Frying pans are a standard in any commercial kitchen. With a round shape and moderately high, slight sloping slides, these pans are perfect to sautee, sear, and pan fry. It can be daunting to figure out which type of pan material and construction is best, so we’ve developed a guide to help make your decision easier. This industry favorite can come in different sizes, configurations, and coatings to fit the needs of any commercial kitchen.

Types of Pan Materials

The success of a meal can depend on the material of your frying pan. Different pan materials can fit better with certain cooktops than others, so it’s best to understand the material type prior to purchasing.

Aluminum

This metal is known for its affordability and quick adaption to temperature change. While rapid heat-up and cool-down can cut prep time, aluminum is also susceptible to warping and denting. Aluminum can also react negatively to acidity, changing the color or flavor in some foods.

Note: Anodized aluminum is coated to prevent some of the color and taste side effects in aluminum frying pans, making it a good option even when using acidic foods.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a highly sought-after metal growing in popularity in commercial kitchens. This metal is known for its durability and uniform heating, making it perfect for heavy-duty use. Stainless steel can be challenging to clean, especially when uncoated.

Note:  Although stainless steel is less conductive than aluminum, it is often magnetic and compatible with induction cooktops.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is an industry favorite for its durability and efficiency in the kitchen. This metal is ideal for high-performance cooking, making it the preferred material for woks, omelet pans, and crepe pans. 

Note: Carbon steel should be seasoned to avoid rusting, and should only be hand washed with mild soapy water and a soft brush.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is a favorite metal for frying pans due to its ability to withstand high temperatures, including oven temperatures. This material is a sensible alternative to traditional nonstick surfaces. This versatile cookware material is available in an enamel coat or uncoated.

Uncoated Cast Iron

Enameled Cast Iron

Note: Both uncoated and enameled cast iron can be useful for browning meats, searing, sautéing, and frying. This metal is durable and has a long lifespan.

Copper

Copper frying pans provide maximum control with quick and even cooking and timely cool-down. Although the material is not as versatile or intended for every stovetop use, as opposed to some of the materials mentioned above, copper is an excellent conductor for heat. Prolonged use of copper cookware can cause a patina (or film) to form due to exposure to elements (think the Statue of Liberty). You can prevent this from forming by ensuring that your pans are always clean and dry, and by polishing on occasion.

Note: Copper cookware is not compatible with all cooktops, including induction tops and ovens. Use this metal only on standard cooktops. 

Tip: Keep copper cookware looking its best by using a soft sponge and mild soap to clean. You can maintain the shine by regularly polishing with specialty copper cleaner or a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda.

For more information on construction material of frying pans, read this article from Consumer Reports!

Frying Pan Construction

Pan Handles

Riveted  A pan with a riveted handle is the most durable type. While the rivets need cleaning more carefully, the handle never needs tightening.

Welded Welded handles aren’t as sturdy as riveted but do not require additional cleaning. A handle without rivets means that the interior of a pan is smooth.

Screwed-On Handles attached with screws are the least durable option. These handles require occasional tightening but are easy to replace when needed.

Pan Thickness

Thickness Pros Cons
Thinner
  • Can heat up food quickly
  • Quicker cool down
  • Less expensive
  • Uneven heat distribution
  • Less regular heat maintenance
Thicker
  • Sturdier
  • Resistant to dents & warping
  • Heats more evenly
  • Maintains heat more regularly
  • Heavier weight
  • Longer heat-up time

 

Clean and Store Your Frying Pans

You should make sure to clean and maintain your frying pans to prolong their use. Here are some tips that commercial chefs live by: 

  • Prevent heat damage by removing an empty pan immediately from the heat source.
  • Cookware will last longer when hand washed.
  • If using a dishwasher on your pans, be sure to only use metal-safe detergent to protect the surface.
  • To clean seasoned pans, scrub the interior in hot water only. Dry, then take an oil-coated paper towel and rub on the interior and exterior to prevent rust.
  • Store pans with liners in between to prevent scratching.
  • Another alternative to storing your pans is to hang them on a hook to keep them scratch-free and help them air dry.
  • Polish the exterior of copper and stainless steel pans to keep them shiny.

Final Considerations

While there is plenty to consider when buying a frying pan, the most crucial consideration is how it will get used in a kitchen. If you’re looking for a sturdy, professional frying pan, consider a carbon steel construction. If you have an induction cooktop and are looking for something compatible, look at stainless steel. 

Did you learn something from this article? Are you looking to learn more on frying pans or cookware? Check out these articles in our resource center 

Choosing Cookware 

Stainless Steel vs. Aluminum 

Cleaning and Caring for Your Stainless Steel Cookware