The Always Pan has gained a bit of a cult following, promising to take the place of eight other kitchen tools. The popular pan is finally back in stock after a long stint on backorder so we put it through its paces to see how well this versatile frying pan stands up to every day cooking.
As a New Yorker who simply must account for every square-inch of his apartment including the kitchen, I’m always intrigued by space-saving claims or gadgets and cookware that can do the job of two or three (or more). The Always Pan, a new-ish frying pan made by direct-to-consumer start-up Our Place, is marketed as just that. The brand caught my attention with silky smooth ads on social media and promises to be my new favorite piece of everyday cookware, replacing a good many of my existing kitchen tools—eight to be exact. That was enough to motivate me to take this buzzy pan for a spin and I learned quickly there is a lot to like about the Always Pan, even if it isn’t quite the cookware game-changer it brags to be.
The Always Pan bills itself as a do-it-all pan that’ll replace your fry pan, saute pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, non-stick pan, spatula, and spoon rest. It’s touted as a single piece of cookware that lets you braise, sear, steam, strain, saute, fry, boil, serve and store. A pan that you won’t just use often but “always.”
What I Liked
The look and feel: It’s hard not to notice about this pan is how darn good it looks which I’m sure accounts for a healthy portion of its popularity (was on backorder for months until today). It sports an understated modern aesthetic and is available in four warm hues, each with a matte finish: Charcoal (grey-black), spice (light salmon), sage green, and steam (ivory). You could absolutely keep this pan out on the stovetop with the lid on and it wouldn’t look out of place. It’s also light and easy to handle but feels solid and well-constructed, so I wouldn’t worry about it breaking.
Designed for multi-purpose use: Though you can do a lot more than just fry with frying pans, most aren’t crafted with multiple cooking methods in mind. Not so with the Always Pan which allows you to do a bit more than with your typical fry pan including safely make sauces or even soups with the unusually high sides (nearly three inches) or steam foods like fish and vegetables with a custom insert.
Built-in spoon rest/storage: I don’t know why every pan doesn’t have one of these. The pan’s handle, which arrives with a notch to hold the specially designed wooden spatula, serves as both storage and a temporary spoon rest while you’re cooking. I love that feature and use it often. The spoon does jut out over the base of the pan and so, I assume, over time the heat might damage the wood if you left it there for extended periods. But when you need a quick second to grab other ingredients or tend to another pot or pan, it’s very nice to have.
It’s a great size: There are plenty of 10-inch frying pans, so this wasn’t a revelation, but for a single fellow like me, or even when cooking for myself and a guest, this pan is an ideal size to use for almost anything from meats to vegetables, sides, and more. If I were running a household of four or more I might find myself dragging the 12-inch fry pans out as this would be on the small side. As mentioned earlier, the high sides are great and mean less spillage, as well as ample vertical berth for steam to build for fish and veggies.
Steamer basket: Speaking of which, steaming in a skillet is totally fast and super easy, so it makes sense that a steamer basket would fit snugly in the pan. It was another feature I use regularly and had me wondering, “Why doesn’t every frying pan come with one,” especially since it can’t possibly be too costly to produce.
What I Didn’t Like as Much
Ceramic surface: This unique cooking surface is a bit of a double-edged sword. While it’s quite possibly the easiest surface to clean, extremely nonstick (honestly, nothing ever stuck to this pan), and non-toxic, it’s also somewhat limiting. No matter how hot I revved the burner under my Always Pan, it never quite imparted a real sear like cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel consistently do. So while it’s an excellent pan for cooking vegetables, eggs, and shellfish, trying to get caramelized burgers, steaks, or scallops is not easy.
Related Reading: Teflon, Ceramic, Anodized Aluminum: A Guide to Nonstick Cookware
Having said that, I think for what this pan aims to be—a supremely versatile, easy-to-clean fry pan for all those quick daily jobs—they’ve probably selected the right material. Traditional nonstick cookware coating deteriorates fairly quickly, sometimes in as little as a year depending on usage. Priced at $145, you’d likely want a pan like this to be with you for quite a bit longer than that, which makes this coating a better choice. Though ceramic nonstick is tougher than traditional nonstick, it’s still not anything like steel or iron, so you’ll want to take some special care. For one, it’s not recommended to ever use metal cooking tools with the Always Pan.
The handle: This is a minor critique, but the handle is squared, and I’ve certainly used pans that are shaped to the curve of a human hand better. It’s something I noticed but it didn’t bother me much.
It’s not oven-safe: This is another rather minor inconvenience, especially since I’ll look for any excuse to use my beloved Dutch oven. But if you’re hoping for a pan that can go from stovetop to baking, this isn’t it.
The Always Pan is $145 ($135 with a discount code) which isn’t cheap, especially for a single frying pan, but I contend it’s worth it for the right type of cook. Who is that person? If you’re the type who cooks at home often but not a ton of terribly complicated meals and sticks to, let’s say, lots of scrambled eggs, stir-frys, pan-seared and steamed or sauteed veggies, then this is a solid pan to own and it will likely be flying in and out of the cupboard regularly. You really could get away with just having this one pan, coupled with a saucepan and/or stockpot, and be able to get through most basic recipes without issue. It would also be the perfect single pan to outfit an extremely small kitchen, like in an RV or small office kitchen.
I really did find myself using it a lot and not just because I was testing it, but it certainly wasn’t the only pan I reached for in the course of a trial run. I still see much value in smaller sauciers, larger frying pans, my favorite wok, and a few other pieces of cookware that I use weekly, if not more. Perhaps the “Often Pan” would be a more accurate, if not far less attractive, name. It is, however, one of the more versatile pans per square inch you’ll on the market and a sound addition to the right kitchen arsenal.
If you’re dying to get your hands on an Always Pan you’d better jump at it. It just back in stock today, July 31 (in spice only). But when it comes back in stock it’s usually not for long. Use promo code CHOWHOUND10 to save $10 on your order. Shipping and returns are always free.Buy Now
Header image courtesy of Our Place.