Skillets and frying pans are used for different cooking methods, A skillet pan is used to braise sauces, cook vegetables, bake, roast or even broil, A frying pan is used to shallow fry, sear meats, brown foods, sautéing and even stir frying.
Skillets and frying pans are different shapes and made from different materials which changes the cooking techniques that they are good for.
📚 What is a skillet?
A skillet is a cooking utensil used for frying, sautéing, grilling, or searing. It consists of a metal surface with short sides around the bottom and curved sides with handles on top. The flat cooking surface allows the user to cook on both sides of food simultaneously. Skillets have been found in archaeological sites from as early as 5000 BC. They were commonly cast iron or occasionally bronze before technology advanced enough to produce other metals in quantity, often as thin sheets or rolled into tubes without seams for greater strength and flexibility.
The word “skillet” is also used colloquially to refer to an electric frying pan that can work either wet or dry using electrical resistance heating elements (aluminium foil). It is also used to describe a shallow open-topped metal pan used for cooking food over a campfire, with the campfire below and the campskillet above.
🥘 Best foods to cook in skillets
A skillet is primarily used for cooking foods such as:
- Roast potatoes
- Pasta sauces
- Roast Chicken
However the foods that it’s good for cooking can depends on it’s material, for example a cast iron skillet should not be used for sauces, due to the acidity of them, where as an enamelled cast iron skillet can handle the acidity.
So it’s important to take the material of the skillet into account. Generally, cast iron is the best material for skillets, as it’s traits are more suited for foods that are cooked in skillets.
📚 What is a frying pan?
A frying pan is a cooking utensil used for sautéing, pan frying, shallow frying or stir frying. It consists of a flat cooking surface with short sides; a handle on each end. Although there is not a formal definition for the term “frying pan”, it is usually defined as having flat sides and rounded ends, sometimes with handles. Flat-bottomed pans are common for sautéing or stir-frying because they are stable enough not to tip over when being used in this manner.
🍳 Best foods to cook in frying pans
A frying pan is primarily used for cooking foods such as:
- Sautéed Chicken
- Sautéed Fish
Again, this is dependant on the material, but generally stainless steel is the best material for frying pans, as it can handle all the cooking techniques. The only trait stainless steel lacks is a non-stick property, but if you season the stainless steel, you’ll create a non-stick surface.
💥 The differences in traits between a skillet and a frying pan
When it comes to a skillet versus a frying pan, they look the same, however the minute differences have a big effect on cooking.
Keep reading to discover the differences in traits caused by these small differences in appearance.
- Shape of pan – Skillets have a helper handle, and a frying pan does not. Skillets are slightly deeper than frying pans, with sides that flair more outwards. Frying pans look rounder.
- Capacity – Skillets are larger so they can hold more food than frying pans. Typically a 12-inch skillet will be able to hold around 3 quartz of food, where as a 12-inch frying pan can only hold 2.25 quartz of food. Roughly a 25% reduction.
- Speed of moisture evaporation – Moisture evaporates faster in skillets because the sides are flared outwards more, giving the food more airflow.
- Simmering Ability – Since skillets are typically made from cast iron, and come with a lid, they are better for simmering. The heat retention of cast iron allows for great temperature control, which allows you to simmer without burning the food. The lid allows you to simmer sauces whilst retaining the moisture for meat that’s being braised.
- Cooking Surface area – Since measurements of pans are taking from the top of the walls, a 12-inch frying pan has a cooking surface area than a 12-inch skillet, a bigger cooking surface area will always be more convenient for searing or browning foods due to cooking techniques requiring food contact with the pan.
- Material – A skillet is typically made from cast iron, this is because a cast iron skillet is strong, durable, can tolerate high heats and has great heat retention for even cooking. This makes it perfect for braising sauces, cooking vegetables or even baking. A frying pan is made from a more typical material such as stainless steel, aluminum or copper. This is because it is less expensive, easier to clean and also heats up much faster, which is great for searing, browning and sautéing.
- Cooking times – A skillet will have longer cooking times in comparison to frying pans because skillets use cast iron, and cast iron takes a while to heat up. For reference, a skillet takes around 3 minutes to reach 500°F. Whilst a frying pan will take roughly 30-45 seconds to reach 500°F.
- Oven safe – Skillets tend to be oven safe if they are cast iron with no added materials such as a rubber handle, frying pans can differ based on their material and handles. See the manufacturers notes on the product you buy to determine whether it is oven safe.
- Price – The price of a skillet will usually be more because a skillet is often made from cast iron which needs more time and effort in order to manufacture the pan. However, in some cases skillets can actually be cheaper than frying pans depending on the brands. A cast iron skillet will usually cost anywhere between $50-$100 whereas a frying pan will usually cost anywhere between $10-$30.
❤️Conclusion about Skillets versus Frying Pans
Whilst skillets and frying pans share a lot in common in terms of their shapes, they are used to cook different foods.
The foods they are good to cook for, are also dependant on the materials they are made with.
If you are really wanting to take your cooking to the next level, learning the differences between a skillet and a frying pan is a crucial step.
That being said, if you are a beginner cook, you can you skillets and frying pans interchangeably for recipes.