The Material of Your Pan Matters More Than You Think

Employing the right frying pan for the preparation of a recipe is the not-so-secret weapon of many successful cooks. You could even say that no kitchen is complete without a smart selection of high quality pans of various materials. 

By applying the same logic in reverse, you’ll soon realize that you can also use the wrong pan for any given ingredient. Selecting the incorrect pan material can lead to disaster—not to mention total frustration (and even worse: unsatisfied cravings!). 

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But before you head out to buy a brand new pan (or three), there are several seemingly small—but important—decisions to make. Chief among them: Which pan materials are best suited for the foods you cook most often? 

Today, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of the most common types of pans. Because once you know how to use each type of pan (and why) you’ll become a better cook—instantly.

The Stainless Steel Pan

A stainless steel pan is ideal for frying at high temperatures, and especially for searing. The special surface is particularly hygienic and neutral in taste. 

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The Proper Oil

You can use most kinds of vegetable oil, olive oil, or peanut oil for frying in a stainless steel pan. If you’re using olive oil, avoid using cold-pressed varieties, as they aren’t heat-stable and thus not suited for frying. 

The Right Frying Temperature

A stainless steel pan is best heated slowly over medium heat. After the pan is completely pre-heated, you can add your food and raise the temperature to high heat for the perfect sear. 

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Cooking with a stainless steel pan

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What to Cook

This type of pan is an excellent choice for searing meat like pork and chicken, as well as roasting vegetables like onions. And don't worry if the meat initially sticks to the bottom of the pan while frying! After 2 – 3 min., the meat can be lifted easily by way of the Maillard reaction

Pan-seared chicken in mustard sauce

Pan-seared chicken in mustard sauce

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The Cast Iron Pan

Enameled cast iron pans are lined on the inside with black enamel, which helps to enhance the natural aroma of the food during cooking. This type of pan is ideal for frying at high temperatures, promoting an intense roasted aroma in various types of dishes. 

The Proper Oil

Like with stainless steel pans, it's recommended to use peanut oil, olive oil, or vegetable oils, such as sunflower. 

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The Right Frying Temperature

Heat your cast iron pan over medium-high heat for best results. Its special material is perfect for frying at very high temperatures and for searing. Just make sure that the pan is completely pre-heated before adding the food! 

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Cooking with a cast iron pan

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What to Cook

If you love steaks, spareribs, and fried potatoes, a cast iron pan is an indispensable tool in your kitchen arsenal! 

Pan-fried steak with basil butter

Pan-fried steak with basil butter

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The Nonstick Pan

A nonstick pan is best used for frying over medium-low heat and more specifically, foods that stick easily, like eggs or fish. 

The Proper Oil

Make sure to use rapeseed oil, clarified butter, or hydrogenated fats for frying in a nonstick pan! Some oils can burn even at low temperatures and thus are not suitable for coated pans. As a matter of fact, you don’t need to use as much oil in a nonstick pan as you would in a stainless steel or cast iron pan. 

The Right Frying Temperature

At most, you should heat the pan at two-thirds of the maximum power of your stove. Do not leave your pan unattended—it is important to stay close, even when pre-heating.  

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Appropriate Utensils

Wooden spoons and spatulas made of silicone or plastic are ideal for use in a nonstick pan. Do not slice food in the pan, and never use sharp tools on its surface! 

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Cooking with a non-stick pan

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What to Cook

Eggs, fish, or any kind of food that sticks easily are in good hands when cooked in a nonstick pan. 

French omelette with prosciutto and avocado

French omelette with prosciutto and avocado

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The Pan with Ceramic Coating

If healthy cooking is at the top of your priorities, a pan with ceramic coating is an excellent choice—it’s ideal for lean and gentle frying. 

How to use a pan with ceramic coating

How to use a pan with ceramic coating

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The Proper Oil

Just as for the nonstick pan, it’s best to use rapeseed oil, clarified butter, or hydrogenated fats for frying in a pan with ceramic coating. Let the chosen fat pre-heat for a minute before adding food to the pan.  

The Right Frying Temperature

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Always heat your pan with ceramic coating over medium heat. Do not rush the pre-heating process by cranking up the power to high!  

Appropriate Utensils

Make sure to use wooden spoons and spatulas made of silicone or plastic for use in the pan in order to prevent any damage to the ceramic coating, as this special feature allows the gentle preparation of your food.  

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Cooking with a pan with ceramic coating

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What to Cook

A pan with ceramic coating is ideal for slow cooking vegetables. This way, all invaluable nutrients will be retained while your vegetables will remain crisp and firm to the bite. 

Vegetable stir-fry with ginger-lime sauce

Vegetable stir-fry with ginger-lime sauce

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Which types of pans do you have at home? Do you have a favorite to use for everyday cooking? Tell us in the comments!