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Jan 14, 2012 06:58 PM

Looking for advice on a frying pan

For the last decade, I've been using a series of disposable nonstick frying pans, mostly Calphalon Contemporary stuff bought cheap during Christmas sales. I've noticed that the most recent one is warping, and want to get something more permanent (so non-nonstick) to replace it.

I'll use the pan mostly for cooking chunks of protein -- chicken pieces, pork chops, steaks, misc. fishes -- along with making simple pan sauces. I have a smoothtop electric stove now, but expect to have gas at some point in the medium-term future. Price isn't really a concern for me, within reasonable boundaries -- if I'll spend over a grand on a laptop that I'll have to replace in a few years, it seems silly to quibble about a few hundred bucks on a pan that may last decades.

After doing some reading, I'm looking at the Falk 12.5" frying pan. From what I've read, the big downsides are weight and the need to hand-wash. Falk says the pan weighs 8lbs; I've put weights in an existing pan to match that, and the weight seems fine -- I can still carry it easily one-handed, and it does have a helper handle if I need it. Hand-washing isn't a problem; I hand-wash most of my pans anyway, and I'm not that concerned about keeping the copper bright and shiny, just clean.

So: Any other downsides I'm not thinking of? Anything else you'd recommend instead (keeping in mind that "nearly as good, but much cheaper" isn't something I care about)?

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  1. Falk frying pan, I assume is the one with a copper body lined with a stainless steel surface. My concern has to do with this: have you ever cooked with a stainless steel surface frying pan? There is definitely a hurdle for people who has never tried it. If you have cooked with a stainless steel surface frying pan before, then great. If not, I suggest you borrow one from a friend and see if you like it.

    Nonstick cookware didn't become popular for no reason. A lot of people have trouble working with stainless steel surface cookware. It is not difficult in my opinion, and it is certainly something you can learn.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      I'd add a heavy carbon steel pan like a DeBuyer mineral pan to try, eggs are the toughest to cook without sticking and on the 4th use of the pan eggs slide right out

      1. re: Dave5440

        This is an excellent point Dave.

        Mkozlows. It depends what you value more. If you value better heat evenness across your pan, then the copper pan is better. If you value a semi-nonstick surface, then a carbon steel or a cast iron frying pan is better.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          I sort of loathe cast iron from a maintenance standpoint, and it's been my belief that making pan sauces (deglazing with wine) isn't something you'd want to do in cast iron. So that's why I'm not looking in that direction.

      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Yeah, I have an All-Clad saute pan that I also use. I have the nonstick stuff out of a conviction that I should have nonstick cookware in case I need it for something; but I never cook eggs, and I essentially just use it because it's larger, and I don't need to crowd stuff as much when I cook, e.g., three chicken breasts.

        1. re: mkozlows

          Oh great. if you already have an All Clad stainless steel pan, then you know what to expect. The copper pan will give you even slightly better heat evenness and presumably better heat response as well (since there is only one stainless steel surface and not two) than your current All Clad. As Dave said, a carbon steel or cast iron pan will give you something different. Not as heat even, but less sticky. They are all good choices.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I have SS pans as well that haven't been used in yrs because of the sticking issue but proteins didn't stick at all in the carbon, mine seems to heat quite evenly but i'm on gas so maybe that's why(I also haven't used copper in yrs so maybe I just don't have a comparison to go by)

            1. re: Dave5440

              I think everyone has difference preference. Mine is probably closer to yours. I find it much easier to cook my fish filet on carbon steel or cast iron pans because of the near-nonstick property. For mkozlows, he is considering stainless steel on copper, so the issue is really the same for stainless steel on copper vs stainless steel on aluminum.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I think part of it is that I don't tend to cook "fragile" fish -- tuna and swordfish steaks, salmon (which I usually -- okay, always -- cook in a way where it's mostly skin-down in the oven, so the nonstick is less important), and tilapia (which I breadcrumb, which makes it easy enough to handle).

