HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


One Pan to Rule Them All

  • a

I'm in the market for a new frying pan/skillet. Specifically I'm looking for a versatile, durable pan that can take punishment and be suitable for all of my various culinary endeavors, including:

-searing meat, then finishing in the oven
-stir-frying in a vaguely Asian manner
-caramelizing onions
-deglazing/reducing pan sauces
-knocking people unconscious

I find that cast irons are too heavy for my weak arms to handle (I also move apartments a lot) and I've already got (read: my roommate has) a nonstick for all of my omelet needs. Would carbon steel, stainless steel, or aluminum be best for my needs?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If you want it to knock people unconscious, then look at Demeyere.

    1. I would have voted cast iron, of course, but might you consider anodized aluminum? I find that I can do much in these pans, although it is my opinion that cast iron does most tasks a bit better. Calphalon has the most typical versions of this type of skillet. I mostly use the few I have for eggs and fritattas, but occasionally, I pluck one of them out of my drying rack to cook with because I am feeling too lazy to reach for something else, so I have used it for many other things. My biggest complaint about these pans is that they don't lie flat enough for my glass cooktop, even when they were brand new, so there are a bit more unstable than I would like. I have a carbon steel wok, and it is harder to keep up (meaning, prevent from rusting) than I would want for my everyday pan, so I wouldn't be inclined to recommend it, although there are lots of fans on these boards. I also have very high quality stainless steel saute pans, and their heavy bottoms make them great for searing and then oven finishing. While these can do a bang-up job of most tasks, things tend to stick badly in them unless you heat the pan and use oil or butter to coat the bottom well.

      I'd put cast iron, enameled cast iron, and copper, with either a tin or stainless steel lining, in the "too heavy" category if you don't want heavy pans.

      1 Reply
      1. re: RGC1982

        While I am smitten with and testing my new carbon steel and cast iron pans, I love and have gotten tons of use from my circa 1998 Calphalon anodized aluminum pans (fry pan, sauce pan, and stock pot) and agree they are a great all-around pan -- virtually non-stick (yet you can sear in them), super easy to maintain, non-reactive, and lighter than cast iron.

        Not sure if they make them like they used to, but mine are still going strong. And I used the fry pan almost continuously, until recently, when I started trying out my new cast iron (which are great but a pain to maintain relative to the Calphalon - at least at this stage in the seasoning process -- and don't take as well to acidic foods, which I cook a lot with..).

      2. I think a saucier (larger than 3qt) or so-called chef's pan will do . I have a 3qt AC SS saucier with small helping handle and do all of them except knocking people unconcious. (However, for real stir-frying with high heat, a carbon-steel wok is always better.)



        1 Reply
        1. re: hobbybaker

          I'm with "hobbybaker". I love my chef's pan for all-around utility. Also, though it's not technically a skillet, the smaller handles might make it easier to store in an apartment kitchen.

        2. You have received plenty of advice, so I will just add one bit. Because you demand the pan able to sear and stir fry ... etc. You will need to pan with some depth to it. For example, a country fry pan, a Chef's pan or a wok shape fry pan:


          As for metal material, it depends which of the requirement is more important.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Chemicalkinetics, I remember you were looking into the deBuyer Force Blue line a while ago - did you ever get one? I have a carbone plus 10" which I originally bought for omelets but now use for a ton of other things...I need a second 10" though to leave at another location - im thinking mineral steel or force blue.

            1. re: dcole

              Hi dcole,

              Thanks for your thought. Yes, I have gotten hold of the deBuyer Force Blue frying pan. It works out quite well. I should have bought a larger one, but other than that, all is well.

              You may know this, but I will mention them anyway. Mineral is pretty much the same as Carbone Plus, so I don't think you find a lot of surprises. Mineral is a tad more polished. Force Blue has a dark surface, which a few of us suspect as a black oxide/bluing layer. Force Blue is also thinner than Carbone Plus.


              A thinner pan will have better heat response, but poorer heat capacity, so it is really a preference thing.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Thanks! I think I am going to give the Force Blue a shot as I don't really need the extra heat capacity (mostly omelets and less high heat applications).
                I knew about the similarities of the carbone plus/mineral - thanks to one of your earlier posts actually.
                Have you noticed if the Force Blue seasons faster than the carbone+/mineral - I think Iread somewhere that people have recognized that it does.

