Choosing something as mundane as a frying pan should surely be an easy process. After all, you simply go down to your local supermarket or general department store and there is generally a selection of such stovetop cookware on sale, at prices varying from low to over a hundred pounds or even more.
So what is the difference between the confusing array of available frying pans and which one should you choose?
The answer isn’t altogether simple and needs to take several factors into account.
Of course, the most important is your budget.
You want to spend only what you can afford and have available – this will be very different for different people. As in most areas of life, you do get what you pay for, and an ultra-cheap, extremely lightweight pan with a cheap and potentially toxic PTFE type coating, will never be a good buy, whatever the budget may be.
Once you have decided on a budget, it may be a good idea to look at some products online before heading off to the shops.
Price comparison sites can give a very good idea of exactly which ranges are available at various retailers, and their cost.
The next important factor is to decide if you want a traditional frying pan without any coating, or if you want a “non-stick” variety.
Traditional pans are great value, and if you buy a good one, it can last a lifetime. It is important to check the base metal construction of the pantry to avoid aluminum pans as there have been implications in the long term health effects which are best avoided.
The best metals to go for if you want an uncoated product are a stainless steel, copper and cast iron.
Copper frying pans are often lined with stainless steel and these are great, long lasting, upmarket products with the drawback of being expensive. They are also only available at big department stores and specialist retailers or online, and you are unlikely to find them at supermarkets.
Plain stainless steel construction is a good choice although hard to come by except in catering supply stores as they are now mostly used in the catering industry as opposed to domestic environments.
Cast iron pans are cheap and have the drawback of being very heavy in use and also need “seasoning” in order to avoid rust.
Domestic frying pans are unfortunately almost always coated with a Nonstick coating these days and many are on supermarket shelves and very inexpensive to buy – their base construction is usually a lightweight metal, which is then coated with a plastic-type coating which makes the pan easier to clean.
The problem with most such coatings is that they get damaged easily AND that they are chemically not entirely stable if they are made (and most are) from a chemical substance containing PTFE.
This chemical is highly toxic to birds and parrots and has killed many parrots and avian pets tragically – the plastic coating when heated, and particularly if slightly scratched or damaged, is unstable and gives off a volatile, odorless gas which is extremely toxic to birds.
Companies making these pans claim they are safe for humans, but when you have seen a bird’s lungs destroyed by it, I am not sure you will want to be breathing it in yourself.
PTFE is unfortunately used as a coating in many, many household appliances, like hair straighteners, irons, sandwich toasters and grills and many other items in the kitchen and elsewhere in the house.
There is a safe, non-stick, ecologically friendly coating, however, and if you want one of these pans, you should look for a CERAMIC coated frying pan. When you find one you like, be sure to check the packaging before you buy it to ensure that it is certified PTFE free.
Many makers of such pans will note this on their wrapping, and if there is any doubt at all, I would prefer personally, not to buy that pan.
Ceramic coated cookware is not as easily found as cheap PTFE coated cookware and it is considerably more expensive, generally, although not as expensive as copper pans.
It is an investment in your health and that of your family and, if you keep pet birds, their lives. Consider your next frying pan purchase very carefully, therefore, there is more to think about than just the style and size of the pan.