                In theory, I think that nonstick stuff is useful and I should have some; but despite the part where I always have had some, I mostly am indifferent to it with the stuff I actually cook. An egg allergy probably helps with that. :)

                1. re: mkozlows

                  I am not disagreeing with you. I think each of us just has different things to look for.

                  Actually for copper/aluminum based pan and cast iron/carbon steel pans are good for fragile fish, but for very different reasons. For cast iron and carbon steel pan, the semi nonstick surface makes it easier to move and turn foods without tearing them apart. For copper/aluminum pan, the even heating surface makes it easier to evenly cook the foods decreasing the need to move or repeat turning of the foods.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Yep, I was just thinking aloud and expanding on why non-stick-ness seems less important to me specifically than it does in a general sense.

      3. I would actually recommend that you consider an alternative. I love non-stick for eggs and crepes, use my steamer for veggies, and use cast iron for pretty much everything else.

        Cast iron is ideal for protein and pan sauces and will easily last a lifetime. I have the Lodge Logic 10", 12" and dutch oven. The 10" is my everyday pan and gets constant use. I only use the 12" here and there but that's because most of my daily cooking is just for two. The dutch oven is perfect for making large sauces - I do this about once a week. While your budget is substantial, these are all reasonable and will leave you with a lot of leftover cash for more interesting things like good Japanese knives, etc.

        Please note, yes - they do come "factory per-seasoned". BUT - they definitely need additional seasoning. This is easy to do, either in the oven or cooktop. I'd recommend that you give them 4+ treatments - before initial use. After this, they will be rock-solid, be very non-stick, and may then be "abused" any way you like and won't rust. I now regularly leave mine to soak etc, without harm.


        6 Replies
        1. re: jkling17

          I used to have a cast iron pan. What I didn't like about it was: 1) It took a long time to come up to heat, so when I was making something quick, preheating the pan was just an awkwardly long part of the process; 2) you're not supposed to use soap to clean it, so it was irritating have to have a second scrubby sponge just for that pan; 3) it's so slow to react, so if you do end up getting it too hot and want to reduce the heat, you're completely out of luck, because you can take it off the burner all you want, but it's going to stay hot for a while; and 4) if you're not careful with it, drying and oiling it after each use, it'll rust.

          When mine rusted, I threw it away and swore good riddance to cast iron forever.

          1. re: mkozlows

            You may wish to reconsider. It's actually all BS about the "no soap" thing. Also BS about needing to oil and dry them. If you give them a REALLY good seasoning (4+ coats), they become just bulletproof. Once I truly did a good job of seasoning mine, I stopped babying them and they never rust. I use soap. I let them soak in water. I don't bother oiling them or drying them. Guess what? No rust.

            This wasn't the case when I first got them but once I Google'd how to season them properly and did it several times over ... no more worries at all. They are the most carefree pans I've ever owned, and unlike non-stick - can handle high heat for searing meats.

            1. re: jkling17

              That's been my experience as well.

              1. re: jkling17

                Okay, but even if all that's true, it only addresses some of my problems with cast iron. It still takes a long time to heat up. It's still dificult to cool down while cooking if I got it too hot. It's still not great for wine-based pan sauces.

                And the advantages of it over stainless-lined copper are... that it's less sticky? And that it works somewhat better if you transfer it to the oven? Okay, that's nice, but at least for me, it doesn't seem worth the trade-offs.

                1. re: mkozlows

                  If it doesn't work for you for you that's cool , those are valid reasons , and copper does look so good too bad they don't make copper/carbon steel.

                  1. re: mkozlows

                    I have stainless steel, carbon steel, cast iron, copper, enameled cast iron, and non-stick cookware. I find them all useful depending on what I'm cooking. (I only own one non-stick pan--a frying pan which I use very occasionally.)

