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If you head to the nearest department or kitchen supply store, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the numerous decisions you’ll have to make before buying a frying pan. You'll also notice huge differences in price with some options being under $10 US Dollars (USD) and others over $100 USD for a single pan. Since you have so many choices, knowing your materials, your size requirements, and your price range can help you make an informed choice.
The basic frying pan is available in several different metals, including cast iron, stainless steel, and aluminum. With a little shopping around, you might discover ceramic and copper pans, which are likely to be fairly expensive. Combination stainless steel and copper bottom pans are popular too. Copper-bottomed pans offer the highly durable qualities of steel with very good heat conduction.
Aluminum frying pans typically come with a non-stick coating. This can be a good conductor of heat and help you easily remove things from the pan. Non-stick coatings tend not to work well with metal tools and can begin to flake off after a while, so you should only use plastic tools with them.
Other aluminum pans made of anodized aluminum are much more durable, and you may notice tiny circular ridges in the pan which help to better conduct the heat evenly. Brands with these ridges are often quite expensive,however. Such pans are frequently the choice of professional chefs.
Cast iron frying pans are some of the most durable offered, and when the entire pan is cast iron, it can easily be used on stovetops or in ovens for casseroles. Some cooks swear by their cast iron pans, but they are prone to rusting if not appropriately cared for. Aluminum and stainless steel frying pans are not ideal for use with highly acidic ingredients, like citrus fruits or tomatoes, as some aluminum or iron may leach into your finished product. You may notice a slight metallic taste to spaghetti sauces, or lemon chicken for example. In these cases, you might want to consider a stainless steel or ceramic frying pan instead.
Frying pans come in virtually every imaginable size. If you plan to use the pan to cook for a large family, consider one at least 12 inches (30.5 cm) in diameter. Just remember that the larger the pan is, the farther out it reaches from the heat source, which can cause uneven heating. Pans larger than 12 inches (30.5 cm) across may have hot and "cold" spots. This matters less for oven cooking, but always remember to choose pans with heat resistant handles if you plant to use it in the oven.
If you want a relatively low cost pan, you probably should consider cast iron over aluminum, since it is more durable. Avoid very inexpensive non-stick pans, as they can actually end up costing you more since you'll need to replace them more often. If you find top of the line pans a little too expensive, wait for sales at department stores, or look for discontinued styles of high quality pans. Several times a year, most departments stores will have home sales that may bring these professional pans into your price range. Special deals on sets of pans can also save you money.