10 Different Types Of Frying Pans

Cooking is an art and one in which we need the proper tools to create wondrous cuisine. Frying pans don't just cook bacon and eggs, they brown meats, cook vegetables, and casseroles. The right size frying pan is essential, though, to creating that cuisine.

A close look at a chef cooking with a frying pan.

Whether you call it a griddle, skillet, saute pan, or fry pan, there are numerous types, and they’re all fascinating. They come in sizes from just big enough to fry an egg to large enough to cook for an army. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I, personally, loved my grandmother’s very large cast-iron skillet. I used it until I lost it in a move. What are the types of frying pans?

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What’s Your Cooking Style?

The different types of frying pans won’t matter a bit until you figure out your cooking style. For example, are you one of those pioneer woman cooks who only use earthenware pots and pans? Perhaps you don’t want the backlash in your food from a chemical nonstick pan. Maybe ceramic pans are your thing. Whatever your preference, choose it before you choose cookware.

An important point about frying pans is the way you use heat. Some cooks jam the dial on high no matter what’s cooking. Other cooks use medium heat right across the board. Many cooks use the low and slow method of cooking in which the heat is low. The food takes longer to cook, but it isn’t burned or dehydrated from the high heat robbing it of its juices.

If you’re like me, you own several types, sizes, and makes of frying pans. I just stack them into each other on the shelf beside the stove. For some cooks, though, storage is a problem. If it is, then choose the type of frying pan you like and can logically store, and get more as storage opens up in the kitchen. Now that you know your style of cooking and your storage arrangements, let’s move on to the types of frying pans.

Types Of Frying Pans

Stoneware

A stoneware frying pan in a gray tone.

You’re not to imagine cracking an egg onto a rock in the heat of an August day. Stone pans are an amalgam of porcelain, granite, marble, diamond, or ceramic wrapped around a stainless steel core. They’re baked at 2,000 degrees. Nothing will leach into your food no matter how high the heat used. Stoneware pans are durable and last for years.

Stoneware is a snap to clean, is dishwasher safe, can be used on top of the stove or in the oven, can store food as well, and comes in enough colors to match any kitchen décor. Other pros of stoneware are that they can be used on any stove including gas, electric, and convection.

Most stoneware features stainless steel handles, but there are some that use hard plastic handles. You can choose any size you need from frying an egg to holiday cooking. The only downside to stoneware is that it chips easily.

Earthenware

A close look at an earthenware frying pan with cover.

Earthenware or claypans are made of clay containing some impurities. The pans have high iron content. They’re baked at between 1700 and 2100 degrees. Earthenware is porous, so it must be glazed to become waterproof.

After all that, however, your food is going to taste amazing. The moisture circulates inside the pan, but it also holds the nutrition inside the food. Your body might take some time to process this pure nutrition, but that’s a good thing.

Earthenware can be used to cook on the stove or in the oven but beware of using high heat. The pan can crack. Use the lowest heat possible, and you should be good to go. Earthenware usually comes in a dark tan to a red hue due to the iron content of the clay. These make any kitchen decor pop.

Glass

Visions Waffled 9" Skillet Pan
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Back in the 80s, my mother bought me a set of pans made of amber glass with so-so nonstick coating on the bottom of the pans. You might remember that the sets came in amber or cobalt blue. The conductivity of the glass pans was superb. I’ve used glass baking dishes since I learned to cook, so I was well versed with glass frying pans.

Glass is less expensive than its stainless or cast iron cousins, can be used in both oven and cooktop, stores food well, and is dishwasher safe. The only cons to glass frying pans are that they have to cool completely before putting them in either the fridge or cold water. You can’t use abrasive cleaners on glass frying pans, so gentle cleaning is another con, because it takes a while to clean them. Glass frying pans only come in large.

Cast Iron

A cast iron frying pan on a dark surface.

A cast iron frying pan adds some degree of iron to the food cooked in them. They have to be seasoned properly, but once that’s done, fry away. Cast iron doesn’t conduct heat like other types of frying pans. It does, however, hold the heat quite well.

