Frypan vs Skillet: The Hot Debate
Skillet vs frypan, one of the most common debates amongst cooking professionals, homecooks, and the often confused layman. Some insist the frying pan and skillet are completely different. Then there are others who’d argue that they are interchangeable. But who is actually correct?
We’ll go ahead and put it out there first. Yes, frying pans and skillets do differ. And this is coming from us after putting them both through the test. Sure they share several similarities and look almost indistinguishable at times, but their fundamentals are clearly different.
What is the difference between a frying pan and a skillet?
A quick research on the meaning of frypan and skillet in the dictionary would lead you to the same thing - they’re both frying pans. They only truly differ when it comes to their practical aspect where you’ll notice clear differences through factors we'll go through below.
Both skillets and frypans can be made from various materials such as cast iron and stainless steel. What sets them apart is that frypans are usually made from stainless steel, aluminium, copper, and ceramic.
Whereas skillets are commonly made from cast iron or stainless steel, giving it its rugged and robust nature. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find a “cast iron frypan”, but you’ll often find “cast iron skillets”. Even though stainless steel is one of the common materials used to make skillets, cast iron is the more popular option.
Because of this particular factor, the word skillet is almost always used to refer to cast iron skillets.
One of the most obvious differences between skillets and frypans is its shape. But it is also a factor that often confuses people, simply because they’re both flat-bottomed rounded pans with a handle. Here’s how they differ in regards to shape.
Frypans have curved edges starting from the base that straighten towards the top. But don’t confuse frypans with saute pans as those have vertical sides that begin right from the base. You’ll also rarely find a frypan with pouring spouts on its edge unlike those often found on a skillet.
That said, the sloped sides of a frypan does make it easier to move food around with a spatula or a pair of tongs. Not forgetting the frypan's curved edges that makes it much easier to saute food. Yes, just like when you see a professional chef flipping food.
Skillets on the other hand, have semi-vertical sides that flare outwards from the base. This is unlike the frying pan because it does not have curved edges. Again, do not confuse skillets with saute pans as the skillet widen outwards while saute pan does not.
Here’s a fun fact; did you know that there’s a frypan called the French skillet, only with much higher, sloped sides? It looks rather like a slight cross between the fry pan and skillet.
The depth of a frypan is usually more shallow than that of a skillet. This makes it more suitable for cooking food like steak, chicken breast, or stir-fried veggies. Its shallow depth also makes it ideal for food that requires frequent flips like frittatas, pancakes, eggs, and fish.
Skillets are typically deeper than frypans, which makes them more suitable for dishes that call for more liquid or sauce. Its depth also allows you to add in more ingredients for one-pan meals that include vegetables and meat. All this without spilling out.
This is why you’ll often find brunch spots serving their big breakfasts in a cast iron skillet. Yes, it isn’t simply for the aesthetics, even though that does play a part.
When it comes to size, both the frypan and skillet are available in various sizes. What sets them apart is the range of sizes offered. The size of frypans usually range from 15cm to 30cm, with the most popular sizes being between 24cm and 26cm.
This makes skillets the generally larger option between the two, as its overall diameter can usually range between 20cm to 40cm. The generally larger size of the skillet makes it a better choice to feed families or a crowd. Popular skillet sizes are often the 25cm and 30cm ones, especially so for those who enjoy the versatility to cook single meal portions and larger ones.
Now that we’re familiar with their sizes, let’s move on to the differences between frypans and skillets in terms of their cooking surface!
So we know that the frypan is generally smaller than the skillet, but does that also mean it has a smaller cooking surface? It sure does. Its overall smaller build gives it a smaller cooking surface, while its shallower depth also reduces the amount you can cook on it. But its compact size certainly gives you an easier time when it comes to cooking smaller portions.
As for the skillet, you’ll get the option of a larger cooking surface with more cooking volume due to its slightly deeper depth. This makes it easier to cook large cuts of meat and batches of food.
Which leads us to a similarity they both have; a flat cooking surface.
While they both look almost identical, frypans and skillets each have their own roles to play in the kitchen. Frypans are best used for foods that require lower heat such as eggs, pancakes, and the ever delicate fish. This is because the frypan’s curved edge makes it easier to maneuver the ingredients as you cook.
