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Frying Pan Vs Skillet: Which One Is Better To Use?

Aren't skillets and frying pans the same thing? Apparently not!

Frying Pan Vs Skillet

Most people use the terms interchangeably. Nonetheless, they still have their fair share of differences.

Only a professional chef will know exactly which pan or skillet suits certain food. But it wouldn't hurt to know which kitchen tool is better.

In this article, we'll talk about the frying pan vs skillet and their key differences. Keep reading!

Frying Pan Overview

Frying Pan Overview
© Homesthetics - Monica Hewitt

A cast iron frying pan is usually called a skillet, while nonstick ones are simply called frying pans.

A pan is a type of metal cookware with a long handle used to cook food conveniently. A frying pan's specifically designed with a flat bottom, wide base, and rounded flared sides.

Frying pans are shallower and thinner because frying requires faster heating.

These frying pans have a non-stick chemical coating that prevents food from sticking to the bottom when cooking or frying.

A nonstick pan is more affordable, easy to clean, and convenient to cook with. It's particularly useful for sautéing more delicate food like eggs, vegetables, and fish.

Skillet Overview

A cast iron pan and a carbon steel pan are called skillets.

A skillet is usually made of iron, alloyed with a small amount of carbon for hardening. It is a pan designed with a flat base, sloped or slanted sides, and a handle.

A cast iron skillet is deeper, much like a sauté pan. Its sloped sides help redistribute the food. Although skillets take longer to get hot, they retain heat for longer.

This quality makes them a good tool for searing a steak or cooking meat at high heat. They're ideal for stir-frying and fast-cooking dishes that need constant stirring or moving around the cooking surface.

Most skillets also come with a lid. They're put to good use for braising, which is the combination of pan-searing and slow-cooking in a sauce until the whole dish is tender.

You might also want to consider a broiler pan for your kitchen.

Here are the 3 common types of skillets according to their material:

Cast Iron Skillets

This is perhaps the most popular type of skillet. They're durable and long-lasting.

A cast iron skillet, however, requires seasoning to prevent food from sticking.

Aluminum Skillets

Aluminum skillets are perfect for cooking low-heat quick foods like bacon and eggs.

An aluminum skillet lasts longer when they're given a non-stick or ceramic coating. However, they're not suitable for extreme heat cooking since the coating can create hot spots.

They're not meant to be used in a dishwasher either, as dishwashers can damage their coating in the long run.

Stainless Steel Skillets

Stainless steel pans are popular among professional chefs. They are easy to clean and very durable. Plus, they can stand extreme temperatures, depending on their steel grade.

If you're considering the culinary arts as a career or are a hero in the kitchen, you better get a stainless steel skillet!

Frying Pans vs Skillets (Cast Iron) : Head-to-Head Comparison
© Homesthetics - Monica Hewitt

Frying Pans vs Skillets (Cast Iron) : Head-to-Head Comparison

When it comes to frying pans vs skillets, there's not much to argue. The only real difference is that skillets are not shallow. They're usually deeper than frying pans by about 2 inches and come with lids.

French skillets are even often mistaken as frying pans because they look very similar. But these skillets just happen to be a little more spacious and have higher sides.

You can cook the same dishes in both options. But if you're keen, check out these comparisons.

1. Material

Investing in durably made pans and skillets is the best way to go. They're often made with stainless steel, nonstick surfaces, ceramic, cast iron, and aluminum.

Nowadays, hard-anodized aluminum is the better option. But the difference in quality isn't too far from stainless steel.

Go for tri-ply or five-ply combinations of stainless steel and aluminum. These have excellent heat retention, heat distribution, and safety, whether you're using a skillet or a frying pan.


Stainless steel and aluminum skillets and pans.

2. Handle Construction

Pan-fried dishes often need to be shaken and flipped when stir-frying. Therefore, frying pans need longer handles for better tossing ability.

Plus, with the help of a wooden spatula, you'll have a pleasurable time in the kitchen!

Skillets tend to be used for more ingredients. So a sturdy handle is a must-have to carry the weight.

Ideally, both pans and skillets should have stay-cool handles that are securely riveted to their base.


Tie! Both cooking tools have sturdy handles.

3. Cookware Size 

Skillets and pans are available in 3.5-inch to 17-inch diameters. The most popular are 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch diameters.