They can go in the oven as well as the cooktop. If food requires high heat, then reach for the cast iron frying pan. Cast iron frying pans are available in many sizes and depths.

The trouble with cast iron is that it can’t go in the dishwasher, or it’ll rust. Wash cast iron skillets by hand and dry them thoroughly. It’s a good idea after washing to season them again. You can use a metal utensil with cast iron. The only disadvantage of cast iron frying pans is that they’re heavy, so get a good grip on the handle before you lift it.

Copper

Herb chicken cooked on a copper frying pan.

My dream is to one day have a kitchen jammed with copper cookware. It’s pretty, elegant, and cooks beautifully. A copper frying pan conducts heat well and evenly as well as cooling down fast. You won’t have to preheat your pan before cooking. There are no harsh chemicals in copper frying pans, although the copper itself might add a slight metallic taste to foods. Copper frying pans are available in different sizes.

Although copper’s pros are so attractive, their price isn’t. Nor is it safe to use on convection cooktops. A copper pan will tarnish in time, so polishing it will be required.

Ceramic

A close look at a ceramic frying pan.

You might see earthenware frying pans called ceramic, and wonder if they’re the same. They are. Ceramics, earthenware, china, and other kitchenware are made of clay and fired in an oven at different levels of heat and then glazed or not. Ceramics have a non-stick coating but relax, it’s not chemical.

Ceramics don’t get pitted like other frying pans when cooking acidic things like tomatoes in them. You can store your food in the fridge then take it straight to the oven to heat up. Ceramics are dishwasher safe. They also come in so many colors and patterns that whatever ceramic frying pan you choose will fit right in your kitchen decor.

The only cons to ceramic frying pans are that they crack more easily than metals. They have an unfortunately short life span because they can’t do high heat. Ceramic skillets don’t come in a variety of sizes like metal pans; most come in large along with a set of ceramic pots in boxes.

Fry your bacon and eggs, pancakes, pork chops, fried potatoes, and more in your ceramic frying pan. If it can be cooked, then it can be cooked in a ceramic frying pan.

Stainless Steel

This is a stainless steel frying pan on a stove.

One of the most popular types of frying pans, a stainless steel frying pan isn’t like any other pan. It generally has a copper or aluminum core for even heating which means it can be used on the cooktop or in the oven. A stainless steel frying pan will last forever and doesn’t rust. They don’t react adversely to acidic foods like tomatoes, so make up a batch of fried green tomatoes today!

The only disadvantage of a stainless steel frying pan is that food has a tendency to stick, so cleaning it off the pan is a headache.

You can cook anything in them from eggs to fried potatoes to fried chicken and on and on.

Aluminum And Hard Anodized Aluminum

A set of aluminum cookware on a wooden table.

Cheap and a good heat conductor, aluminum frying pans have been the go-to frying pan since they were invented. When the aluminum is anodized, it becomes hardened, stronger, and not reactive (it won’t pit upon meeting a tomato.)

To be so strong yet lightweight, you’d think aluminum frying pans would be expensive, but they’re not. They conduct heat well in addition to resisting high heat. You’ll have to check carefully when shopping for aluminum frying pans, though, because some need more specific care than others.

The few disadvantages of using aluminum frying pans is that they’re not safe for use in induction ovens or for baking. Your food might taste metallic.

Nonstick Frying Pan

Sausages on a non-stick frying pan.

We’ve all seen them hanging in the grocery store, some pharmacies, big box stores like Wal-Mart, and department stores. They’re cheap, they’re abundant, and just to be starting out, nonstick frying pans aren’t so bad. You can always trade up later, right?

Nonstick frying pans conduct heat evenly which makes them perfect for cooking almost anything including delicate things like crêpes. Food slides right off the pan onto a plate. Nonstick fosters healthy and clean eating. Cleaning up is a snap.

