The Pan We Depend on for Weeknight Dinners, Easy Braises, & Everything Else

A kitchen tool so useful, we invite it to dinner every night.

November  2, 2018
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Around Food52 HQ, there's no shortage of pots and pans. Amongst the editorial team alone, we'd estimate we have somewhere between one hundred and one bajillion in our collective cabinets. We love our cast-iron skillets, and our nonsticks. We adore our Instant Pots as much as our slow-cookers. Our saucepans are some of our best friends.

But when it comes to fall weeknight dinners—and desserts! and breakfasts the next day!—there's one type of pan to rule 'em all: a two-handled fry-pan with a fitted lid.

It's the all-in-one kitchen tool we turn to for everything—the type of pan that's got your back, no matter what you're up to. You can throw some veggies or greens in there to sauté, then steam with ease (lookin' at you, kale stems and green beans). You can use it to get your pork butt niiiice and crispy, before tossing in some braising liquid, and letting it bake in the oven, covered. We could sit here and list every single dish it would improve (ahem, pies, pancakes, fried rice, mac and cheese, herby chicken breasts, brussels sprouts, etc.) but we'd be here an awfully long time. Like, until spring, at least.

So instead, we narrowed it down to the top three favorite ways to use our fry-pans. (Unfortunately, "wear it as a fun but heavy hat" didn't make the cut.) Here we go:

The Easiest Stove-to-Oven One-Pan Dinners—& Breakfasts

Photo by Bobbi Lin
Photo by Bobbi Lin

The One-Two Punch of Sauté-Then-Steam

  • I'd be nothing without my covered fry pan for what I like to call the "greens-splash," aka braising's cool younger cousin. It's a patented (fine, I have zero patents) five-minute method I employ to quick-cook curly kale and stems. First, I sauté a bunch of alliums. Then, I add my kale, stems, and seasonings. Next, it's time for a hefty splash of water from my nearby teapot. I tightly cover the pan with its top, and two minutes later, I have the most tender, flavorful greens. (Enter a piece of toast for sopping, stage left.)

  • Senior Editor Eric Kim is all about fry-pan-dumplings. He says: "When you pan fry, then finish by steaming with a little water, they get sooo multi-dimensional, and crispy-chewy. The texture is like in between fried and boiled/steamed. It’s toothsome, al dente, if you will."

Straight-to-the-Table Serving

  • Two-handled fry pans make for excellent serving dishes. They're easy to carry right over to the table, and you don't have to worry about diners scorching their sleeves on a single, unwieldy, long handle. Customer Care Specialist Courtney Knight takes full advantage with Dutch babies.

  • With saucy, emulsified-sauce pastas like cacio e pepe ("something where the sauce really wants to stay warm"), my fellow recipe developer Emma Laperruque says her fry-pan is a lifesaver. "My husband and I either put the skillet on our table (respectable) or eat straight out of the skillet on the couch (judge me not)," she confesses.

What's your favorite pot or pan in your kitchen? Let us know in the comments.

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.

1 Comment

tia November 2, 2018
My parents gave me one of these ages ago. I believe it was called an "everyday pan." And, yep, it sure is!