Your Burning Questions

What's the Best Stovetop Pan for Everyday Use?

By • November 2, 2013 • 32 Comments

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: We'll help you avoid pan regret.

Pans on Food52

A pan is not an expendable accessory in your kitchen -- it's not like having a dull peeler, or a flimsy spatula -- it can make-or-burn a meal. If a pan isn't up to the task, you could end up with less than perfect scrambled eggs or an overly-browned frittata. So how do you select the perfect pan? Do you prefer stainless steel or cast iron? Does it include the environmentally controversial non-stick coating? If you're not strategic when choosing a pan, you could quickly find yourself wishing that you went with a different option. 

Laurgolis made a wise move and the tapped into collective Food52 wisdom bank before selecting an everyday skillet for frying, simmering, and sautéing:

  • Going with one solitary pan is not easy -- most had two standbys: a cast iron pan and a non-stick skillet.
  • The crowd favorite without a doubt was cast iron. Recently, the community offered wonderful advice on how to care for your cast iron (with bonus tips for where to scour for the best pans).
  • ChefJune interjected that any good pan should be non-stick if you heat it correctly.
  • Rhonda35 shared the brilliant tip to make sure larger pans have a small handle on one side to make for easy transportation. (We've all been guilty of a risky stove to sink pan transfer!) 

More: Cast Iron 101 -- SelectionSeasoning, and Cleaning.

What pans have you found most success with? Do you get different results based on the pan? If you were forced to only have one pan in your kitchen what would it be? Tell us in the comments!

Photo by Nicole Franzen

 

Tags: how-to & diy, pan, saute, frying, simmering, hotline, best question

Comments (32)

Default-small
Default-small
Default-small

22 days ago deb fulk tester

IM A NUT FROM MILTARY AND THE BEST PANS ARE CAST IRON I HAVE A CAST IRON WITH LONG HANDLES YOU PUT ON FIREPIT OR OPEN FIREAND CAN COOK STEAK EGSS CHOCLATE CAKE OR ANYTHING IT WAS MY GREAT GREAT GRANDMOTHER THESE NEW GREEN PANS AND OTHERS CANT MAKE FOOD TASTE GOOD LIKE THE OLD STUFF. MY MASTER DEGREE COME FROM MY FAMILY AND GGOOD FRIENDS IN LIFE .HAVE COOKED WITH MANY CHEFS IN MILITARY AND END ITALY AND TEXAS AND OTHERS IN MAGOLIA COUNTRIES . MOMS GIVE YOUR KIDS THE REAL THING CAST IRON . YOU CAN FIND THESE AT YARD SALES OR FLEA MARKETS OR THRIFT STORES. HAPPY 4TH JULY

Default-small

26 days ago Augustina Ragwitz

I use a cast iron pan as my main go-to pan. The #1 secret to cooking with cast iron is to use lots of fat. At minimum, cook some bacon or pork belly in the pan to render some of the fat out. The other trick is make sure things are fully seared before trying to turn them or move them. Once they've developed the proper crust, they will lift right off the pan. I cook eggs on mine and usually only have trouble with sticking if the pan temperature is too low or I try to move them before they are fully set. For acidic things like tomato based foods, I generally use my 3 1/2 quart enameled cast iron dutch oven from Le Creuset.

The ONLY downside to cast iron is the weight!! For a little lighter, I also use french iron pan which also needs to be seasoned so it doesn't stick. The brand I use is DeBuyer Mineral B.

Default-small

27 days ago Brian L. Baker

My 4 go to pans are a 12' cast iron skillet, a DeMeyere Chefs Pan, a LeCrueset 3.5 qt braiser, and an 11" ScanPan CTQ non-stick skillet. The CTQ is some fabulous stuff. It is 5 plys of stainless steel and aluminum, coated with the finest "green" non-stick available. It is a ceramic titanium finish, and right now, with the CTQ line introduction, the 11" is on sale at SurLaTable for $89.95 - a ridiculous deal.

