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Whether it's a well-seared steak, or an omelette to make Gordon Ramsay weep, a top-notch fry pan is the key to a perfect meal. The best frying pan is made of high-quality steel, iron, or aluminium, with good thickness through the base and sides for even heat transfer. Cast iron and stainless steel pans are ideal for induction, but non-stick and ceramic have their own benefits. Whatever your preference, our resident frying pan expert Elese has rounded up her fave picks for Australia's finest cookware.
How we picked
Frying pans aren't something everyone gets excited about, but luckily for you, Cosier writer Elese (i.e. yours truly) has years of experience selling cookware. While I did already have a few pans in mind, fairness is a key part of the Cosier ethos. This meant I started my research with CHOICE, Australia's biggest consumer advocacy group, to see which frypans they reviewed.
After reviewing the options, I headed over to ProductReview.com.au to check in with Aussies. I was spoiled for choice. There were several pans which made the cut, but after weighing up some of Australia's faves against my own knowledge, I found a few were unavailable with major retailers. Checking those frying pans off the list, I ended up with my picks for Australia's best frypans.
What makes a good frying pan
If you want a frying pan that'll go in the oven, opt for something with a shorter handle. That way, your frypan doubles as a pie or pizza pan, too.
Frypans are hunks of metal. This means they're often pretty heavy. Non-stick pans tend to be lightest, but blue steel, stainless steel, or SolidTeknics AUS-ION pans are a good option if you like cast iron but hate the weight.
Part of what you don't see with top-of-the-line cookware is the time and technology that goes into the design process. When you pay a little more, you'll find design features like no-drip pouring lips, copper cores, or handles designed to stay cool to the touch.
The 'maillard reaction' is the name given to the chemical reaction that occurs when food sugars are reduced for the perfect fried-ness. Cast iron and stainless steel pans are best for browning, but you'll get top results by preheating your pan with a healthy glug of canola, coconut, or rice bran oil.
While it's best to handwash your frying pan, stainless steel pans are your best bet if you want the option to put it in the dishwasher. Non-stick pans are sometimes OK in the dishwasher, but they'll stay non-stick longer with gentle handwashing. Cast iron should never go in the dishwasher.
What type of frying pan is best?
- Great for delicate foods like eggs or fish
- Food won't stick to your pan
- Easy to clean
- Cook with minimal oil or fat
- Usually cheaper than other cookware
- Can be overheated
- Can't use metal utensils or cooking spray
- Handwashing recommended
- Surface may flake or peel over time
- Not recommended for the oven
- Won't 'brown' food (maillard reaction) as well as other pans
- Excellent for high-heat cooking, including steak and potatoes
- Heavy-duty and hard-wearing
- Lasts several lifetimes
- Goes in the oven
- Doubles as a pie dish or pizza pan
- Surface improves over time
- Thick, even surface lies flat on element for optimal heat transfer
- Easier to clean (no detergent necessary!)
- Gets extremely hot for a perfect sear
- Usually reasonably-priced
- Excellent caramelization (maillard reaction) for sauteing
- Heavy to lift (unless you buy chef's steel, blue steel or AUS-ION)
- Requires seasoning every so often
- Hand wash only
- Oil or fat usually necessary for good result
- Usually dishwasher-safe
- Even surface lays flat on element for optimal heat transfer
- Lighter than cast iron
- Versatile cooking surface
- Long-lasting and durable
- Excellent caramelization (maillard reaction) for sauteing
- Won't react with acidic foods like wine or tomatoes
- Usually more expensive than other cookware
- Oil or fat usually necessary to prevent sticking
- Longer handles may not fit in oven
- Can be harder to clean
How do you stop food sticking on stainless steel or cast iron?
The short answer is this: just preheat your pan with a bit of oil. The long answer? Well, proteins like steak or bacon bond with the metal of the frypan, sticking to any tiny imperfections on the surface of the pan. If you heat oil in the pan first, the hot oil fills any of these ridges in to create a smoother surface.
Once the food is placed onto the hot oil in the pan, the oil sears the outside of the food, creating a thin layer of steam between the oil and the food. The sizzling noise you hear when you fry is a result of this reaction, which stops the food sticking to the pan. This is why it's important to preheat your pan with oil first, rather than putting food straight into a room-temperature pan before it's hot.
Can I put my frying pan in the oven or dishwasher?
While some manufacturers say it's OK to put your frying pan in the dishwasher, many recommend against it for several reasons. Contrary to what you might think, it's actually better for your pans to stay a little oily, as it helps prevent food sticking. This is why gentle handwashing is ideal for most pans. Handles can also be knocked about in the dishwasher, and the chemicals used aren't always a frying pan's best friend.
Cast iron should never go in the dishwasher, as you'll strip away the 'patina' of oil, and will need to re-season your pan. Non-stick should only ever go on the top shelf of the dishwasher, further away from the heating element at the bottom of your machine. Stainless steel is more durable, and will usually be OK in the dishwasher, but again, it may shorten the pan's lifespan.
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