Frying pans are one of the most widely used and versatile items of cookware in our kitchens – and some use them for everything. But did you know that cooking different things requires different pans? Some materials are more suitable for certain foods and cooking methods than others. In short, the rule of thumb is: If what you’re cooking is likely to be sticky (like eggs), and requires a mid-to-low heat, then non-stick is a perfect choice. If cooking acidic foods, such as tomatoes or lemons, then stainless steel is the best choice, as it is a non-reactive material. If steering or frying on high heat, for examples for stir-fry dishes, then cast iron or carbon steel are best.
In general, non-stick reacts badly to high heat, so to preserve the life of the coating, use on a mid-to-low heat, and remember to always use plastic, nylon or wooden utensils to avoid scratching the surface. Our range of coated frying pans is PFOA-free, meaning they will not give off harmful material into your food. We carry a huge range of sizes and types.
Many professional cooks also swear by stainless steel pans – they are long-lasting and hardy, often lighter than cast iron pans, and are completely non-reactive (which is great when deglazing a pan using an acidic substance like wine or lemon juice). If you’re browning meat, cooking on medium heat, or prefer metal utensils, then stainless steel is your friend. It also creates a fantastic and tasty fond with which to make a pan sauce, which is a big plus. The best stainless steel pans are heavier, as they will have a core of highly conductive metal, like aluminium, sandwiched between the stainless steel. This helps to conduct heat evenly all over the pan, which helps with even cooking. Think stainless steel is hard to keep clean? Think again. The trick with using stainless steel is to heat to high heat, turn down, and put a drop of oil into the pan and swirl around. Leave it for a minute or so, to cool off the almost smoking point, and then add food, and a little more oil if necessary. This allows the heat and oil to close the microscopic pores in the pan, making it much less prone to food sticking semi-permanently. This should be done every time the pan is used, as cooling and washing will open up those pores again.
Need a good sear? Cast iron is your man as it transfers heat very efficiently and is therefore great for cooking steaks. Cast iron is heavy and heats evenly. It transfers heat extremely efficiently and holds heat for longer periods. Because it is so efficient, it should also be used at a mid-to-low heat, and will sear a steak beautifully – just allow time for the pan to heat first, and add food when it is hot. The cast iron doesn’t react particularly well with acids, like wine, so if you plan to deglaze, use a stainless steel pan instead. To clean after cool, scrub with a sponge and natural abrasive, like salt. Store with a light film of cooking oil to prevent rust spots from forming.A very important for cast iron is that your pan is properly seasoned (or enamelled). There are many ways to season a cast iron pan – some say you should cook only bacon in a new pan for the first year, or bake it covered in fat several times before use. To season an old pan, scrub away any rust and crusted on food, and allow to dry completely. Rub with a thin layer of oil and put into a cold oven. Turn the heat to 180°C, with the pan inside. Allow to bake at 180°C for 30 minutes, and cool in the oven. When cool, wipe dry with paper towels, and the pan is ready for its first use. The non-stick patina will increase every time oil or a fat is heated in the pan, and will get better and better, provided the pan is not scrubbed with water. If a thorough washing is required, re-season. Seasoning like this can be done as many times as you like, and will only improve the surface of the pan. So whenever you have the oven on for something else, put the pan in at the same time. All this is, of course, not necessary for enameled cast iron cookware – just the plain cast iron.
Like cast iron, carbon steel pans become increasingly non-stick over time, without the need for special coatings during manufacturing. In use, carbon steel pans are thinner and lighter than cast iron pans and are also more responsive to temperature changes. Just like cast iron, carbon steel pans require a first seasoning before use. For instructions on this, please check our Materials Buyers Guide.