Using a skillet is a great way to create quick and healthy meals. The skillet is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in the kitchen. Because the skillet is so handy, and you will use it so much, it is wise to buy the best one you can afford. A good pan will last a lifetime, if you take care of it.
Things to consider when selecting a skillet:
The 8-12 inch skillet (with lid) is the most versatile and easy to handle. Skillets that are too large are heavy and difficult to wash and store. If you are cooking for one or two people, a smaller skillet may be a better choice.
Types of skillets:
- Stainless steel: This is the best all around choice. Stainless steel skillets are durable, easy to clean, and non-reactive to acidic foods. Look for a heavy pan, preferably with a copper or aluminum bottom; this ensures even heating and allows it to be used in the oven.
- Cast iron: This is a great pan, and it is usually lower in price. It can be heavy to lift and requires extra care to keep it seasoned. That said, cast iron skillets are terrific for non-stick cooking and for use in the oven as well as the stovetop. They can be reactive to acidic foods if not well seasoned (For example: dishes with tomatoes may have a slight metallic taste and have a darker color.)
- Teflon: Teflon is great for non-stick cooking-especially eggs-but use care not to scratch the surface. Also Teflon is not desirable for high heat cooking.
- Electric skillet: This skillet, or frying pan, is heated by plugging it into an outlet rather than placing it on the stovetop. It is convenient because it frees up valuable space on the stove and in the oven. Normally, the entire dish can be prepared and cooked in one pan. Also, the electric skillet allows more control over temperature than a skillet on the stove. An electric skillet is really nice to have, but if you can only buy one, choose a regular skillet first.
How to care for your skillet:
Follow these easy tips and your skillet can last a lifetime!
- Wooden spoons and spatulas are best for stirring. Metal spoons will scratch non-stick coatings and can damage the surface of metal pans.
- After using your skillet, always let it cool before attempting to clean. DO NOT pour cold water into a skillet while it is hot. A sudden change in temperature may cause the metal to warp.
- Wash pans in hot soapy water, NOT the dishwasher. Use regular dish soap and a non-abrasive scrubber. When you have stubborn food stuck to the pan, let it soak for a while with a little soap and water. It is always easier to clean skillets, dishes, and kitchen counters right after you eat instead of waiting until food is dried on and caked on.
- To season a cast iron skillet, you use a combination of fat and heat. First, wash and dry the pan. Set the oven to 350º F. Heat the pan on the stove over low heat. With a paper towel, spread about one tablespoon ov vegetable oil all over the inside of the pan. Do not leave any excess oil in the pan. Place the warm pan in the oven and bake for one hour. Turn the oven off and leave the pan in until it is cool. To maintain the seasoning, always dry the skillet thoroughly after each use. Every once in awhile, place the dry pan on the stove, heat it on low, add a little oil with a paper towel, and let sit on low heat for a few minutes. Wipe out any excess oil, cool, and store. Eventually the pan will darken, become very smooth on the inside, and be perfectly non-stick!
Skillet cooking methods:
- Sauté (to 'jump' or 'sizzle') To cook quickly in a small amount of fat on medium-high heat
- Stir-fry To cook covered in a small amount of fat on medium-high to high heat while stirring constantly
- Braise To cook covered in a small amount of liquid after browning or searing first
- Pan-broil To cook quickly, to brown either with a small amount of fat, or without fat on high heat
Foods that can be made in a skillet:
Skillet meal possibilities are endless. You can cook vegetables (potatoes, peppers, mushrooms, onions), meat (hamburgers, steak, pork chops, eggs, omelets), sauces, stir-fries, casseroles, and so many other delectable foods. Your imagination is the only thing that will limit you from creating healthy and delicious meals in your skillet.