You would think these paragons of virtue wouldn’t have disadvantages, but, alas, there are one or two. They don’t last long, I’m afraid, nor are they safe for the dishwasher. A nonstick frying pan can only be used on low to medium heat. You can’t use metal cooking utensils on a nonstick frying pan. Once they’re scratched, they have to be thrown away. You don’t want that coating leaching into your clean, healthy food.

Speaking of which, anything can be cooked in a nonstick frying pan. From your French toast and bacon for breakfast to your four-cheese grilled cheese sandwich at lunch to your mother’s fried chicken recipe for supper, nonstick frying pans have you covered.

Carbon Steel Pan

DeBuyer Carbon Steel Frying Pan 10-1/4 Inch Diameter
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Grab a coffee and pull up a chair, because we’re going to science class. Carbon is an element, and there’s a boatload of it. Used mainly for fuel in the form of coal, carbon forms alloys with metals like iron. This is called carbon steel. A carbon steel pan is made from sheets stamped to the pattern. The surface of the carbon steel quickly develops an oily patina.

Usually black and deeply treasured by home and professional cooks, carbon steel frying pans feature an iron content of 99 percent. It’s just not as heavy as its cast-iron brother. Carbon steel is black due to the patina formed over the pan from the high heat used in searing meats. This patina notwithstanding, carbon steel skillets must be seasoned just as if they were cast iron.

A carbon steel pan can be used on any type of cooktop including induction. They can go in the oven, too. Generally, if you can cook it in a wok or a skillet, you can cook it in a carbon steel frying pan.

A carbon steel pan doesn’t do everything well, though. They might be superb for searing meats, but I wouldn’t put the pan up against a tomato. The pan might also impart a faint metallic taste to your food.

You wouldn’t use this pan for delicate things like sauté or fiddly sauces. The temperature for those dishes has to be just right. You absolutely cannot put a carbon steel pan in the dishwasher. It’ll rust into a hot mess. Wash by hand every time, re-season the pan, and store away from moisture.

Note to cooks: carbon steel frying pans will change colors inside and outside several times during the course of your use of them. In time, that black non-stick patina will be all there is to the pan. While this is highly desirable, be aware that it won’t look pretty while it’s happening.

Types Of Pans Not Frying Pans But In The Neighborhood

So you thought frying pans were just frying pans. On the other hand, you’ve heard of sauté pans, crêpe pans, pancake pans, woks, and griddles, but are they frying pans? Why use a specific pan for a specific food?

Crêpe Pans

A freshly-made crêpe on a crêpe pan.

We’re glad you asked. Crêpes are the thinnest of foods. They can be stuffed with fruits, folded, and dusted with powdered sugar, or covered with a sauce. Crêpes need even heat in order to cook properly. You won’t always find that in a regular frying pan.

The sides of a crêpe pan are low as opposed to the normal height of frying pan sides. This makes it easier to get a spatula beneath the crêpe or flip it in the air to turn it. Most crêpe pans are non-stick which isn’t true of some frying pans. Crêpe pans are lightweight with cool handles. They’re made of aluminum, steel, and cast iron, but they aren’t made for holding liquids, so cook tortillas and crêpes in this pan.

Pancake Pans

Fresh pancake on a pancake pan.

Frying pancakes isn’t much different from making crêpes with the exception that pancakes are thicker. My kids used to love it when I made silver dollar pancakes. They could eat their weight in those! I had the perfect pancake pan for making them.

The perfect pancake pan is about the size of a regular frying pan. It should be heavier than a lightweight frying pan with a nonstick coating. The object of the exercise is to get the heat evenly distributed. Its sides are as low as those of a crêpe pan for ease of flipping. Now just pour in your batter and watch your family’s mouths water.

Griddle

A piece of steak being cooked on a griddle.

The kind of griddle used in restaurants or the kind you plug in beside the stove won’t be covered here. We want to examine the square cast iron griddle most resembling a frying pan but used differently. Generally, what you can cook in a frying pan you can cook on a griddle like bacon, sausages of any type, chops, steak, chicken, even vegetables. So why bother with the griddle?

