The difference between a frying pan and a skillet isn’t as clear as, say, the difference between night and day. For many cooks, there isn’t any at all, and the two can be used interchangeably. However, there are key differences that you can use to separate the two, if you know where to look.
How are They Similar?
Before we discuss what sets these two pieces of cookware apart, let’s first discuss their similarities. Again, these pans can be used almost interchangeably. For example, you can use both to pan fry foods like bacon and eggs. The materials used to make frying pans and skillets are also similar, with the two commonly being made out of cast iron. Other materials used to make these cookware items include, but are not limited to stainless steel, aluminum, and copper. Some are even made with a combination of these materials.
A cast iron pan retains heat the best, even after you remove it from your stovetop. This is ideal for food best served warm like grilled cheese sandwiches and hash browns for breakfast. Meanwhile, stainless-steel-wrapped aluminum or anodized aluminum pans are the best for everyday use. Pans made from this material are also the most widely available. Copper pans, on the other hand, are the best for dishes that have precise cook times that need to be followed as closely as possible in order to get the best results.
Pan handles also come in a variety of materials. Definitely you can use a potholder or a pair of mittens when you cook, but what about those who don’t have either? What about the times you forget to use one? Of course, you shouldn’t just risk getting burnt or wait for the food to cool before you handle it. More modern pans come with phenol handles that stay cool even after prolonged usage. Wooden handles also stay cool well, but usually these aren’t dishwasher or oven-safe. Try your best to look for a pan with a hollow handle or one that is made from a different material from the rest of the pan, since these won’t conduct heat well.
Do You Really Need Two Pans?
If frying and other more basic cooking methods are the extent of your cooking know-how, then maybe you can survive with just having one or the other. If you’re looking to step up your cooking game with some advanced techniques, then by all means, let’s talk about the differences between the two, so you’ll know which one to get for your kitchen.
A skillet is a pan that is about two inches deep and usually comes with its own lid. It can be used to deep fry foods like burritos and chicken wings, but it can also be used to shallow fry, as mentioned before. You can also use a skillet to sauté or fry ingredients quickly in a small amount of oil or fat. You’ll usually see this being done to vegetables to form the base of a particular dish. Aside from these, you can also make roasts and stews in a skillet. You could even make delicious sauces, like what this piece of kitchenware was originally intended for.
This pan is perfect for recipes that call on you to move ingredients quickly and constantly. This could be in the form of a stir-fry or fajitas. Because of its slanted sides, the skillet is also perfect for food straight out of the pan – think frittatas with eggs and potatoes, for example. Another reason why people enjoy cooking with skillets so much is because it cooks food fast. Whether on the stovetop or in the oven, most skillet dishes only take half an hour or less from start to finish. The best part is, there isn’t much cleaning up to do afterwards because everything goes into a single pan.
Skillets come in different sizes as well. A seven to eight-inch skillet is perfect for cooking eggs or for making a sauté out of your favorite vegetables. If you get a bigger skillet made out of a thicker material, then you can use it for stir-frying. Try getting a pan with a middling size if you can only have one. If you can’t find one, we recommend the larger option, since you always cook a smaller amount of food in a big pan, but not more food in a smaller one.
On the other hand, a frying pan has a flat bottom and is commonly used to add color to food. What we mean by this is that it is most commonly used for frying, searing, and browning. Appearance-wise, it has a long handle and low sides. It usually doesn’t come with a lid because the cooking techniques its good for don’t require moisture to be retained. Most of the frying pans available these days also come with a coating of non-stick material like Teflon.
A non-stick frying pan is perfect for beginner cooks who might leave their food on a hot pan for too long. This is also ideal for those who are trying to cut down on their fats, since you’ll need to put less oil to prevent food from sticking. Be careful though when you are using metal utensils on a non-stick pan, as you may scratch off the material that makes it non-stick. This substance may then end up in the food that you eat or that you serve to other people.
However, going the non-stick route is not ideal if you want to deglaze your pan after cooking. For those who aren’t familiar, deglazing means removing the brown bits, also known as fond, from the bottom of the pan. You usually do this by adding a liquid, in most cases wine, to the pan after searing or frying something. Afterwards, you use a wooden or rubber utensil to scrape the fond from the pan and mix it with the cooking liquid. This creates a great foundation for a stew, soup, or sauce.
Now you know the difference between a frying pan and a skillet, you can decide whether to get both or just one of the two. Consider your budget as well as what you’re going to use them for in making your decision. Who knows? Maybe you could live with just a frying pan or just the skillet, since they can already do each other’s jobs quite well.
- How to Tell a Fake Cast Iron Pan – Hunker
- How Nonstick Cookware Works – HowStuffWorks
- 5 Mistakes You May Be Making With Your Cast-Iron Skillet – HuffPost