This article looks at the pros and cons of a frying pan vs. skillet. For example, how does All-Clad’s Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Frying Pan compare with a Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel Skillet?
Wait, aren’t skillets and frying pans basically the same thing? Well, yes and no. But I explain more about that later.
The reality is, when I’m in the kitchen, I just want versatile, high-quality cookware. And no kitchen is complete without a frying pan or skillet. But which one is better?
I’ve broken down the pros and cons of each so you can make the right choice. Keep reading to learn all about frying pans and skillets.
At a Glance
Most of the time, only a professional chef will know which pans are best suited for cooking specific foods. But armed with the correct information, home cooks can choose the right pan for the job, every time.
So why the confusion between skillets and frying pans? Since the two cookware pieces share so many characteristics and uses, it can be challenging to tell the difference.
What’s more, many people, including, to be honest, myself, often use the terms interchangeably, perhaps contributing to confusion. (Sorry!)
Both frying pans and skillets are great for a variety of quick-cooking techniques and come in a range of materials. The question then becomes, what exactly is the difference between a skillet and a frying pan?
While there are some smaller distinctions, the only real difference is that a skillet is typically heavier, deeper, and thicker than a frying pan.
For a quick rundown of features for each pan, see the chart below:
|Mostly oven-safe||Sometimes oven-safe, often not|
|Thicker and deeper pan||Shallow, thinner pan|
|Cast iron, stainless are common||All types: non-stick aluminum, stainless, carbon steel, hard-anodized, etc.|
|Slightly slower to heat, retain heat well||Heat quickly and evenly|
|Handle can get hot easily||Handles are usually stay-cool|
|Require more oil, seasoning||Non-stick requires less oil|
|Great for a variety of quick-cooking methods||Great for a variety of quick-cooking methods|
All About Frying Pans
What is a frying pan?
Frying pans, also known as fry pans, have a flat, wide base and round, flared sides. They’re shallow and thinner to cook food faster and more evenly. Their close cousins, sauté pans, have straight sides.
Frying pans come in a variety of sizes, cookware materials, and coatings. Some of the most common include stainless steel, aluminum, hard-anodized aluminum, carbon steel, and multilayered metals (i.e., multi-ply).
Some frying pans that use ferromagnetic materials like iron or steel are naturally induction-compatible. Others have a magnetic disc bonded to the frying pan, making it induction-compatible. And others? Well, you’re just out of luck.
What can you cook in a frying pan?
A frying pan is ideal for browning, frying food, and searing meat. The larger cooking area helps food cook evenly. And their ability to heat up quickly makes them ideal for high-heat grilling and shallow frying.
From sautéing garlic and roasting red peppers to searing pork chops or cooking meat, frying pans can handle it. I wouldn’t recommend deep frying or braising, however. A frying pan’s shallow depth is not conducive to those cooking tasks. A deep sauté pan would be better for that.
Frying Pan Examples
T-fal Professional Total Nonstick 10.5-Inch Fry Pan
T-fal is among the top names in non-stick cookware. This T-fal Professional Total Non-stick Frying Pan has a diameter of 10.5 inches (27 cm). It features aluminum construction with a titanium-reinforced non-stick coating.
This frying pan features T-fal’s signature Thermo-Spot indicator, which is a ring on the cooking surface that turns red once the pan is preheated.
Overall, customers were pleased with this T-fal frying pan. There were some complaints of an uneven base. This is most likely due to the induction plate on the bottom of the pan. The nonstick coating allows you to make a variety of foods while making cleanup a cinch.
Just be sure to use a wooden spatula or silicone utensils when using this pan. While T-fal claims it’s safe for metal utensils, several users begged to differ.
All-Clad D3 Tri-Ply Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan with Lid
All-Clad proudly manufactures its stainless steel products in the U.S. This 12-inch (30 cm) fry pan is professional chef quality available to any home kitchen.
The tri-ply construction features two layers of stainless steel surrounding an aluminum core. These layers are suited for heating quickly and cooking food evenly.
The robust stainless lid helps this frying pan hold in heat and moisture.
Customers loved this All-Clad skillet. Be forewarned that it is heavy and pricey, but the frying pan’s performance is excellent. Be sure to hand wash this pan. All-Clad does not recommend putting this pan in the dishwasher.
All About Skillets
What is a skillet?
A skillet resembles a frying pan but with a wide round bottom and tall slanted sides. Skillets usually include a lid. Some come with a single handle, while others also include a helper handle, which helps with the extra weight.
Skillets typically have a smaller surface area than sauté pans, but their versatility is unsurpassed. You can find skillets in a wide range of materials. The most common are cast iron, stainless steel, and aluminum with a non-stick coating.
Is a skillet the same thing as a frying pan?
No. They’re not the same thing, although it’s understandable to think so. They have a lot of the same features and uses. The only real difference between a skillet vs frying pan is the depth and thickness. A skillet is slightly deeper and thicker than a frying pan.
What is a French skillet?
French skillets are essentially a combination of a sauté pan and skillet. It has the flared sides and rounded bottom of a skillet with the depth of a sauté pan.
What can you cook in a skillet?
A skillet’s flatter, wider cooking surface area increases the evaporation rate. This makes a skillet well-suited for reducing liquids. Sauté pans can hold in a lot of liquid, so they’re better for thick sauces and curries.