Also called a grill pan, the griddle has lower sides than a frying pan. The ridges keep the fats away from meats for healthier cooking. Everyone just loves the grill marks on their meats, too. Preheating the griddle on the stove negates the need to oil the pan. Your food will be healthier. The surface of a griddle is larger than a frying pan – more burgers will fit on your griddle. Griddles are easier to clean than frying pans. Just wipe it down and rinse, but make sure to season it before your next use.

Omelet Pans

A fresh omelette in an omelet pan.

Have you ever tried to make an omelet in a regular frying pan? Were you able to fold it properly without it becoming scrambled eggs? I know I can’t. The right pan is the most important part of making a pretty omelet.

An omelet pan is usually cast iron, aluminum, copper, stainless steel, or a nonstick frying pan. It has a small slope to the sides for ease of turning. Frying pans have higher sides, so you can stir your food without it leaping out of the pan.

Egg Pans

A whole egg on a cast iron egg pan.

Most people take out the bacon or sausage, drain the fat, and then crack an egg into their frying pan. However, there is a pan about three to four inches across that fits exactly one egg in it. That small pan, usually cast iron but made of other materials as well, heats quickly and evenly. It, therefore, cooks your one egg perfectly and fast. Bon appetit!

Wok

A chef cooking on a wok pan.

While a wok isn’t technically a frying pan, it’s made of the same materials as a frying pan with nonstick coating and deeper sloping sides. It distributes heat more evenly with no hot spots. This ensures all the food is thoroughly cooked.

A wok is a versatile pan that can be used for lots more than just stir-fry. It makes a great steamer for veggies, a wonderful smoker for meats, or you can boil or deep-fry all kinds of foods. Since woks can be used with high heat, it’s essential that you have the right oil with which to cook.

The smoke point of the oil is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke. Use a low smoke point oil, and your dish won’t taste right. The best high smoke point oils are grapeseed oil, coconut oil, almond oil, and flax oil.

FAQ

How Do You Season A Frying Pan?

Set the oven to 100 degrees. Oil your pan using a high smoke point oil such as almond or coconut oil. Place the pan in the oven and let it season for between four and eight hours. This will need to be done after perhaps every four uses of the pan to maintain its integrity and not rust.

What Is Tri-ply Cookware?

A ply is a layer of something. In this case, three-ply metals are bonded together to make a pan. Each ply brings something to the table, so to speak. The layers are generally made of copper, stainless steel, and aluminum. Some brands of three-ply frying pans just continue the aluminum on up the sides of the pan.

The stainless steel ply is popular for its durability. The aluminum layer ensures your food cooks evenly. Most three-ply frying pans offer a copper bottom for more even heating. You can see how these three-ply pans are thicker, better heating, and long-lasting. They’re a tad more expensive, too.

What Size Frying Pan Should I Buy?

The answer to this question needs your insight first:

  • The main thing about choosing a frying pan is storage. Do you have enough space to store a frying pan of either each size or at least a couple of sizes? This will determine the material of which the pan is made as well as which function the pan will serve such as sauté pans or cast-iron frying pans
  • What food will be cooked in the frying pan? You can cook almost anything in a frying pan including casseroles and stews. Figure out what you’ll be cooking first
  • What time will dinner be served? If you have enough time, then by all means pull out the frying pan. If you have no time, order in
  • How many will be dining? If you have a houseful, then you’ll need up to three frying pans, depending on what you’re serving. Make sure the frying pan fits the eye on the stove. You don’t want the smaller eyes creating cold spots on your frying pan (or the food)
  • Do you have teens who need to learn how to cook? The small egg frying pan, the pancake pan, and the griddle are all pans that teens should learn the difference between and what goes in or on them. Once they know what is cooked in these frying pans, they won’t feel so helpless in a kitchen. Men, you should pay attention, too!

Is A Skillet The Same As A Frying Pan?

