Frypans, or skillets provide a large flat heating surface and
shallow sides, and are best for pan frying. A frying pan, frypan, or skillet is
a pan used for frying, searing, and browning foods. It is typically an 8 to 12 inch
(20 to 30 cm) diameter flat pan with flared sides and no lid. In contrast, a pan
of similar size with straight sides and a lid is called a sauté pan. Use of the
word skillet is uncommon outside of North America.
Pan frying is a form of frying characterized by the use of less cooking oil than
deep frying; enough oil to, cover the food to be cooked only half way. As a form
of frying, pan frying relies on oil as the heat transfer medium and on correct temperature
to retain the moisture in the food. The exposed topside allows, unlike deep frying,
some moisture loss (which may or may not be desirable) and contact with the pan
bottom creates greater browning on the contact surface (which may or may not be
desirable.) Because of the partial coverage, the food must be flipped at least once
to cook both sides. The advantages of using less oil are practical: less oil is
needed on hand and time spent heating the oil is much shorter. The chief disadvantage
of using less oil is that it is more difficult to keep the oil at an even temperature.
The moisture loss and increased browning can be beneficial or detrimental depending
on the item cooked and its preparation and should be taken into account if there
is a choice to be made between pan frying and deep frying. Generally, a shallower
cooking vessel is used for pan frying than deep frying. Using a deep pan with a
small amount of oil does reduce spatter but the increased moisture around the cooking
food is generally detrimental to the preparation. A denser cooking vessel -- the
pan should feel heavy for its size -- is necessarily better than a less dense pan
since that mass will improve temperature regulation. An electric skillet can be
used analogously to an electric deep fryer and many of these devices have a thermostat
to keep the liquid (in this case, oil) at the desired temperature. A popular entree
that would be described as "pan fried" would be fish or seafood.
What to look for?
You want pots and pans made of stainless steel or heavy-gauge aluminum with non
oxidizing surfaces. The base of the pan should be thick and flat on both the inside
and out for better heat efficiency. You also want handles that are riveted to the
pan and can be put in the oven(no plastic handles) and well fitting lids. And most
importantly, make sure they feel good in your hands. Just because they might be
highly touted, doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for you.
Use and care
Pan-frying depends on conduction and convection. In pan-frying, a layer of oil has
four functions: it lubricates the surface; increases contact between the food and
the pan; reduces cooking time; and increases flavor and color.
When frying battered fish
or chicken, the oil covers the pan but not the food, but when frying pancakes, the
oil is but a thin film to keep the batter from sticking. Asian cooks fry rice with
all kinds of meats, seafood, vegetables, and nuts. Chinese fried rice is pan-fried
in a skillet or wok with very little oil, perhaps one tablespoon per cup of rice.
The challenge of pan-frying thick items such as chicken parts is to cook to the
center without burning the surface. The Chinese have effectively solved this problem
by slicing foods thin enough so the surface and interior cook in the same time.