puddles. This should be a very smooth thin coating, just enough to make the surface shiny.  If your layers are too thick between each tempering stage, you’ll end up with a surface that is tacky, bubbly and not non-stick.

Leave the frypan on the stove until it starts to smoke, then remove and allow it to cool.

Reapply more oil and wipe it around the surface, as before, leaving no drips or puddles.

Repeat this process until the whole frypan has turned black.  This black coating is what will make your surface non-stick.   It might take up to 10 coats to complete the full patina, but it is well worth it.

Now you can use your Carbon Steel frypan as you would any other non-stick frypan and when you’re finished wash with warm water and a sponge, then dry.  I quite often just put it on the hob again and give it a quick burst of heat.  Only takes a minute, or you can dry it with a paper towel or cloth.

Cast Iron Frypan or skillet or cookware

These are pretty much the same as Carbon Steel but a much heavier version. They are perfect for holding the heat in, and you’re less likely to burn your food because they heat so evenly.  Of course, if you’ve had them on the stove on full heat for ages, you’ll still burn stuff.

You’ll need to temper or create a patina on the surface as you would for carbon steel.

Non-Stick Coated Frypans

If you’ve never used one, then I suggest you purchase something small and cook up an omelette for your lunch.  You’ll get it.    Their surface makes it easy to cook food with very little oil and remove food from the pan with minimal effort.

I always use a little bit of fat (butter, oil, ghee or bacon fat if I’m cooking with it); without it, your food won’t taste as good or caramelise as well.  With a non-stick pan, you can get away with using the minimum, which makes them a relatively healthy option.

Here are some points you may not be aware of:

  • There are two main types of non-stick: one that you purchase with a coating already on it and the other that you build up a patina or coating so it will become non-stick. Both have different care instructions. More about the latter later.
  • No frypan that is purchased with a non-stick surface will last too long if you’re going to continuously use them on very high temperatures and for long periods of time. Doing this will shorten their lifespan. In fact, it would reduce the lifespan of most frypans.  Many of us turn the heat to full blast for pretty much everything.  That’s not the best practice for non-stick surfaces.
  • No frypan that has a non-stick surface will last forever if you use tools that scratch or clean them with abrasive scourers. Choose good quality silicone spatulas with a high-heat rating and never rest them in the pan.
  • If you purchase a good quality fry-pan with a non-stick surface it may be fine in a dishwasher although some of our dishwashing powders and tablets are quite caustic so, to be safe, you should wipe them out with a soapy sponge and rinse. Not too hard really.
  • If you purchase a carbon steel or cast-iron frypan you need to create a patina on the surface to make them non-stick. These fry pans are very robust, although, there are some rules to follow to keep them for many years.  Restaurants wouldn’t purchase and use them if they had to replace them.

Are non-stick pots and pans dangerous for your health?

OMG, there are so many conflicting reports on the internet about any subject, and this is no exception.  What is it we really want to know? Do they give off harmful chemicals that transfer into the air and our food?

If you do a lot of research you’ll find that those that know and have done all the tests – oh, and they’re not just trying to sell us their product – tell us that quality non-stick coatings don’t release harmful toxins until they go over 260°C, and some are higher than that.

  • What would these harmful toxins do to us?  They may cause headaches, nausea and damage to the respiratory tract in humans.  Choose a PFOA–free frypan, and you’ll be a lot safer.
  • How do you avoid these harmful toxins? When you’re using your frypan, don’t overheat it. Place the frypan on the heat and set it to the temperature you want it to finally reach:  not full heat.  If you’ve purchased a quality frypan, you shouldn’t have to put it on Boost at all.  Just let it take its time to warm to the temperature you want it to go to.
  • Never leave a pan on the stove with nothing in it once it’s reached temperature.  Allowing your pan to overheat or stay at high temperature will damage the surface and, in some cases, the base of the pan can warp or separate.
  • Find out what temperature your oil or fat should go to.  Oils and fats burn at different temperatures and, if you adhere to that, you should be a lot safer.
  • Use silicone spatulas that can take high temperatures.  You can use wood if you wish although I don’t like them, they hold in moisture and, if they’re not looked after, they are a breeding ground for things you don’t want to know about.
  • Just hand wash your pan with a cleaning sponge like this one with hot water that comes from your tap and, for stubborn bits, leave it to soak. Never, ever use steel wool or heavy-duty kitchen scrubbers.

Features to look for in your Frypan

Does the frying pan suit your style of cooktop?

Make sure if you have an induction stove top you choose an induction-ready pan.  Most manufacturers have something written on the box and a lot of the time it is stamped on the base of your pan.  If you’re not sure if you can use it on an induction stovetop, place a magnet on the base and if it sticks you can use it. To get the best performance make sure the base of the pot matches the size of the area that’s shown on your cooktop.

Weight

You want a frypan with a bit of weight in it, but you don’t want one that you won’t be able to lift when it’s filled with food?  Is it easy to tip to remove food?

Handle

Look for a handle with a good grip that feels comfortable in your hand. For larger pans, look for a handle that’s long enough to hold with two hands and/or chose one that has an extra small support handle for lifting heavy loads and tipping out the contents.

Base

A thick, heavy base generally has better heat distribution and cooking performance.  If you have a frying pan that is thin the risk of burning your food is much greater.

A solid, flat thick base is brilliant for most jobs you use a frying pan for.  Thicker bases retain the heat so they do take a little longer to reach temperature but it is well worth it in the long run.

Cleaning

Well, that’s why we like non-stick, isn’t it?  For easy cleaning, avoid surfaces that have grooves and such.  Painted exteriors can also cause issues if you want your pans to look good.  Some surfaces are not suitable for the dishwasher.  Some non-stick frypans, Carbon steel and cast Iron, are some of those.

SUMMARY/CONCLUSION?

If you want a pan that lasts, pretty much whatever you use it for, however you clean it, and whatever temperature you take it to, then you go for thick stainless steel.  Be aware; this s not non-stick.

In which case, my recommendation would be an Essteele skillet, which is terrific.    Yes, maybe you need to use a little oil, but if the base is a decent thickness, it will retain heat and be suitable for searing and browning at high temperature.

For a non-stick frypan, I recommend WOLL (first) and Anolon (second).  These fry pans are great quality, but you need to take care of them.

I love carbon steel.  You can do all sorts to this type of frypan, and it will last the only thing you have to be aware of is the initial tempering and the cleaning instructions after that. Even if it starts to show signs of rust you can fix it.  Very robust.

Carbon steel frypan

If you follow these recommendations, they’ll last you a very long time.

I’ll add items to my Shop (products page) soon.  Then you’ll know where to get them from too.  ;-0 if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

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