While on the other side, we have the skillet which is best for cooking food at high heat such as searing, reducing, sauteing, and shallow frying. That’s because of its common construction of cast iron or stainless steel, which causes slow and even heat distribution but excellent heat retention.
The occasional pouring spouts also make skillets ideal for reductions as you can easily pour it out without manually scooping. Not forgetting that skillets are often the outdoor enthusiasts’ favourite companion thanks to its almost indestructible and robust nature.
Here’s where things may get a little confusing, so we’ll start with the basics. For one, both frypans and skillets have handles attached to its side. One difference is that frypans usually have shorter handles compared to the longer one on skillets. The skillet’s longer handle allows for an easier time to move the pan around the stovetop or to transfer it into the oven for baking.
Another difference lies in how skillets usually come with a small helper handle on the other side for extra support. This is because skillets are often much heavier than frypans, so the extra support is always welcomed. Frypans usually come with a single handle, but there are rare occasions where it may come with a helper handle for larger ones.
Next we’ll look at how the handles are attached. The frypan's handle is usually a separate piece that is either riveted, welded, or screwed on. You’ll commonly see riveted or welded handles these days instead of older screw-handles, which is found on cheap cookware or upper high-end European cookware.
Whereas handles on skillets are often already part of it, making it an overall single piece of metal. That said, the common exception would be the French skillet which closely resembles a frypan with typically riveted handles.
Now this is a pretty tricky one. Frypans and skillets both rarely come with lids. When a frypan does come with a lid, it’s often made from glass which allows you to monitor food easily. Even so, it’s pretty rare for a lid to be available unless you specifically purchase the lid as an add-on.
While it is also rare for skillets to come with a lid, you’ll certainly see it more often than you would on a frypan. The lid is also typically fully opaque so you won’t be able to monitor your cooking as easily. But it sure helps with slow-cooking and braising dishes.
The weight difference between frypans and skillets can vary depending on the size and material used to construct the cookware. As a general rule, frypans are the lighter option between the two.
Frypans are lighter because they typically offer you ease of use, especially for cooking tasks that require frequent stirring and flipping. Think cooking eggs, sauteing vegetables, and flipping pancakes. A lightweight frypan is simply easier to maneuver and lift for more convenience. Fry pans are also usually found in aluminium, stainless steel, which are lighter metals in general.
Skillets are the heavier option because of its thickness, the material used to craft it, and larger size. This extra weight allows skillets to distribute heat evenly and retain heat better, making it ideal for recipes that involve searing and braising.
Frypans and skillets have different shapes and intended uses, but both are incredibly versatile. It all comes down to the kind of versatility you want.
A frypan can be used to cook frittatas, quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, omelettes, stir-fries, and fish. Certain oven-safe frypans have the versatility to be served from oven to table for a stunning affair. Modern frypans are also now available in beautiful designs and colours, especially ceramic frypans.
However, if you find yourself stir frying, making fajitas and baked dishes more often than not, you may just prefer the skillet for its fantastic heat retention properties. Think a sizzling fajita for a Mexican themed dinner soiree with your closest friends. A skillet can certainly deliver a fantastic impression that will wow your guests.
And if you’re a fan of big breakfasts at brunch spots? A cast iron skillet will certainly come in handy to recreate an almost similar vibe. Lastly, outdoor enthusiasts who often spend time cooking outdoors will favour the versatility of the skillet as its indestructible nature allows you to easily carry it and cook outdoors.
Is a skillet better than a frying pan? Which one should I choose?
Choose the frypan if you want something that is lightweight, easy to use daily, and offers versatility to cook delicate recipes. But if you're adventurous in the kitchen, enjoy cooking outdoors, have a larger budget and want cookware that lasts over a lifetime, choose the skillet.
For those who'd prefer the frypan, non-stick fry pans are also a fantastic choice if you're seeking to cook healthy dishes with little to no oil. Not forgetting certain frypans that are oven-safe with non stick coating like the Cosmo Fry for baking enthusiasts out there. And all this comes at an often more affordable price than that of skillets.
Whereas kitchen enthusiasts and cooking professionals who chose the skillet will enjoy the versatility, near indestructible durability, and in turn the longevity offered by the skillet. Ultimately, one is only better than the other depending on the lifestyle you lead.