                    I use my carbon steel fry pan for my scrambled eggs, omelettes, fried eggs etc (cooked in butter). I also use it for pancakes, crepes etc. I use my cast iron fry pan to fry a burger or steak when I don't need to deglaze the pan for a sauce. I use my cast iron grill pan on my outdoor 60,000 BTU propane burner because I can get that pan to 700F quickly and with no worries. I also like using my 12" cast iron pan for frying chicken--it's relatively non-stick, thick and does a good job frying chicken.

                    Most of the meals I cook are in my 3 quart stainless steel/aluminum clad saute pan.

                    I like braising in my 3 quart shallow covered casserole enameled cast iron pot. I like making beans and stews in my 6 quart enameled cast iron pot.

                    I love my non-enameled 3 1/2 quart covered dutch oven for baking my artisan loaves of bread in.

                    I like caramelizing onions, cooking bacon in the single non stick fry pan that I have. I haven't had much good luck with eggs in non-stick frying pans--seem to come out better from my carbon steel frying pan.

                    I use a copper (stainless steel lined) saucier for my sauces.

                    I use various sized stainless/aluminum clad pots for soups, rice, stews etc..

            2. I'm going through the same process of trying to find the perfect generously sized frying pan for cooking up protein (pork, chicken) and making simple pan sauces and gravies. I have just one additional criterion: it must be induction-compatible because I use an induction cooktop.

              Four pans have come reasonably close, but none are completely satisfactory -- De Buyer Prima Matera (too small at 11", no pouring lip, no helper handle), All-Clad 13" paella pan (I chose this to avoid the "uncomfortable handle" rep of All-Clad, since it has two loop handles -- no pouring lip, but on the plus side it has a nice lid), De Buyer Affinity 12.6" 7-ply skillet (no pouring lip, no helper handle), Le Creuset Tri-ply 12.5" skillet (the closest so far: effective pouring lip, helper handle -- just feels a bit too light to me). I've ordered a Viking 13" 7-ply frying pan that I hope will (finally) do the trick -- generous size, very solid and heavy, a pouring lip, and a helper handle. It should arrive in a couple of days.

              5 Replies
              1. re: tanuki soup

                Yeah, I was waffling over induction-compatibility, and finally decided that, in the unlikely event I ever got an induction cooktop, I'd just budget new induction-specific pans for it, because trying to get something that works well over direct heat and induction seems a bit too much of a jack-of-all-trades situation, where it's not really ideal for either.

                1. re: mkozlows

                  I think you're right there. Aluminum or copper (without exterior cladding) should be best over a gas flame.

                2. re: tanuki soup

                  How did you like the Viking 13" 7-ply frying pan? I am looking for a reasonably priced frying pan that won't warp. I would use it for mostly for fixing Venison.

                  1. re: antlerflicka

                    The Viking pan has worked out great for me. It's my go-to pan for making pork chops with pan gravy. Very even heating, generous capacity, perfectly flat, nice solid feel, comfortable handle (and helper handle), effective pouring lip, easy to clean. My search is over!

                    1. re: tanuki soup

                      good to know... I'm going to order one... Thank You!

                  1. Had to read every thing twice to make sure I didn't jump to conclusions or miss information. Glad I did. Just get the Falk and have fun. You have indicated you have a variety of cookware based on needs, and are looking to expand. Have fun.

                    I cook on 12 inch propane burners. With no oven, I obviously fry and boil alot. I have a large carbon steel wok, an aluminum teflon wok, 16 in cast iron, 10 in cast iron deep frier, 10 in All-clad. Each is used for it's different cooking properties. And number of people I am cooking for. Everybody has their favorite.

                    Buy the Falk and hopefully you will start a new thread detailing the differences in cooking you have discerned and if it has performed to expectations, or beyond. Enjoy.

                    On the other hand, if you really want to be hedonistic, search out a pure nickel fry pan from before the depression. Found in high end restaurants of the time. Most were melted down for scrap for the war effort. Worth the search. A friend has one. More like 10 lbs though.