                1. re: dcole

                  Hi dcole,

                  I don't have a Carbone Plus nor Mineral, so I don't have a reference for comparison. I will say that my Force Blue pan was very easy to season compared to my cast iron skillet and regular carbon steel woks. It was ready to be used on day one after the initial seasoning process.

                  I believe the Force Blue surface is actually the black oxide, magnetitie. Some believe it is easier for polymerized fat to stick to magnetitie than bare carbon steel, if so, it will be easier to season the Force Blue cookware.

                  "Also, things bond better to magnetite than bare iron (for example, polymerized fat). "


                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Thanks a lot. I did find that my carbone + seasoned fairly quick - and in terms of getting it to nonstick - incredibly faster than my cast iron.

                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  "A thinner pan will have better heat response, but poorer heat capacity, so it is really a preference thing."

                  Thicker pans also have more even heat on the cooking surface. Commercial carbon steel griddle plates are often 3/4" thick for example, sometimes as thick as 1". Of course, you wouldn't want something that thick at home because it would take excessive amounts of energy to use it properly (not to mention that it would have very slow response even if you did have the BTUs to drive it, and it would be incredibly heavy).

                  1. re: MaximRecoil

                    That of course makes sense. I also think cookware is often over analyzed - as I did for a long time. I heat my cast iron very slowly, and my carbon steel (debuyer carbone plus) slowly - I had never noticed a problem of even heating with the carbon steel - of course it is not aluminum or copper, but I find it is fine....I don't imagine running into a problem with a pan slightly thinner.

            2. I have 8 different Demeyere pieces which I love, but would not live without this pan also;


              It can survive any kitchen war.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rcspott

                Could not pull up your pan at Katom. Please give us the name. Thanks.

              2. IMO, a carbon steel evasee (a deep pan with curved sides) would be perfect for everything you list except for deglazing/reducing, for which a tri-ply or disk-bottom stainless steel pan would probably be better.

                1. The All-Clad stainless Saute & Simmer pan can do all that. It's a combination or a fry pan and saucier with a rounded bottom but plenty of surface area and some depth. 4.5 qts., and about 12.5" in diameter, it comes with a flat lid and was $69.99 at the WS outlet store a while back. Not sure if any are left though. Worth a try to call!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: blondelle

                    +1. If it's gone from the outlet store, WS is currently having a sale on the newer d5 version of the pan. It's $129.95--more than the outlet price, but still a good value for a pan of this quality.

                    1. re: blondelle

                      and heavy enough to knock someone out too.. if that were a requirement! per prior suggestions ;o)

                      1. re: blondelle

                        Agree, the saute simmer pan is a very good bargain as a larger chef's pan. As we are only two household, my 3qt saucier works well to me but it you are more than 4, maybe saute simmer might be a better choice depending on for what you want to use often.

                        1. re: hobbybaker

                          Found a AC 5206 I believe saute pot 6 quart very cheap. I have found the 3 quart saute pan I have too shallow several times. I looked at 4 qt and it is about one inch deeper or so. The 6 quart regular saute pan is very expensive. Also I checked the induction burner width and noticed one thread elsewhere where sometimes AC saute 6 quart 13 inches width cookware food needs moving around in bottom of pan more than the 10 plus inches naturally. Wondering if anyone else has this 6 quart All Clad saute cookware pot. Also fits into oven perfectly for oven use even with handle. The reviews on Amazon all are high. Saved about $130 over regular 6 quart saute or a 6 quart dutch oven/stock pot saved much not buying it also. Helper handle a plus for removing from oven and long handle great for moving pan when needed.

                      2. All-Clad's French skillet in the ten or eleven inch size (whichever the stainless steel comes in) is the way to go. Its slightly sloped and deeper sides (relative to a normal fry pan) accommodate liquids, but it otherwise functions as a skillet.

                        I purchased a pair as a way to try out All-Clad's stainless steel line (right before the D5 line came out) and have thoroughly enjoyed the skillets. It's sturdy and hefty but manageable. It cleans up beautifully yet still forms a lovely fond.

                        1. 12" Vollrath (or Lincoln if a bit older) Optio SS fry pan #3812, under $35 bucks. Welded SS handle, 7mm aluminum clad with a SS bottom, should you have an induction range. I've never had a hot-spot with this thing. It sears, simmers and deglazes great. Perhaps it isn't as pretty as an All-Clad, but you'll have cash left in the wallet for other kitchen toys.

                          1. I would have answered Cast iron (although I would have said the enameled Le Creuset).

                            I suppose if I had a non-stick, I'd go for stainless steel?