Cheap versus expensive frypans

Frying pans can cost anywhere from $10 to $350, but is forking out an extra few hundred on an expensive frypan really worth it?

Whether you consider yourself a chef, cook, or a member of the ‘culinary-impaired’ club, a good frying pan is an essential in any kitchen.  However, finding the best one within your price range can be a challenge. Luckily, CHOICE, Australia’s leading customer advocacy group, has compared a number of different frypans, ranging in price, to find out how cost correlates to quality. Of the 28 contenders, CHOICE tested a variety of stainless-steel, cast-iron and non-stick pans.

They ran a humble $16 frying pan from Kmart through the same scrupulous tests as those from leading brands such as Scanpan, Jamie Oliver and Tefal, and compared the results.

Surprisingly, the $16-dollar Anko stainless-steel non-stick 24cm frypan seriously impressed the experts, outperforming many of the fancier pans that cost a few hundred more.

“It’s a lightweight, well-balanced pan that’s easy to clean,” says Chantelle Dart, a CHOICE kitchen expert. “In our tests, it scored well for evenness of heating and durability. Even though it’s only $16, it’s comparable with other brands that are significantly more expensive.”

It scored higher in performance, durability and ease of use than pans from Tefal, Swiss Diamond, Jamie Oliver and Scanpan. However, the frypan does have a thin base and very average non-stick ability.

The experts at CHOICE said that what separated the cheap and expensive frypans was their durability. Many of the more expensive frying pans are made from higher quality metal, making them less likely to rust and more likely to last longer.

Types of frypan:

Stainless steel
These pans are great heat conductors, so are perfect for searing or sautéing, though you’ll need to use oil, or food will stick to the pan. You can use metal utensils with these pans, and they’re usually oven compatible, though they can be tough to clean.

Cast iron
Once heated, cast-iron pans retain heat, making them perfect for cooking meat, using an open flame, even high heat cooking, and can be put in the oven – provided the handle is oven compatible.

Non-stick
Best when used on a medium heat, non-stick pans are perfect for cooking eggs or pancakes. Use over high heat will cause damage to the pan over time, so they’re not good for searing and shouldn’t be paired with metal utensils.

Aluminium
Aluminium frypans are usually lightweight and cheap, although they are susceptible to warping, and shouldn’t be used to cook acidic foods as this may cause a reaction.

Copper
These pans are good for simmering and sauces, though don’t cope well with acidic foods. They’re often lined with stainless steel and need to be maintained and regularly polished in order to avoid corrosion.

It’s impossible to say which frypan is the best overall, because people have such different personal preferences. For example, there are a number of factors such as weight, finish, material and size that are preferable to certain individual’s tastes and cooking styles.

What type of frypan do you cook with? Do you have a brand or type of pan you would recommend to other YourLifeChoices members?

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Written by Liv Gardiner

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