Additionally, a skillet’s even heat distribution is perfect for pancakes, frittatas, and dry stir fry. Their excellent heat retention is ideal for cooking meals under the lid or grilling meats and cooking sauces.
Skillets are great for flipping food. The sloped sides allow you greater access to food when making omelets, potato pancakes, and zucchini fritters.
While a sauté pan would be your best bet to braise meat, braised lamb shanks can be just as tasty from a skillet. Also, like sauté pans, the tossing ability of skillets is superb, making them ideal for stir-frying.
A skillet is capable of shallow frying. While a sauté pan might be better due to the vertical sides, skillets will work just fine.
Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 12-Inch Skillet with Glass Cover
Cuisinart is a household name in quality cookware. This Chef’s Classic Skillet has a diameter of 12 inches (30.48), making it a larger choice.
It has a stainless steel construction with a multi-layer base of stainless steel and aluminum. This encapsulated base eliminates hot spots and makes it great for stir-fries, sautéing, and more.
This skillet is reasonably affordable, sitting solidly in the midrange price. Users raved about the performance of this pan.
Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, 12-Inch
Lodge has been making cast iron products in the U.S. for decades. This pre-seasoned skillet has a surface area of 12 inches (30.48 cm), making it large enough to feed a family.
This skillet can go from the stovetop to the oven, grill, or campfire. It can handle high heat and will last a lifetime if cared for properly.
The only drawback? It does take more time and maintenance than other skillets. You can’t handwash cast iron, and you’ll want to season the pan every so often.
Another thing? Cast iron is reactive, so you don’t want to simmer tomato sauce for hours on end in this pan, not unless you like metallic-tasting tomato sauce. Still, this budget-friendly and highly durable piece offers a lot of utility and value.
If you want to check for the best, this skillet is also available on Canadian Best Seller, which ships to all of North America.
Frying Pan vs. Skillet: Feature Comparison
Skillets are generally thicker than frying pans. A skillet is more like a sauté pan in thickness, making it conducive to preparing sauces. But unlike sauté pans’ vertical sides, skillets have slanted sides that might make more of a mess.
Although the All-Clad frying pan has a thick, tri-ply construction, the T-fal aluminum skillet is thinner. The Cuisinart and Lodge cast iron skillets are both thicker, even though they’re made of different materials. If you want a thicker, sturdier pan, I’d go with a skillet.
Both skillets and frying pans come in a wide range of different materials. However, I’ve found that frying pans are available in more options. This allows you to pick the exact cookware material that is best for your purposes.
For instance, aluminum non-stick is extremely common in frying pans. But some pans have a ceramic coating and might have a core of hard-anodized aluminum. Others are stainless, while others use carbon steel.
Skillets tend to be cast iron or stainless. Both are high-quality materials. However, the sheer number of available materials for frying pans gives them the edge in this category.
Winner: Frying pan
Ordinarily, skillets can go in the oven at varying maximum temperatures. Frying pans are hit or miss when it comes to oven use. In the case of our list, both the T-fal and All-Clad frying pans are oven-safe. The T-fal can handle up to 400°F (204°C), whereas the All-Clad pan can go up to 600°f (315°C).
The Cuisinart skillet can handle oven temps up to 500°F (260°C), and the Lodge cast iron skillet can handle extreme heat.
While the specific frying pans we listed are oven-safe, skillets will generally be more oven-friendly. That gives them the win in this category.
Lids and Handles
Skillets almost always include a lid, whereas frying pans may or may not. The T-fal fry pan does not include a lid, but the All-Clad pan does. Alternately, the Cuisinart skillet has a lid, but the Lodge cast iron skillet does not.
Speaking of lids, that was the most common complaint against the Cuisinart skillet. Although users loved the performance, several had the unfortunate experience of a shattered glass lid. The stainless lid of the All-Clad won’t shatter, but you won’t be able to monitor food while cooking, either.
When it comes to handles, you’ll find a variety. Most frying pans have riveted handles. Welded handles make the pan lower maintenance and more durable.
All of the pans on our list have riveted handles, with the exception of the Lodge cast iron skillet. The Cuisinart skillet and All-Clad pan have stainless, stay-cool handles, whereas the T-fal features a silicone handle.
There are pros and cons to each type of handle, so there is no clear advantage there. However, the fact that skillets often include a helper handle or a lid gives them the edge in this category.
A lot of factors go into the price of a pan. The country of manufacture, the materials, and the design all influence affordability.
In the case of the skillets and frying pans on our list, the All-Clad is your splurge option. Its top-quality materials and “Made in the U.S.A.” label all bump up its price.
The Cuisinart skillet is definitely your midrange option, whereas the T-fal frying pans and Lodge cast iron skillets are budget-friendly.
Skillet vs. Frying Pan: Which is right for you?
When deciding between a skillet and a frying pan, which one should you choose? They both have their pros and cons.
Are you cooking larger volumes or something with a lot of liquid? Go with a frying pan, like this All-Clad Tri-Ply Stainless frying pan.
Are you cooking fewer things or want an oven-safe piece that can hold in heat? Go with a skillet, like this Lodge cast iron skillet.
Or you can check out this skillet on Bed Bath and Beyond to compare prices.
But, if you’re still undecided, no worries. With both a skillet and a frying pan, you can use these kitchen tools to turn out some amazing food.
If you are looking for more information, my carbon steel pan guide is a good place to start.