Your Guide To Skillet Cooking
If you’re looking for versatile cooking, you’ll want to buy a skillet for your kitchen.
Although a skillet is sometimes called a frying pan, the two pieces of equipment are quite different.
What does a skillet look like?
A skillet has a flat base and slanted sides. It’s usually deeper than a pan and it can also come with a lid. Read on to learn more about skillet cooking.
We’ll explore how a skillet can enhance your cooking and how to maintain it for longevity.
What Are The Different Types Of Skillets?
There are different types of skillets based on the materials that are used to make them.
This type of skillet is strong and durable. Cast iron heats up slowly and stays hotter for longer, so it’s great for when you want to keep meals warm after cooking.
You can’t beat a cast-iron skillet if you want to sear meat, however you have to be careful when cooking acidic foods in a cast-iron skillet.
The iron reacts with the acidity, which releases a metallic flavor in the food.
A skillet made of stainless steel doesn’t react to food or become rusty.
Stainless steel heats up at a moderate speed and ensures food is cooked evenly. As a result, stainless-steel skillets are great to use when you’re cooking stir-fries and vegetables.
This type of skillet is usually coated in layers of non-stick polymer called PTFE.
It’s great for cooking delicate foods like eggs and pancakes.
What About Straight Vs. Sloped Skillets?
You can find skillets that have straight sides and others that are sloped. What are the differences?
- Skillets that have straight sides trap moisture during the cooking process. This makes them ideal for foods that have to be cooked slowly, such as if you’re braising food.
- Skillets that have sloped sides encourage browning and evaporation. This makes them ideal for cooking methods such as sautéing and searing foods.
What Makes A Skillet Unique?
If you already have a pan or two in the kitchen, you might wonder if you really need a skillet.
To help you answer this question, let’s check out the pros and cons of skillets.
- A skillet with curved sides provides a larger cooking area and it enables you to have better access when moving the ingredients around the skillet, such as when you want to toss ingredients in a stir fry.
- Thanks to its curved sides, a skillet makes it easy to slide food onto your plate, such as if you’re making an omelette.
- You can put a skillet in the oven, which increases its versatility.
- By choosing a cast-iron skillet, you can be guaranteed of having evenly-heated ingredients without having to rotate your pan in the oven.
- You have to season skillets that are made of cast iron. This can take some effort.
- You have to be careful when washing skillets so as not to damage them or remove their seasoning.
Are Cast-Iron Skillets Best?
When choosing the type of skillet you want to buy, it’s worth considering that cast iron is a material that’s very popular for skillets. In fact, when people speak of skillets, they sometimes automatically mean cast iron.
But which type of skillet is best – one made of cast iron or one of the non-stick variety? Or, should you choose a stainless-steel skillet instead?
Cast-Iron Skillet Vs Non-Stick Skillet
Cast iron does require seasoning, but it’s naturally non-stick. It’s also ideal for cooking at very hot temperatures. Since cast iron takes a long time to heat up, it maintains heat for longer than other pans in the kitchen.
Its even distribution of heat makes it good for various cooking techniques such as browning and baking.
While a non-stick skillet is ideal for cooking with less oil and enables you to cook foods that can stick to pans, such as fried eggs, this coating can release harmful chemicals when heated to temperatures above 570 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cast-Iron Skillet Vs Stainless-Steel Skillet
A cast-iron skillet takes a bit of time to get hot so that you can cook in it, so it’s best to start with medium-heat and then slowly increase it.
The cast iron will preserve the heat so it’s great for slow cooking, such as when roasting foods.
By comparison, a stainless-steel skillet heats up quickly and it can be used to cook a variety of foods at a faster rate. One of the advantages of stainless steel over cast iron is that it’s lighter, which makes it easier to handle.
How To Season A Cast-Iron Skillet
If you own a cast-iron skillet, you’ll have to season it.
While “season” might make you think of spices, this process is really about protecting and maintaining the material of the skillet. Here’s how to do it for the first time.
- Start by pre-heating your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash your new skillet in soapy water to remove the coating of oil that was applied to the skillet to protect it during shipping.
- Once washed, rinse the skillet and dry it with a clean towel.
- Apply a coat of vegetable shortening to the interior and exterior of the pan, making sure you apply it everywhere except on the handle.
- Then, put a lined baking sheet on the oven’s bottom rack. This is to ensure that the vegetable shortening won’t drip down onto your oven.
- Put your coated skillet on the middle rack and leave it in the oven for about 45 minutes.
- Afterwards, remove the skillet and wipe it with a clean, dry cloth. Allow it to cool down.
Important Things To Be Aware Of With Cast-Iron Skillets
By now, you know that you have to season your cast-iron skillet regularly to keep it in great condition. But there are other important things to know to ensure you maintain your cast-iron skillet properly.
- When storing your cast-iron skillet, if you’re nesting two together, or storing smaller pans inside the skillet, make sure you place a paper towel between them. This prevents damage to the cookware. The paper towel will also absorb moisture.
- Get the right tools to clean your skillet. A brush made specifically for cast iron is a good idea, but sometimes you’ll also need something a bit stronger to remove bits of food that are stuck to the skillet. A pan scraper is a good idea. This tool is strong and comes with corners that are shaped differently so you can get into difficult-to-reach areas.
- When cleaning a cast-iron skillet, make sure you don’t use cold water on it when it’s still hot. This can damage it because the cast iron is quite a brittle material. The dramatic change in temperature can cause the skillet to crack or become warped.
- Always make sure that you dry your skillet completely before storing it otherwise it could rust.
- When removing rust from the skillet, make sure you do so gently. If you use too much pressure, this can cause what’s known as micro-cracking. This is when there are invisible cracks produced on the surface of the skillet, which make it more prone to breakage at a later stage.
- Before storing your cast-iron cookware, it’s good practice to coat the pan with a thin layer of neutral oil like canola that you use to season it. Rub the oil all over the skillet, both on the inside and outside. This will protect the skillet during storage.
- Cast-iron skillets absorb flavors from food, which is why if you’ve made pungent food in your skillet you won’t want to bake in it right away. For this reason, it’s a good idea to purchase two skillets and use them for different purposes. It’s worth noting that even if your skillet is well seasoned, it can still take on flavors from foods much more than a stainless-steel or nonstick pan.
- Never store food in a cast-iron skillet. While you might think you can simply cover leftover food in your skillet and put it in the fridge, you should avoid this because acids in the food will break down the skillet’s seasoning.
Can you still use a rusty cast-iron skillet?
You don’t have to throw away a rusty cast-iron skillet. You just have to clean it. Use steel wool to remove the rust and then re-season the pan.
Can you cook delicate fish in a skillet?
Be careful when cooking delicate fish, like tilapia, in your cast-iron skillet. It can easily get stuck onto the surface. It’s a better idea to avoid cast-iron skillets for delicate, fragile food that breaks apart easily.
If you want to buy a skillet, there are some important things you should know about this versatile piece of cookware.
In this article, we’ve provided you with all the information you need to know about skillet cooking as well as how to maintain your skillet so it helps you to continue to make delicious meals for your family.