The Basics of Skillets and Sauté Pans
According to the manufacturers, a skillet (or frying pan) has curved,
relatively shallow sides. A sauté pan has a flat bottom (hence
usually more cooking surface), straight, deeper sides, and a lid--all
of which make it much better for browning and braising. But the
pans don't maintain those differences, and there are many hybrids.
What you want is a flat bottom, and sides that angle out so that
you can gain easy access to the food when you want to turn it.
As to material: Yes, copper is undeniably best, but you probably
can't afford it. Cast iron is very, very good, and quite inexpensive,
but it weighs a lot. When you transfer a skillet from the stove
top to the oven, a common enough occurrence, you will wish it weren't
cast iron (or that you'd spent more time at the gym). Another disadvantage
of cast iron is that the metal can interact with acidic sauces,
changing their flavor and color (this does no harm from a health
Since I can't afford copper either, I prefer heavy-duty aluminum
skillets with a non-stick coating. They're lighter and cheaper than
anything else, and they do a good job. (Some aluminum is "anodized"
to make it stronger; these pans last longer, but are not necessarily
better to cook with.) Non-stick coatings, while not perfect (they
all wear out, regardless of manufacturers' claims), are extremely
forgiving, a real bonus for less experienced cooks, especially in
If aluminum pans are not good-looking enough for you (a real possibility),
go with stainless steel, which is more expensive but attractive;
be aware, though, that you'll probably be spending a lot more money
for it. Do not be tempted by inexpensive stainless steel, which
is a poor conductor of heat; all good stainless steel pans have
a layer of copper or aluminum on their bottom and sides or sandwiched
between two layers of steel.)
As for size: I recommend buying skillets as you need them, rather
than in sets with saucepans. Start with two skillets: one ten inches
in diameter (I call this "medium" throughout the book)
and one twelve inches in diameter ("large"). The second
will look huge in the store, but perfect once you start trying to
brown chicken breasts in it. When you're ready to make omelets or
crepes, or fry a single egg, you'll want an eight-inch pan ("small"
to "medium") as well. There are new "sauté
pans" with deep, rounded sides that are halfway between a traditional
sauté pan and a saucepan; I like them very much, because
they reduce spattering, which in turn reduces stove-top mess.
Pay attention to the handles, too: They should be riveted on and
feel comfortable and sturdy. Although you can't judge this in the
store, they should remain fairly cool when cooking on the stove
top (if you find that the handles of a given brand become too hot
during cooking, steer clear of that brand in the future). Also,
you want handles that are ovenproof--you should be able to put any
skillet in the oven, and you frequently will. This means no plastic.
Lids for skillets are extremely useful, and the advantage of aluminum
is that the lids are quite inexpensive. Ultimately, many will be
interchangeable; you need not buy a new lid for every pan you own.
VillaWare Classic Electric Skillet, 16 inch VillaWare
Classic Electric Skillet, 16 inch. Make pancakes, Southern fried
chicken, Spanish paella, Italian risotto, chili, fried rice, couscous,
Stroganoff, and Jambalaya. These are just some of the dishes that
are best when simmered in an electric skillet. VillaWare's Classic
Skillet packs 1500 watts of power. 18/10 stainless steel body. Dishwasher
safe skillet. 16 inch diameter.
Le Creuset Round Skillet Grill, 10 in. - White Cast
iron has long been the preferred material for grills but the lengthy
seasoning process and high maintenance was discouraging. Now, LeCreuset's
porcelain enameled cast iron gives you the benefits of cast iron
the first time out of the box. Features onvenient pouring lips for
draining juices and fats from the pan, and a handy grip opposite
the handle to make lifting easier.
Cuisinart 8" Open Skillet Cuisinart
Chef's Classic Stainless skillets have sloped sides and wide flat
bottoms for frying fish, sauteing onions and garlic, or browning
big batches of chicken. The open design of the skillet maximizes
the cooking surface and makes it easy to rearrange food as it is
cooking. The long handle offers perfect balance to provide exceptional
control when gently tossing food. Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless
Cookware features 18/10 stainless steel and pure aluminum encapsulated
in the base for fast and even heating.