Just like soda is called “pop” in certain areas of the country, so today is a frying pan called a “skillet.” It’s a word heard mainly in the South where a “skillet” meal consists of several ingredients but is served in iron pans or “skillets.” The word skillet comes from the ancient British and meant a little dish. Today’s English language doesn’t use skillet; frying pan is more common.

What Is Cooked In Frying Pans?

You plop ground beef into a frying pan to brown it. Before you think to reach into the cabinet to get out the Dutch oven, you sprinkle the seasoning from the package over your now drained ground beef, pour in the pasta, and let the whole thing cook covered for a few minutes. Before you know it, you have stroganoff. In a frying pan. Didn’t know you could do that, did you?

You slice your steak into strips and put them into a frying pan to brown. As you’re chopping Bell peppers and onion, without thinking you toss them on top of the steak strips. As they’re cooking, you’re making your brown sauce. You add it to the frying pan. Now you toss it all over the rice and call it Chinese food so the kids will eat it. From a frying pan, but they don’t know that.

Hamburgers, hot dogs, ham, turkey from the holidays (for sandwiches,) grilled cheese sandwiches, gravy. Bacon and eggs, bacon and French toast, bacon and home fries or hashed browns, almost anything you can think of can be cooked in a frying pan.

Is It Better To Cook With Stainless Steel Or A Nonstick Frying Pan?

This is a matter of personal preference. Cooks who don’t mind oiling a stainless steel pan and waiting for both pan and oil to heat to begin cooking will appreciate stainless steel. Cooks who don’t want chemicals leaching into their foods won’t mind cooking in stainless steel. Stainless steel heats evenly and leaves no metallic taste in the food.

However, cooks should know that some companies are using a ceramic non-stick coating on their frying pans. No chemicals, no coating flaking off the pan and contaminating food, just clean non-stick coating. I own a set of my own, and I love them!

What Is Cast Iron Seasoning?

You would prepare your boat for the water so that barnacles and rust wouldn’t destroy that beautiful craft. You would do the same for a cast iron frying pan (except for the barnacle part.) Now, seasoning cast iron isn’t what you do to a bowl of popcorn.

Seasoning cast iron involves baking an oil coating into the pan during low oven heat for many hours. When the pan has that shiny black patina so beloved of cooks, then your cast iron pan is ready for its first fried egg.

Can You Cook Southern Fried Chicken In A Frying Pan?

It is, after all, called “fried” chicken. Here’s your sign (thanks, Mr. Engvall.) It’s amazingly simple, takes only four ingredients, and fascinates everyone who eats it. From a frying pan.

Cut up a whole chicken and toss away the neck and wingtips. Marinate the chicken pieces in milk in the fridge for two hours. Now, in a bag, place flour, salt, and pepper. Put one to two pieces of chicken in the bag and shake it to coat the chicken. Meanwhile, your frying pan should have a high smoke point oil in it heated and ready for the bird.

Place the chicken pieces two at a time in the pan to fry on low to medium heat. Place a lid on the pan. Fry the chicken, turning once, for twenty to thirty minutes or until done. Place on a paper towel to drain. Enjoy!

How Do You Clean A Frying Pan?

If food is stuck to the bottom or sides of the pan, soak it in lukewarm water with a mild dish detergent. Gently scrape the food particles away with a sponge. Nonstick pans are a little different. Food shouldn’t stick to them, but if they do, then soak the pan in lukewarm water with mild dish soap. The food particles should rinse right off.

Never use a harsh detergent no matter how stuck the food on the pan. Harsh detergents eat away at the nonstick coating on the pans. Additionally, never use a metal utensil like a spatula to loosen food particles. They could damage the coating on the frying pans.

Are There Restaurant-Grade Frying Pans?

Restaurants have to use high heat in which to cook food in the shortest time possible. Their customers are hungry, so the quicker the food is prepared the better. Chefs generally use copper, carbon steel, and aluminum frying pans for this high heat and short cook time. You’d have a good idea if you used the same.

References:

Consumer Reports: Best Frying Pans for the Way You Cook

Cookware Ninja: Different Types of Frying Pans Available in the Market

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