If you're trying a new recipe but your frying pan isn't a good fit, or perhaps your old pan is worn out and isn't cooking efficiently, then it's a perfect time to go shopping. Fortunately, the market is flooded with hundreds of frying pans, so your choices are almost limitless. Bust what's the best frying pan material available?
Whatever your desired material, design, size, brand, or budget for a frying pan is, you can rest assured that you'll find one that meets your needs. But there are several factors to keep in mind, with the biggest consideration being the material of the skillet.
The material of your pan is what will impact your cooking the most. Whether its aluminium, copper, cast iron, stainless steel, or carbon steel, each material is suited for a specific cooking style.
It's, therefore, essential to choose a material that suits your cooking style. This article walks you through the best frying pan materials while highlighting their pros and cons.
Which Is The Best Frying Pan Material?
1. Ceramic Pans
Ceramic is one of the most popular cookware materials in the market today. Commonly referred to as “green” non-stick pans, ceramic coated pans are a perfect fit if you're looking for affordable non-stick functionality.
Ceramic pans like this one are perfect for cooking delicate foods such as eggs, omelets, pies, gratins, and other foods that require light cooking. Absolutely no searing or deep-frying.
- Food Safe and Environmentally friendly – Ceramic pans are free of PFOA and PTFE, making them food-safe and environmentally friendly.
- Evenly heat distribution – Thanks to the ceramic coating, heat is distributed across the cooking surface evenly, so you can rest assured that the food will cook uniformly, whether it's at the center or edges.
- Non-stick properties – The non-stick surface releases food easily, allowing you to cook delicate foods such as pancakes and eggs effortlessly. Besides, the pan is easy and straightforward to clean. A sponge and basic dish detergents is all you need.
- Lightweight – Ceramic pans are also very lightweight, making them ideal if you have teenagers who may need to use them.
- Affordable – If your budget is limited, ceramic pans are reasonably priced, so you'll certainly get one within your budget range.
- Not ideal for high-heat cooking – ceramic pans are said to emit toxic chemicals when exposed to extreme temperatures, more than 500°F. They are therefore suited for lower temperature cooking.
- Easy to scratch – The ceramic coating scratches easily. So you may want to avoid using metallic utensils with it.
- Less durable
Aluminium is another affordable yet lightweight frying pan material worth considering. But I'd recommend staying away from uncoated aluminium pans. Natural aluminium heats quickly, unevenly, and tends to react with certain ingredients such as lemon juice and tomatoes, giving your food a metallic taste.
The best aluminium pans are fitted with a non-stick coating or strengthened by adding another metal such as copper, stainless steel, or magnesium. It can also be anodized, giving it a durable, non-reactive, non-stick surface, and dark grey colour. Aluminum pans are ideal for cooking for making foods such as eggs, omelettes, crepes, and fish.
- Affordable – Coated or anodized aluminum pans are inexpensive. Anodized aluminium may cost you a few more bucks than the coated aluminium as it is more sturdier, scratch-resistant, and durable.
- Non-stick feature – Thanks to the non-stick surface, aluminium pans make it easy to cook delicate foods. It releases foods easily, and it’s effortlessly to clean. (See our tips on how to maintain the non-stick surface)
- Heats up quickly – Aluminum is also an excellent heat conductor, thus cooks quickly and evenly. Besides, it retains heat well, making it perfect for baking.
- Strong and Long-lasting – aluminium material is resistant to rust, scratch, and corrosion, making it highly durable.
- Lightweight – If you're looking for a lightweight pan, aluminium material is a great choice.
- Uncoated aluminium reacts with certain foods such as tomatoes, making it unsuitable for all-purpose cooking.
- Flake easily – Aluminum coated pans flake easily when scratched. For this reason, these pans should be hand washed – don't dish wash or use metallic utensils with them.
- Hard to maintenance
If you cook tricky and sticky foods regularly, a non-stick frying pan can come in handy. These pans will also give you an easy time if you're just starting out your cooking hobby or career.
Non-stick pans are coated with a non-stick coating – the specific coating varies from one manufacturer to another. Most non-stick coating materials are teflon and ceramic. For best results, I'd recommend getting a ceramic-coated pan.
Coated non-stick pans are ideal for low-heat cooking. When overheated, they tend to emit toxic fumes. Don't get a non-stick pan if you cook on high heat – more than 500°F. These pans are suitable for cooking light or delicate foods such as pancakes, eggs, omelettes, and hamburgers.
- Perfect for low-fat cooking – Non-stick pans allow you to cook with no or less oil, allowing you to eat healthier.
- Perfect for sticky and delicate foods – Even when used with little or no oil, a non-stick pan effortlessly releases foods, making it ideal for cooking foods that stick or burn easily, such as pancakes.
- Hassle-free to clean – Thanks to the non-stick surface, food doesn't stick on the surface, making it easy to clean. In case food sticks on the pan, you will only need to soak for a few minutes.
- Easy to use – You won't require any special skills to use a non-stick pan, even for a beginner.
- Not durable and Scratch easily – Most non-stick coatings scratches easily when used with hard or metallic utensils. With time, the coating tends to wear out and flake, shortening the lifespan of the pan. It's best to hand wash them with a soft sponge and basic dish detergent to preserve their lifespan.
- Not ideal for high heat – Most non-stick coating are safe for use up to 500°F. High heat applications such as broiling and deep-frying can break down the coating, releasing toxic fumes to the food.
4. Cast Iron
If you're looking for a heavy-duty pan for high-heat cooking, cast iron gives you just that. While the high price tag may shy you away from a cast iron frying pan, it's worth the investment.
They have the best heat retention ability, making them perfect for searing and deep-frying. Whether your frying a chicken or baking bread, a cast iron pan is a must-have tool in your kitchen.
