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Frying Pans, Skillets and Sauté Pans Guide

Frying Pans, Skillets and Sauté Pans Guide main image

Frying pan, skillet or saute pan, do you know which one to choose?

Having the right pan for the job can make the difference between a recipe success or a flop. Frypan, skillet, saute pan, cast iron, non-stick or stainless steel; with so many variables available selecting the best frying pan can be confusing. Here is a quick guide to help you make the best decision.

What is the difference between a skillet, frying pan, and sauté pan?

  • A skillet has sides that flare outward at an angle. It may have a lid that can be purchased separately.
  • A frying pan is the same as a skillet! Usually, cast iron pans are referred to as skillets and other materials are referred to as a frying pans. This isn’t how it works however!
  • A sauté pan has a wide, flat bottom and relatively tall, vertically straight sides. It usually has a lid and is heavier than skillets.

Pros & Cons between Cast Iron, Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel and Non-Stick pans

We have put together a brief comparison of cast iron, stainless steel, carbon and non-stick frying pans to help you make an informed decision.

Cast Iron Skillets


  • Excellent for searing meats
  • Gradually take on a natural patina which makes them non-stick
  • Won’t chip, scratch or peel off
  • Heat conductivity – no hot spots
  • No toxic chemicals released into food
  • Ovenproof
  • Durability


  • Reacts with acidic food like wine
  • Their weight
  • Susceptible to rust

Carbon Steel Frying Pans


  • Seasoned like cast iron skillets which makes them naturally non-stick
  • Lighter than cast iron frying pans
  • Heat up faster
  • Affordable, durable & popular in commercial kitchens
  • Won’t chip, scratch or peel off
  • Safe to use at high temperatures (unless non-stick skillets)
  • Compatible with induction cooktops and ovenproof


  • Doesn’t heat as evenly as stainless steel
  • Susceptible to rust
  • Reacts with acidic food like wine
  • Uneven heat distribution

Stainless Steel Fry Pans


  • Number one choice for many professional cooks
  • Long-lasting, durable
  • Light-weight
  • Entirely non-reactive (great for cooking with acidic ingredients such as wine or lemon juice)
  • Tolerance to high heat
  • Excellent heat retention


  • May leach heavy metals into food.
  • Depending on quality grade may be prone to corrosion

Pro Tip: The trick for cooking in a stainless steel frying pan: Heat to high heat, turn down and put a drop of oil in the pan. Swirl, leave a minute or so, then add food and more oil if necessary.

Non-stick Frying Pans


  • Ideal for low to no-fat cooking
  • Great for gentle cooking such as eggs or fish
  • Don’t brown food as well as other pans
  • Non-reactive to acidic ingredients
  • No pre-seasoning needed
  • Easy clean-up*
  • Low-cost options


  • Not suitable for metal utensils
  • Shorter lifespan
  • Care needs to be taken when storing non-stick pans to protect coating (see our light-weight felt pot and pan protectors)
  • Don’t tolerate high heat as this can damage the non-stick surface

*DO NOT put your non-stick pan in the dishwasher as this can damage non-stick coating!

How to care for cast iron skillets/frying pans 

Most cast iron skillets come pre-seasoned, and some like Le Creuset or Chasseur, are enamelled, making them non-stick.

However, if you notice a dull, grey colour on your pan or if food starts sticking to your cast iron frying pan, you may need to re-season your pan. Here are 4 easy steps to get your skillet seasoned

  1. Wash your skillet with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush, then dry thoroughly.
  2. Apply a THIN, even coating of melted vegetable shortening or cooking oil to your frying pan inside and out.
  3. Place aluminium foil on bottom rack of your oven to catch drips, then preheat to 175 to 200 degrees.
  4. Bake your skillet for 1 hour, then turn your oven off and let the frying pan cool in the oven.

For more insights, read these Use & Care articles from Lodge Cast Iron