There is a common confusion between skillet vs pan, and it is quite understandable if not many people know that they are actually different. In general, both of them often look similar but there are several basic differences that distinguish each of them. Not to mention that each utensil has its own function, so it doesn’t hurt if you know the details of each item.
What comes to mind when you see a cookware with short sides, big and flat bottom, and a long handle? Most people would say a pan or a skillet – and they aren’t wrong. Pans and skillets are often interchanged. They share similarities in size and shape despite the key differences.
A lot of people may sear the steaks or do some stir frying activities with either the skillet or the pan. They may also make pancakes or even crepes with the cookware. But if you spend most of the time in the kitchen and you do a lot of cooking, then you need to know that they are both different. Despite the size of skillet vs pan, each cookware is designed for different cooking activities and functions. If you want to improve your cooking efficiency, then knowing the details of each cookware can be a handy extra knowledge.
So, when we are talking about skillet vs pan, we are actually talking about the shapes. Whereas skillets have curved and shorter sides, the pans have straight and vertical sides. Skillet comes with flared rims that create an open and wide view. Thanks to such a design, you can easily flip, move, or stir the ingredients. Since skillets have curved and smooth sides, it would be easier and quicker for you to slide the food to the plate. Skillets are generally light and with wide opening. The problem with the skillet is that the food leaning on the curved sides won’t be directly in contact with the heat. So, it won’t cook as fast as the one located on the bottom side. But you can enjoy easier maneuverability with the skillet.
The pan, on the other hand, comes with straight sides so the cooking surface would be flat and even. When compared to the skillet, the pan has bigger cooking surface area. And since the pans have taller sides, they can accommodate more volume of liquid –without you having to worry about making spills. Because of the wide base construction and tall sides, pans are generally heavier. Bigger pans may have a secondary (helper) handle in the form of a small loop attached on the opposite of the main long handle.
It is safe to say that skillets would give you more flexibility and freedom in moving the food around. It is light and promotes better food movement (and handling), but it has smaller cooking areas. The pans, on the contrary, are bigger and heavier. They have bigger cooking areas and they are good to accommodate a large volume of food (as well as liquid). But their weight often limits your ability to move it around.
Skillets are great when you want to do some stir-frying and sautéing. Because of the lightweight construction, it would be easy for you to shake and move it. Not to mention that the wide opening gives you easy access for stirring the foods. And the sloped sides help you to distribute the food from the skillet to the plate. Feel free to use skillets for searing the meats. But be aware of dishes that usually cook fast. Some foods need constant flipping and stirring, like spinach mushroom omelet or beef stir fry.
Pans are flexible and handy because the shapes allow them to hold liquids. With pans, you can do shallow frying, poaching, braising, and also making sauces. You can also do some pan frying and searing – provided that you won’t need to flip the ingredients often. Pans are designed for longer and bigger cooking volume. Since they are heavier, they aren’t exactly great for flipping or shaking foods. Pans are great for dishes with a lot of liquid and don’t need a lot of stirring, like braised lamb shanks or shallow fried falafels.
In short, you need to look into your personal cooking preferences. If you often make dishes with liquid, then pans would be a better option. But if you make smaller portion of food and you deal a lot of with flipping or food maneuvering, then skillets would be the perfect pick. Some people may choose both types of the cookware, but some may stick to one item only. If you happen to cook variations of foods quite often, then having both of them may not be a bad idea after all. Now that you already know the difference between skillet vs pan, you can make a better and a more educated decision.