Well-Equipped: Frying Pan

In this month’s well-equipped, I’m going to tell you the need-to-know basics about frying pans plus you can watch a handpicked Alton Brown video recipe at the end.  Next month, we’ll talk woks.  I promise no terrible puns.  Okay, maybe just one.

A frying pan is my kitchen go-to for searing, browning and, ummm, frying.  Also known as a skillet, these pans are flat-bottomed and low-sided with a long handle.   They are sometimes lumped together with their cousins, the sauté pan (taller sides and a lid) and the grill pan (super low sides with ridged cooking surface).

Frying pans have been around fora really long time, like ancient times!  Most frying pans today are made from aluminum or stainless steel.  If you are old school or outdoorsy (and not as in “I like to get drunk on patios” outdoorsy), you will most likely have one frying pan made of cast iron.  These are heavy, need to be properly seasoned before use and can really pack a wallop if you are mad at someone.

During the 1950s, Teflon non-stick pans made their debut and have been a kitchen standard ever since.  The surface is somewhat delicate and metal utensils and non-stick spray (i.e. Pam) can ruin the coating.  Repeated visits to the dishwasher can also damage the non-stick layer.  Santa brought me some new frying pans this year and I learned this when I read the directions.  Who knew pans had directions?

Another super important fact that many people don’t know:  Non-stick frying pans must never be heated above 500°F.  You might think it would take forever to reach this temperature but it actually happens very quickly.  What’s the worst that could happen if I turn the knob up to high heat, you ask?  It’ll decompose the Teflon and give off toxic fumes, that’s what.   Low and slow, my friends…medium heat or below!

Using oil is also important when pan frying.  I’m a fan of olive and coconut.  It greases the pan surface, adds flavor and reduces the cooking time.  To get all Alton Brown on you, it has something to do with thermal mass and the connection the oil makes between the food and the pan…at least that’s how he put it in one of his many cookbooks that I own.  (Disclaimer:  I love Alton Brown and only read his cookbooks for the nerdy science stuff.)

Speaking of Alton, he makes a killer French Toast with his favorite frying pan.  Watch this video from Good Eats and try it out this weekend.

Got a favorite frying pan recipe?  Breakfast, lunch or dinner…sound off in the comments!