FWIW, I am a librarian and a trained chef, and former cookware salesman at SurLaTable in Fresno, CA.

Prospect

30 days ago Jewels Vern

People keep telling me that cast iron is the best, but cast iron pans have always been a disaster for me. I follow the tempering instructions exactly and they are fine until I fry meat. Then I need a carbide tipped chisel to clean them. Eventually I picked up a bit of wisdom: "Designers talk about cooking, but cooks don't talk about design." Every restaurant I have been in, cast iron is prominently absent. They all (and I mean all!) use pans of a white alloy, uncoated, and they never ever have burned on food. So I bought my pans at a restaurant supply store and I have had no problems since. Please don't tell me about cast iron any more: professional cooks don't use it.

Default-small

29 days ago Napie

Then you have not spent much time in professional kitchens in the south... Cast iron has been the choice of cooks for a few hundred years. I would say you just have not been doing it correctly. And BTW it is called seasoning, not "tempering"...

Prospect

29 days ago Jewels Vern

Yes, obviously I am doing something wrong. And nobody seems to know what. After much effort I have found something that works, so I am going with that. I have no ill will to people who happen to like their cast iron stuff, just because they can't explain what they are doing to make it work.

Default-small

29 days ago Napie

Well you sure have snarky down pat...

Prospect

29 days ago Jewels Vern

Sorry if it sounded that way, but there it is.

Default-small

24 days ago John Moll

Go to Lodge Manufacturing ( http://www.lodgemfg.com/ ) , they are the only company that have make cast iron pans for over 100 years & USA made. Everything else is made in China & I don't trust what materials they are using. To resolve your problems with the cast Iron they have instructions on to season your cast iron. Also I never wash them with soap & water only HOT water and brush out or scrape out any food residue, then wipe with some cooking oil. Hope this helps, major information from Lodge. By the way, the steel pans & Ceramic Pots from Lodge are made in China.

Default-small

about 1 month ago deb fulk tester

I HAVE A CAST IRON FROM GRANDA AND OTHERS FROM MY SWEET MOMMY.THESE COOK BACON BETTER THAN ANY MICOWAVE AND FISH AND CHICKEN AND THE T-FAL AND WEAR EVER PANS I GOT FOR MY HOPE CHEST WHILE END SCHOOL I RARELY USE. HISTORY HAS MANY A MEAL END THE BIG CAST IRON POTS OVER A OPEN FIRE OUTSIDE ITS GOOD TO PUT ONE END YOU FIREPLACE WHEN POWER GOES OUT ME AND FAMILY HAVE A POT OF BEEF STEW OR CHICKEN STEW. AND I LOVE THE CAST IRON ON LONG HANDLES TO COOK OVER OPEN FIRE .WE USE ON FIREPIT OR CAMPIMG.ITS MY GREAT GREAT GRANDMAS.

Bck

2 months ago Bernie

After nearly 75 years of passionate “home” cooking, I’m more than ever attached to the cast iron pans of the sort I grew up with. I use treated (enameled, etc.) cast iron for braises or anything needing a rim higher than the skillets. Stainless steel became the B-team in the forties with copper-clad Revere ware the “class” act for me, now supplanted by All-Clad. A lot of non-stick versions of everything have come and gone in the dozen or so kitchens I’ve had, and a lot of Calphalon has come and just hung around. I still never see a new pot that I don’t want to try, but the A-team is always made up of cast iron for flats and heavy stainless for everything else.

Default-small

4 months ago grasspress

i've used a variety of pans over the years (i'm 71 and an avid cook). today, i'm using 'scanpan' for most uses; i have three sizes, the 'low cost' version with the non-metal handle but which is good up to most oven temps). it cleans right up and is easy to move on the stove top. i have used cast iron in the past and like it but it's too heavy for me. i have a staub brand grill pan which i love! (and staub brand cocottes which i also love.) i've used all-clad and (nearly) all the big-name varieties but am now sticking to scanpan. i'll probably change when something new comes along. b-t-w, don't look for the pan to improve your cooking skills. it all starts with you!

