A quality frying pan can be the difference between delicious or burnt, a great cook or a good cook, a quick clean-up or a lot of elbow grease. We examine some options to find out which qualities make a frying pan tops for sautees and fry-ups.
Copper is the best conductor of heat and it cools down almost immediately. It tarnishes easily, but looks impressive when shiny.
A copper pan lined with tin or stainless steel is a good choice for delicate recipes that require precise timing and heat.
Aluminum is also a good heat conductor, but pans made completely of regular aluminum (not the hardened, anodized variety) tend to dent easily.
For everyday cooking, consider pans made from stainless steel-wrapped aluminum and anodized aluminum.
Cast-iron pans are also good heat conductors and can maintain high temperatures for long periods of time. They’re ovenproof, but they can break if they drop on a hard surface. They’re also heavy.
Most good-quality stainless steel pans are made with an aluminum core. Better quality pans have aluminum extending up the sides so as the bottom heats, the sides do too.
The handle should be riveted onto the pan for extra strength.
The handle should also be heat-resistant so it can go from stovetop to oven.
Most top-of-the-line pans come with lifetime warranties.
- Unless it’s a one-of-a-kind pan or the pan of your dreams, don’t ever pay full price. Keep an eye out for sales and special promotions.
We recruited some omelette chefs to help us test these four 12” non-stick frying pans in a cook-off:
- Meyer (Teflon-coated): $15.97
- T-Fal (with red heat indicator): $30
- Cuisinart (stainless steel with aluminum core): $89.99
- All-Clad: $230
After flipping omelettes in each of the four pans we all got a feel for our favourites.
The Cuisinart was a hit with some testers who liked its weight and the way it cooked. It also felt like it would last a long time. Other testers felt the Cuisinart was a little too heavy.
The T-Fal did the job and the price was a real draw.
All-Clad luxury got some votes for quality.
The Meyer got no votes. In fact, its heat-proof handle caught fire on our gas stove. To avoid the fire hazard, perhaps it should be left to an electric stove.
With the help of a chemical sciences professor we tested our frying pans to see which one distributed the heat most evenly and heated the fastest.
The aluminum core Cuisinart won for most even distribution of heat. But the Cuisinart is a lot thicker so it took much longer to heat up.
The thinner Meyer frying pan wasn’t at all consistent: there was a 10 degree difference from one side of the pan to the other.
OUR TOP PICK
For an economical fry-up, the T-Fal pan will get the job done. For more quality, choose the Cuisinart. If you really like to cook, you’ll probably be happy to shell out the extra money for an All-Clad.