The ideal size will depend on how many people you're cooking for and the type of meals you make.

A smaller pan or skillet is great for one- or two-person meals and quick bites. 

An 8-inch frying pan is great for whipping up quick breakfast scrambles or a pan-fried fish with some vegetable sides.

Larger skillets are great to use for family-size portions and full-pan meals like stir fries and noodles.


8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch Pans.

4. Weight

Again, your choice will depend on your recipes, cooking methods, and needs.

A frying pan and skillet are both lightweight. They're not difficult to move across a stove.


Tie! Whether you're using a pan or skillet, they come in roughly the same weight.

5. Design and Purpose

Since fry pans are flat-bottomed and don’t have a lid, they work well with shallow frying, searing, and high-heat grilling.

Thanks to the tall and straight sides of frying pans, they're the tool to use when making eggs, pancakes, frittatas, and dry stir fry.

The vertical sides of sauté pans mean it's easier to pour liquid from them. They can be used to cook thick sauces, curries, and stews.

But the thin angled-out sides and flat bottom of skillets can cause a mess when cooking with a ton of liquid and ingredients, even if they're deeper than a frying pan.

A skillet is better than a sauté pan when cooking fewer things due to its smaller cooking area. But its even heat distribution is a great compromise!


Pans and Sauté Pans.

6. Evaporation Rate

Being able to control the moisture in your meal is key to excellent-tasting meals.

If you want faster thickening and cooking down of sauces, skillets will get the job done faster than a sauté pan.

That’s thanks to the flatter and wider surface of skillets and pans. Sauté pans, on the other hand, have a larger surface, so it’s harder to lose moisture.

If you plan to cook juicy and tender dishes, a sauté pan is the better option.



What Is a Sauté Pan?

The word “sauté” is a French word meaning “to jump.” But when it comes to food, it refers to cooking food with direct heat from the pan.

Sauté pans generally have a wider surface area with straight sides. Their shape makes them suitable for holding soups, stews, and curries.

Because these dishes are often cooked under lower temperatures for a long period, most sauté pans come with non-stick coatings.

If your recipe needs a good amount of liquid ingredients and not much stirring, like when cooking sauces for pasta, a sauté pan is perfect for the job!

There's also the broiler pan and roasting pan.

How Is a Sauté Pan Different From Frying Pans and Cast Iron Pans?

A sauté pan is shallow with straight sides, while skillets and frying pans have slanted sides.

Unlike a skillet or frying pan, a sauté pan isn't designed for a ton of shaking and flipping food around. You wouldn’t even dare once you’ve realized how heavy sauté pans can be!

You might want to know the difference between a broiler pan and a baking sheet too.

Frying Pan Vs Skillet FAQs

  • Do you need information about a skillet and a frying pan? Check out these FAQs!

  • How Do You Tell if a Pan Is a Skillet?

    A fry pan is one of the cooking vessels you will find in any kitchen. A skillet has the same functionality of cooking food as a frying pan but isn’t as shallow. It can be deeper by up to 2 inches.

  • Is a Skillet Better Than a Non-stick Pan?

    Most cast iron skillets are more durable and versatile than non-stick pans. However, they do require more maintenance to prevent food from sticking to its patina when cooking.

    A nonstick pan is easier to use and care for.

    Nonetheless, both are capable of whipping up amazing food! It’s all up to the chef at this point.

  • What Is the Difference Between a Skillet and a Grill Pan?

    A sauté pan, a skillet, and a frying pan use a flat cooking surface

    A grill pan has a nonstick coating with raised ridges that make char and grill marks on the food.

  • Frying Pan Vs Skillet Final Verdict
    © Homesthetics - Monica Hewitt

    Final Verdict: Which One Should You Use?

    The difference between a frying pan vs a skillet is very minute. Whichever you have in the kitchen, you can still make delicious food for your friends and family.

    But if you're still having trouble distinguishing them, follow these tips.

    Use a Frying Pan If

    You're looking for non-stick cookware with quick cooking capabilities that requires little to no oil to cook with.

    Use a Cast Iron Skillet If

    You prefer thicker, oven-safe, and deeper kitchen equipment that cooks meats evenly and whips up nice stir-fries.


    You can perform the same cooking methods on either a skillet or a frying pan.

    The right pan for you should be the one you're comfortable using in your daily kitchen routines.