Default-small

5 months ago queen jeanne

What about for use on a conduction stovetop. What works best?

Twitterpic

6 months ago Michelle DL

I've been using a Scanpan lately. It's the best frying pan I've ever used. Working on switching my whole collection over!

Default-small

6 months ago Senlin

Can a cast iron be used on a flat top electric range. I have a couple of old cast iron skillets and have not used they for quite a while because I was told not to use them on a flat top range.

Default-small

6 months ago lizabeth

I've used T-Fal non-stick pans off and on for many years. I went "off" T-Fal to see what all the fuss was about with Calphalon and Analon and found out that T-Fal makes a great quality pan and the telfon coating and heat distribution is every bit as good as with the expensive pans. Non-stick pans require certain care to last a long time - medium heat, don't wash them when they're hot, use plastic utensils so you don't scratch it. Do these things and don't buy expensive non-stick cookware.

Default-small

6 months ago Trish

Cast iron, hands down, but have Swiss diamond non stick breakfast pan...higher on one side for ease of transferring eggs to plate. One small Calphalon pot for oatmeal!

Default-small

7 months ago Machelle

I have my grand mothers cast iron skillet. it's over 80 years old and the one I always cook in. in fact it never gets put away, it's my prize possession.

Default-small

8 months ago Agnes

I have all cast iron pans, woks, fryer, panini pans, works well and cooks wonderfully.

Default-small

9 months ago lauriJeanne

I have two 8" pans. I think it's All Clad but doesn't have a name anywhere. This little pan is perfect for Eggs and omelets and scrambled if need be. I only wash it with hot water and a non-soap scrubber. Nothing ever sticks. It's hard to keep this way, as my husband does the dishes and if you don't use soap it's not clean... So I do my best to get them clean before he comes in. lol

Default-small

9 months ago bobby z

My go-to pan is a 10" All Clad Copper Core saute pan. It heats quickly and evenly and is easier to clean than cast iron. It's the right size for most meals I cook. I use Caphalon and ScanPan nonstick for eggs and such.

Default-small

9 months ago nratt

Cast iron is hard to beat, when it's cared for properly. As for non-stick, my go-to pans are made by Swiss Diamond. I have the 11" and 12.5" skillets, but my favorite is the 9" so-called "Breakfast Pan" that has one side slightly lower than the others, thereby making it a cinch to slide a two-egg omelet or fried eggs, or anything else, for that matter, right onto a plate.

Default-small

9 months ago Napie

Carbon steel! I have five that are used for just about everything those and my grandmothers cast iron cover most of it. The All-Clad SS spend a lot of time in the cabinet...

Default-small

9 months ago arcane54

I rely on my cast iron pans: the 6" size I found in a "free box" 20 yrs. ago and is perfect for eggs, toasting nuts and small sautes. I have an 8" and 12" (I bought while in college 40 yrs. ago) and the 16" monster my mom shipped to me that takes two hands to pick up even when it's empty! I also have a large grill pan, a dutch oven (a junkyard find) and a griddle. Other than these, I use triple-ply stainless. I still don't trust non-stick coatings... and the patina and seasoning of cast iron work well for me -- excellent cornbread, steak!, frittatas, burgers.... They require a bit more care and when I occasionally have to soak or scrub, a minor re-seasoning returns them to their former glory.

Default-small

8 months ago LA Walker

I have to agree with you on the cast iron...mine were gathered and collected along the years from "free boxes" and Good Will (before they became so popular! I even snagged a cast iron Wok off a sale table about 15 years ago! They are easy to live with but VERY heavy to move with!

Default-small

9 months ago Dtown Boy

My sister conveniently stole our family cast iron pan which is still in service 50 years plus. When I'm in town for the holidays or whatever event and stay at her house, I always make eggs like my mother did. Over easy and draping the hot bacon grease over the eggs. the only way to cook an egg in a cast iron skillet.