A frying pan, frypan, or skillet is a flat-bottomed pan used for frying, searing, and browning foods. It is typically 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 inch) in diameter with relatively low sides that flare outwards, a long handle, and no lid. Larger pans may have a small grab handle opposite the main handle.
A pan of similar dimensions, but with vertical sides and often with a lid, is called a sauté pan or sauté. While a sauté pan can be used like a frying pan, it is designed for lower heat cooking methods such as sautéing.
*FRYING: cooking of food in oil or fat, a technique that originated in ancient Egypt around 2500 BC. Chemically, oils and fats are the same, differing only in melting point, but the distinction is only made when needed. In commerce, many fats are called oils by custom, e.g. palm oil and coconut oil, which are solid at room temperature.
* SEARING:Searing (or pan searing) is a technique used in grilling, baking, braising, roasting, sautéing, etc. that cooks the surface of the food (usually meat, poultry or fish) at high temperature so that a caramelized crust forms. Similar techniques, browning and blackening, are typically used to sear all sides of a particular piece of meat, fish, poultry, etc. before finishing it in the oven. To obtain the desired brown or black crust, the meat surface must exceed 150 °C (300 °F), so searing requires the meat surface be free of water, which boils at around 100 °C (212 °F).
* BROWNING: is the process of partially cooking meat to help remove excessive fat and to give the meat a brown color and flavor through various browning reactions. Ground meat will frequently be browned prior to adding other ingredients and completing the cooking process. The process is commonly used when adding ground meat to casseroles or other prepackaged food products like Hamburger Helper, where the final cooking temperature will not be high enough to initiate the Maillard reaction.
Non-stick frying pans
Frying pans with non-stick surfaces were introduced by DuPont in 1956 under the Teflon brand name. The durability of the early coatings was poor, but improvements in manufacturing have made these products a kitchen standard. Nevertheless, the surface is not as tough as metal and the use of metal utensils (e.g. spatulas) can permanently mar the coating and degrade its non-stick property.
For some cooking preparations a non-stick frying pan is inappropriate, especially where the residue of browning, or sucs, is to be incorporated in a later step such as a pan sauce. Since little or no residue can stick to the surface, the sauce will fail for lack of its primary flavoring agent.
Non-stick frying pans featuring teflon coatings must never be heated above about 465 °F/240 °C, a temperature that easily can be reached in minutes. At higher temperatures non-stick coatings decompose and give off toxic fumes.
Electric frying pans
An electric frying pan or electric skillet incorporates an electric heating element into the frying pan itself and so can function independently of a cooking stove. Accordingly, it has heat-insulated legs for standing on a countertop. (The legs usually attach to handles.) Electric frying pans are common in shapes that are unusual for 'unpowered' frying pans, notably square and rectangular. Most are designed with straighter sides than their stovetop cousins and include a lid. In this way they are a cross between a frying pan and a sauté pan.
A modern electric skillet has an additional advantage over the stovetop version: heat regulation. The detachable power cord/unit incorporates a thermostatic control for maintaining the desired temperature.
With the perfection of the thermostatic control, the electric skillet became a popular kitchen appliance. Although it largely has been supplanted by the microwave oven, it is still in use in many a kitchen.
Using a frying pan
The cooking surface of a frying pan is typically coated with a layer of oil or fat when the pan is in use (though greasy foods like bacon do not need additional oil added). In pan-frying, a layer of oil has four functions: it lubricates the surface; increases contact between the food and the pan; acts as a thermal mass to reduce cooking time; and increases flavor and color.
The depth of the oil will vary depending on the food being cooked. When frying battered fish or chicken, for example, the oil generously covers the inner pan surface, but when frying pancakes, the oil is but a thin film to keep the batter from sticking.
Some frying techniques do not require added oil. "Blackening" dredges the food itself in fat, and uses a layer of spices to keep the food from sticking to the pan. These recipes also call for an intensely heated pan, which quickly sears and seals the food being cooked.
]Caring for a frying pan
Cast iron frying pans must be seasoned before use and periodically afterwards, and should be cleaned with care not to remove the seasoned coating.
Frying pans made from copper that are tinned to prevent toxic reactions between the copper and the food being cooked may occasionally need re-tinning. Some cooks also polish the exterior to remove tarnish.
Uncoated aluminum and stainless steel frying pans require very little maintenance.
Frying pans with non-stick coatings such as Teflon cannot safely be heated past the burning point of their coatings (about 450°F/260°C, though high-heat coatings are available).