by Laura Leiva
One of the most versatile pieces of cookware for any kitchen is the skillet, also known as a fry pan. The types vary in cost, materials, and ease of cleanup. While plenty of skillet choices exist, selecting the one that best suits your needs will help make every dish a success.
Cast iron: One of the most durable types of skillets is the classic cast-iron skillet. Cast-iron skillets are ideal because they distribute heat evenly throughout the pan, so you get consistently good results. Cast-iron skillets are also cost effective because they can last a lifetime and be passed on to the next generation. Once seasoned, cast-iron skillets are naturally nonstick and do not need additional oil or cooking spray, making them a healthier option for those who wish to reduce fat or oil intake.
Teflon: Many skillets found today contain Teflon, a protective layering material which helps prevent food sticking to the pan. Teflon skillets do not require additional oil or cooking spray, and they do not require seasoning. They are also inexpensive and easy to clean. Cooking with Teflon is safe as long as the pan is free of scratches, but the heated Teflon releases fumes through scratches that may cause dizziness or headache.
Copper: Many cooks prefer copper skillets because of how quickly copper conducts heat and how evenly it distributes heat. Copper skillets are a costlier option than other skillets and require more upkeep to retain their look and function, making it a good investment for serious chefs. Copper pans, especially skillets, come with two types of lining: tin or stainless steel. Tin-lined skillets must be re-lined after years of use because the lining breaks down over time. Stainless steel lining is more effective, and is permanent, not requiring additional upkeep.
Stainless steel: For those who are looking for a skillet that is easy to clean, stainless steel is long-lasting and light and will last for years without getting tarnished or breaking down. One disadvantage to using stainless steel is that the heat from the stove does not distribute evenly over the steel. Look for stainless steel skillets that have a layer of aluminum or copper built into the bottom to help distribute heat evenly.
Aluminum: Aside from copper skillets, aluminum pans are one of the better types of skillets because they allow heat to distribute evenly, ensuring proper cooking without burning. Since aluminum is considered to be a soft metal, it scratches easily, so look for aluminum skillets that are combined with other metals like stainless steel or have undergone a hard anodization process, which helps the aluminum skillet to be more durable and scratch-resistant.