- High heat retention – While it may take longer to heat, a cast iron pan retains heat for longer, allowing you to cook on low heat. Besides, they keep food warmer for longer, even after putting off the heat.
- Natural non-stick – Unlike other pans that are coated with a non-stick coating, cast iron is has a natural non-stick and non-chemical surface. This makes the pan easy to use, cook, and clean. The pan may require regular seasoning to develop the non-stick properties.
- High durable – If well cared for, cast iron has an incredibly long lifespan. Just make sure you clean and season it regularly, and you'd be sure to pass it down to the next generation.
- Ideal for high-heat cooking – Thanks to the thick material, cast iron can withstand high temperature, unlike other non-stick pans. You can use it in an oven or stovetop.
- Heats and cools slowly – Due to its thickness, cast iron takes time to heat up and cool down. For this reason, cast iron isn't ideal if you're trying out a fast-cooking recipe.
- Heavy – Cast iron cookware is generally heavy. This may be an issue if you have young teenagers using the pan.
- Require special care – If not well cleaned and seasoned, a cast iron pan can lose its non-stick properties and rust, especially when left in a damp environment.
5. Stainless Steel
If you're looking for a stylish, durable, and affordable frying pan, stainless steel is a suitable cookware material to choose from. It's all-natural, without chemicals, coatings that can flake off or absorb flavours when cooking.
Besides, stainless steel is tough enough to handle high heat cooking and deep cleanings. However, it's important to note that stainless steel cookware isn't crafted equally. That's why you may see may notice different price tags on stainless steel pans or other cookware.
It's also worth noting that stainless steel pans don't have non-stick properties. So, you may have to use more oil when cooking delicate and sticky foods. These pans are perfect for everyday cooking.
- Scratch-resistant – Even when used with metallic utensils, stainless steel won't scratch or dental easily. They are tough enough to withstand heavy use cooking and harsh cleaning.
- Heats up quickly – Stainless steel pans heat up quickly and uniformly, therefore ideal for fast cooking.
- Can withstand high temperature – Stainless steel pans can stand high searing and oven temperatures. This makes them ideal for high-heat cooking, such as deep-frying, sautéing, braising, and broiling.
- Doesn't transfer flavours – Even when exposed to high temperature, a stainless steel pan don't react with food and won't pass any flavours to your food.
- Easy to clean and maintain – These pans are durable, easy to care for, and effortless to clean. Thanks to their tough construction, you can use metallic utensils to clean them. They resist damage and rust.
- It is not ideal for beginners – Since stainless steel pans don't have non-stick properties, it may take some time to learn how to use them correctly.
- It is a bit tough to clean – When cooking with stainless steel pan, you may have to use more oil, and still, food may stick on the pan, making it tough to clean.
6. Carbon Steel
Carbon steel is a perfect alternative for cast iron, especially if the pan's weight is an issue for you. Like cast iron, carbon steel requires regular seasoning to acquire non-stick properties.
The only significant difference with cast iron is that carbon steel is thinner and lightweight. For this reason, it heats up quickly but doesn't retain the heat for long. They are ideal for frying meats, eggs, omelettes, and cooking vegetables.
- Heats up quickly – Carbon steel frying pans heats faster and evenly, making them an ideal option if you're trying out a fast-food recipe.
- Easy to use and clean – When seasoned regularly, carbon steel develops non-stick properties, making it easy to use, cook, and clean.
- Perfect for low-fat and delicate food – Thanks to the natural non-stick feature, carbon steel is ideal for cooking sticky and delicate foods with little oil.
- Can withstand high temperature – Like cast iron, carbon steel is excellent for low-heat and high-heat cooking applications. You can use it on various cooktops.
- Durable yet lightweight – Besides offering high-performance cooking, these pans are very light. Similarly, if well cared for, they can last for a lifetime.
- High maintenance – Carbon steel pans require proper cleaning and regular seasoning.
- Not dishwasher-safe – Should be hand-washed with a soft brush and mild soapy water.
While they come with an intimidating price tag, copper is possibly the best cookware material for frying pans. This is the type of pan that you'll find when you visit a top chef's kitchen.
But since copper is reactive, you'll find that most copper pans are lined with a non-reactive metal like stainless steel to make them safe for cooking. Most copper pans include 90% copper and 10% stainless steel.
Copper frying pans are famous for their incredible heat distribution ability. Like carbon steel pans, they heat up and cool quickly, allowing you to create perfect culinary masterpieces.
- High heat distribution ability – Copper pans heat up quickly and uniformly, offering you a high-performance cooking experience.
- No flavour transfers – Since most copper pans are lined with stainless steel, you can cook at a high temperature without worrying about metallic flavours transferring to the food.
- Stylish yet durable – If you're looking for style, copper pans feature a gorgeous finish. Besides, they can last for a lifetime if well cared for.
- Ideal for both low-heat and high-heat cooking applications – Copper pans are ideal for various cooking tasks such as searing, steaming, boiling, braising, deep-fry sautéing, and simmering.
- Requires special care – Copper pans need regular polishing to prevent them from developing a natural patina which will require a copper remover to clean.
- Heavy – an average copper pan weighs about 3 pounds.
- Not dishwasher-safe
Best Frying Pan Material: Summing Up
When it comes to frying pans, each type of material has its pros and cons. Similarly, you'll find those specific cooking methods will work better in certain cookware materials.
For instance, if you're looking for a heavy-duty frying pan for high-heat cooking applications such as searing and deep-frying, cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless-steel pans will accomplish that just fine. If you're looking for an egg frying pan, a ceramic or non-stick pan can do the trick.
So the downline is, find out why you need a frying pan, then choose one that is designed for that purpose. This way, you'll be sure to end up owning the right frying pan for you.