Choosing a frying pan can feel like navigating through a jungle of options – should you go for a non-stick frying pan or perhaps a timeless cast iron classic? Or maybe a generously sized wok pan is the way to go? Fiskars' Senior Product Manager, Emmi Härus, shares the best tips for selecting and maintaining your frying pan.
WHEN SHOPPING for a frying pan, it's worth considering the types of dishes you typically like to make, the number of people you usually cook for, and whether you expect features like good non-stick properties or oven compatibility from your pan.
We asked Fiskars' product expert, Emmi Härus, about the best type of frying pan for each purpose and how to properly maintain them.
Coated frying pan – a versatile option for beginners
Coated pans are suitable for various types of frying and searing, including delicate ingredients that require gentle handling. “A coated frying pan is usually the easiest choice for novice cooks or when you're just starting to gear up and need a pan as versatile as possible,” says Emmi Härus, Fiskars' Senior Product Manager for cookware.
A coated frying pan may feature a Teflon or ceramic coating. The popularity of coated pans is often based on their excellent non-stick properties, making cooking hassle-free as food doesn't easily stick to the pan's surface.
“A coated frying pan is usually the easiest choice for novice cooks or when you're just starting to gear up and need a pan as versatile as possible.”
Compared to Teflon, a ceramic-coated frying pan is a more durable option. As the coating wears off, the ceramic coating can be reapplied, while a worn-out Teflon pan should be replaced entirely. Ceramic coating is completely free of plastic, so even as the coating wears down and the non-stick properties diminish, the pan can still be used without worries. A ceramic-coated pan also withstands heat better than Teflon and can even be used in the oven.
The best way to care for a coated pan is to use wooden or plastic spatulas and utensils while cooking to avoid scratching the surface. Although a coated pan can be washed in the dishwasher, it is generally better to hand wash it for longevity.
Carbon steel wok pan – a handy companion to your basic frying pan
If a coated frying pan is a great choice as your first pan, a wok pan could be an excellent addition to it. “Due to its shape, a wok pan is not as versatile for cooking different dishes – for example, when frying steak or fish, a wok pan usually doesn't provide enough cooking surface,” Härus explains. “As its name suggests, a wok pan is perfect for making stir-fried vegetables, noodle dishes, and pasta.”
Much like a cast iron pan, a carbon steel pan develops a patina and layer of grease over time, enhancing its non-stick properties even further.
Traditional wok pans are made of carbon steel. Carbon steel pans share some characteristics with cast iron pans, but carbon steel is less porous, allowing for more carefree cooking with various ingredients. Much like a cast iron pan, a carbon steel pan develops a patina and layer of grease over time, enhancing its non-stick properties even further.
After use, wash the carbon steel pan by hand using hot water and gently scrub off any surface rust with a coarse sponge or steel wool if necessary. You can add a little bit of rapeseed oil to the pan after washing to prevent the formation of surface rust. When properly maintained, a carbon steel pan can last practically forever.
Stainless steel frying pan – long-lasting and ideal for searing
“A stainless steel pan is an extremely durable option as it has no wearing parts or coating, and if needed, a pan made from a single material can be easily recycled in metal recycling,” Härus explains. A stainless steel pan cooks food at a lower temperature, creating a beautiful sear that could be compared to cooking with a cast iron pan. However, compared to a cast iron pan, a stainless steel pan is lighter and easier to handle.
“A stainless steel pan is an extremely durable option as it has no wearing parts or coating, and if needed, a pan made from a single material can be easily recycled in metal recycling.”
Using a stainless steel pan may require a bit of practice at first to fully unleash its potential. “Gradually increase the heat of the pan. Avoid adding cooking fat to a pan that is too cold or too hot. Use more fat than usual when cooking, and when you notice the butter starting to foam in the pan, reduce the heat. To achieve a beautiful sear, allow the food to stay on the pan a little longer before flipping,” Härus elaborates.
Among the advantages of a stainless steel pan is its ability to withstand extremely high temperatures, making it suitable for use in the oven as well. The pan is also compatible with metal utensils. The best way to clean the pan is by hand and to scrub away any stubborn spots using a steel wool pad.
It's worth noting that a stainless steel pan may not be the best choice for making milk- or cream-based sauces. Tofu, eggs, and light fish can also stick easily to the surface.
Cast iron frying pan – an ever-improving classic
The sturdy cast iron frying pan is a familiar sight in many summer cottages and secondhand stores. A cast iron pan is essentially an eternal companion that – when properly cared for – only improves in its cooking properties, which is why many people may choose to buy a cast iron pan secondhand.
A cast iron pan retains heat very well, ensuring even heating when cooking. It is also oven-safe. Härus points out that a robust cast iron pan serves as an excellent additional pan in the kitchen and is ideal for situations where a good sear is desired: “For example, when making crêpes, I always reach for a cast iron pan!”. The cast iron pan also works as a baking dish in the oven for making bread, pizza, and pies, such as tarte tatin.
A cast iron pan is essentially an eternal companion that – when properly cared for – only improves in its cooking properties.
After each use, the cast iron frying pan should be rinsed with hot water only. Then, it should be dried with a towel – although, for example, the Fiskars cast iron pans have a glass-based enamel coating that protects the pan from rusting. Dishwashers and strong detergents should be avoided with cast iron pans as they can remove the beneficial layer of fat from the surface. “The formation of a layer of fat on the surface is what gives the frying pan its natural non-stick properties over time,” advises Härus.
General guidelines for frying pans
To ensure the longevity of your cooking pan, one of the most important things is to avoid unnecessary temperature changes. So, when you're whipping up culinary delights, take it slow and gradually increase the heat on your stove. And once you're done, let the pan cool down properly before giving it a good rinse. While it's true that non-stick coated pans and stainless steel pans can handle the dishwasher, hand washing is always the best option for all pans.
Nowadays, all pans are designed to be compatible with all types of stovetops. So, choose your pans and their sizes based on the kind of dishes you want to create and the quantity you plan to cook at once. A versatile size is usually around 26 or 28 cm in diameter. Opt for a plastic-free pan, as it tends to have a longer lifespan – it's also easier to maintain, recycle, and even sell down the line.
Clothing and textile care expert, photographer and writer Jenna Kiuru takes delight in items that are an inspired blend of great design, quality materials and functionality. For her own home and wardrobe, Jenna favors items that have been well cared for by another owner in a previous life, and kept in good condition by brushing, steaming, polishing or mending.
Text and images: Jenna Kiuru