The Difference Between a Skillet and a Pan
Skillets are a type of cooking vessel that resembles an oblong pan. However, it is distinctly different in shape. A skillet is also known as a frying pan, deep-frying pan, or skillet. It is usually quite small in diameter, perhaps only 20 to 30 centimeters in diameter, with a relatively flat bottom, a long handle, and no lip. Larger skillets can have a small plastic handle opposite the large main handle.
Skillets are a good choice of cooking utensils because they are versatile, durable, and very light. They are easy to use, too. Most skillets have long handles, allowing even cooking of large pieces of meat with just one hand. The wide bottom makes it easier to turn the food in different directions, making it a good choice for making fried foods or other evenly cooked dishes. In addition, the long handle keeps the skillets from clanging against each other as they are moved across the cooking surface.
Skillets can be used to cook many different types of food, although searing fish is still the most popular. Frying fish is particularly good if you don't want to bother with sauteing the fish in vegetable oil or in a separate pan before putting it in the skillet. It also makes it easier to serve the dish. Seared fish dishes can be served along with rolls, salads, rice, vegetables, fish sticks, etc.
Skillets that are wide and deep come in different shapes. Some have sharp pointed ends and other have flat bottom surfaces. Generally, they have long, thin blades and a bit deeper than the flat-bottomed skillets. Because they come in all shapes, some have longer, thinner blades and some have shallower blades.
Flat bottomed skillets are built more for appearance than cooking. This is why they are not as well-suited for deep frying and other kinds of dishes that require the use of oil. A well-made flat bottom skillet, however, can be an excellent substitute for the skillet in a French oven or a hot grill. For example, a skillet with shallots on the side, which is built into the seating, can replace the duck fat in a roasted turkey!
Skillets with shallots on the outer edge are particularly good when frying potatoes or sweet potatoes. They make frying less fat and reduce the occurrence of stickiness in the finished product. Skillets with a flat bottom and thinner sides are less obtrusive when you're grilling hamburgers, chicken, or steak. In general, skillets with shallots on the outside produce a more intense flavor in the finished dish. The shallots add a depth of flavor not found in thin skillets and, particularly for hearty, bold foods, make a real stand-alone meal.
Aluminum skillets are less expensive than cast iron skillet and cookware. They're also light, easy to clean, and nonstick. However, aluminum cookware does not conduct heat well. If you're planning to buy aluminum cookware, you might be better off with a cast-iron skillet or a traditional saut pan.
Cast iron skillets with curved sides are very nice for preparing deep-fried foods like fried shrimp or fish. Shrimp and fish cook easily in a skillet with straight sides. However, if you're not going to use the skillet to cook deep-fried foods, the flat bottom will interfere with the pouring of batter. Flat skillets with rounded corners are usually good for frying foods that can be coated in flour or vegetable oil. Cookware with curved sides are ideal for baking skillets and other dishes where your skillet's flat bottom will not affect your cooking.
A major difference between a skillet and a pan is the thickness. Skillets are typically thinner than pans. Most skillets that you'll find at your local grocer have thinner layers than traditional pans. You can use thin-set skillets for cooking small amounts of food, such as cornbread or shrimp, in a relatively short amount of time.
Skillets are traditionally made from ceramic or clay materials. To cook fish or chicken, for example, you'd want to use a thicker, metal-colored cookware. Thin-set skillets, on the other hand, are usually used for cooking larger amounts of food or dishes. It is a good idea to have a variety of thin-set pans in your kitchen. Each type of cookware will be used for a specific type of food, so you'll know what to get for specific dishes.
Thin-set skillets, on the other hand, are less thick and have a thinner surface. They are best used for preparing sauces and soups because the thickness gives the food more contact with the hot surface of the pan, which means that there is a better chance for the food around the bottom to be cooked evenly. They are also best when making deep-fried food such as rice or noodles because the thinner surface allows the food to crisp up nicely. The fact that they are made from clay means that they retain heat longer than most pans, but their throwing ability isn't as good.