When choosing the best frying pan or best wok, it isn't an overly complicated decision, but there are a few things to consider before making your purchase. It's helpful to know a skillet pan and wok have flared sides, while a sauté pan has straight sides and a larger cooking area, so your ingredients don't steam. Woks are generally used to make stir fry dishes, and skillets are often used for pan searing, pan frying, pan roasting and browning. While, sauté pans can be used for getting sauces ready that you've prepped in your blender to complete a recipe.
If you make a lot of meals with pasta or rice that you've prepared in a rice cooker, you'll want to select a fry pan with high sides, which allows you to stir and toss the ingredients without having any of them spilling out. If you cook foods that stick to the pan like chicken or fish, you may want to choose a non-stick frying pan. Also, consider using wood or plastic food prep utensils to stir or serve food from your fry pan, so you don't scratch the finish.
Skillet and Wok Materials: Pros and Cons
You should choose the material that your wok or frying pan is made of based on what and how you'll be cooking. A stainless steel frying pan is ideal for searing, sautéing, braising and making sauces. It's also designed to be durable enough to last a lifetime. One downfall of this type of pan is that by itself, it offers poor heat transfer, so it needs to be bonded to aluminum or copper for best conductivity.
A copper fry pan is best used for braising, steaming or sautéing. Copper is the best overall conductor of heat and known for cooking food evenly. By itself, it will react to the minerals and acids of many foods, so it needs to be lined with tin or stainless steel for safety.
Aluminum is second only to copper for conductivity, and it's very lightweight and best used for fish, eggs, searing and sautéing. It's also has been known to react with some acidic foods, so you want to make sure it's been anodized. This is a process that hardens it to add durability and corrosion-resistance.
Cast iron is durable, naturally non-stick and if it's properly seasoned, you can count on it to distribute heat evenly for simmering and browning. Some disadvantages to cast iron is that it's heavy, and, unless it's coated in porcelain enamel, it doesn't take well to acidic foods.
Getting More from a Ceramic Sauté Pan
Ceramic pans offer several benefits, including being environmentally friendly. This type of pan is also known for being scratch and heat resistant to the extent it can withstand temperatures that would melt metal cookware. Ceramic cookware heats up gradually, making it a good option for dishes that require slow, even cooking.
It's also good for cooking acidic or alkaline foods, and it's non-stick. These reasons make ceramic pans an ideal choice for breakfast dishes because eggs and omelets will more easily come out of the pan to complement the toast from your toaster and coffee from your coffee maker. Additionally, most ceramic cookware is dishwasher safe, which saves you time because you don't have to hand wash the pan.