Skillet is a shallow pan with a long handle used for frying, searing, browning, sautéing or other types of cooking. Commonly, it is more popularly known as the frying pan. This is one of the most essential and indispensable cooking equipment in both professional and household kitchens. The standard size skillet is usually around 8” to 10” in diameter. However, in regular cooking all sizes of skillets are required. Smaller than the standard size for very little quantity to be cooked and bigger than the standard size for larger quantities to be cooked are also available in most stores. It is common to find three different sizes and a variety of four to five different skillets in home kitchens. This quite explains the importance of its use.
The earliest skillets were found in ancient Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, and ancient Rome which signifies that they have been in use for thousands of years. It can then be certainly said the existence of skillets have been ever since civilizations started sprucing up, across the world. The earlier skillets were mostly made of cast iron and copper or even aluminium. However, today skillets are available in all shapes, sizes and made of a variety of different materials.
Various Types of Skillet
With industrialization and advancing technology, the humble cast iron skillet has come a long way, and is now available in different varieties. Some of these have been described below.
Cast Iron Skillet – This is the regular and basic skillet found in the kitchens of even in most primitive tribes and civilizations. It can be used to sear, brown, sauté, cook, fry vegetables, meats, stews or any other food item under the sun. It is extremely durable and long lasting – meant to last a lifetime if maintained with care! Another benefit of using a cast iron skillet is the added quantity of iron mineral required in our daily diet. Most foods are mineral deficient today, and the iron skillet helps to fill in that gap. It retains food flavours and bacteria, and is therefore required to be cleaned immediately after every use.
Stainless Steel Skillet – These are also durable and easy to maintain and resistant to corrosion as well as being inexpensive. However, it quickly becomes heated and one needs to be careful about not burning the food. Another disadvantage is that if the surface of the pan gets scratched the metal may leak into food and cause health problems.
Copper Skillet – These are naturally beautiful because of the colour and shine of the metal. They are ideal for most cooking procedures and may last a long time if used and cared for properly. However they are more expensive compared to skillets made with other metals. They need periodical polishing for maintenance. Similar to stainless steel skillets, if the surface of the pan gets scratched then the metal may leak into the food causing health problems.
Aluminium Skillet – These are the most popular form of skillets in use because they are extremely inexpensive. They are ideal for most types of cooking like sautéing, searing and frying as it heats quickly and uniformly. However, the biggest disadvantage of this metal is that it easily reacts with acidic food to form toxic substances harmful for the body if consumed. Hence the solution is to use the aluminium skillet for cooking and quickly transfer the cooked food into another vessel. Leaving cooked food for long periods in aluminium skillet causes the formation of toxic substances. Many manufacturers provide aluminium skillets with a non-stick coating or with the anodized version, which makes it more resistant to scratches and dents.
Non Stick or Teflon Skillet – This type of skillet is most popular today and used by almost one and all because of the convenience in cooking because of the non-stick properties. It reduces the use of oil or butter in dishes as the Teflon coating does not allow the food to stick to the surface of the pan. They are not so expensive and are easy to clean. However, they require good maintenance as they are prone to scratches if used with metal spatulas. These specially need to be used with wooden spatulas to avoid scratching.
Electric Skillet – This type of skillet need not be placed on a stove top. Instead, it simply needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet and runs on electricity. It comes in various sizes with different features and relative prices. It can be round or square in shape and usually available in 12” or 18” sizes. They are normally made of aluminium with a non stick coating and sometimes can be made of stainless steel also. Some of these are dishwasher safe and also have a temperature control thermostat. Some have a ‘keep warm’ feature which allows the food to be warm if dinner is being served late. These are available in a price range of $30 to $100 or a little more. Care should be taken while using these to avoid accidents and fire hazards. Also in case of non stick ones only wooden spatula must be used to avoid scratching the Teflon coating.
Microwaveble Skillet – This type of skillet is particularly designed for use in the microwave only. It is made of plastic which is microwave and dishwasher safe. For microwaveable recipes it comes in handy but cannot be used in any other type of stove.
How to Buy a Skillet
While buying a skillet one needs to keep in mind the budget and the size desired. Based on these two criteria one can then select the material from iron, copper, aluminium, Teflon or stainless steel. An electric skillet can also be purchased with respect to its price, depending on the frequency of use. If buying non-stick skillet then wooden spatula must be bought as well.
Popular Brands of Skillet