Skillet Vs Frying Pan – The Definitive Guide

Skillets vs frying pans – they are, in fact, different.  Today we take a look at the top differences of skillet vs frying pan  Let’s jump right in!

skillet vs frying pan

What Are the Differences Between a Skillet vs Frying Pan?

First off, a skillet is deeper than a frying pan.  Skillets usually have lids to allow for braising dishes like curries or sauces that need to be simmered for a long time without drying out.

  • Cast iron is the most common material used for skillets because it heats up quickly and evenly. It’s also durable enough to withstand metal utensils and has a natural non-stick coating which makes it perfect for searing meat.
  • Skillet cooking surfaces should always be well-seasoned before use so they can form an easy-to-clean surface with a natural nonstick finish that will last years of regular use (but never wash with soap).
  • Cast-iron skillets are a wonderful addition to any home cook’s kitchen arsenal because they can be used for almost anything, including frying bacon, searing steak, making pan sauces or even baking cornbread.

A frying pan is shallower and has sloped sides so food won’t easily spill over when being moved around in the pan. Frying pans are usually square or rectangular and usually have a larger surface than that of a skillet which makes them perfect for cooking an omelet, a piece of fish or making pancakes. They’ve also got handles on both sides so they’re easier to maneuver when your hands are full with eggs spilling out everywhere. A frying pan is also perfect for dishes with less liquid and food that needs to be stirred often.

A frying pan is best for high heat cooking like searing meats or shallow fry foods. It is deep enough that things don’t stick to the bottom and has sloped sides so food slides off easily when you turn it over with a spatula. Frying pans generally come in stainless steel, aluminum, or a combination of these metals. They are not usually made from cast iron because cast iron needs more maintenance than other materials (and requires seasoning).

What is a Skillet?

They’re much more versatile than frying-pans, and can be used for eggs, meat, stir-fries and sauces. They’re available in many different sizes, materials and designs – here’s a breakdown of the most popular ones.

Pan Sizes: Skillets come in many different sizes from small to large. There are small skillets for specialty cooking (like frying a single egg), and there are large skillets that can accommodate bigger dishes. Skillets may come with two handles or with one handle, depending on what size skillet it is.


Skillets are made from many different materials including cast iron, stainless steel, aluminum, copper and ceramic coated steel. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Cast iron takes longer to heat up than the other materials but once it’s hot it stays hot for longer, making this material ideal for slow-cooked dishes like stews and casseroles.
  • Copper conducts heat very well but is expensive – mainly used in professional kitchens as it requires much more maintenance than any other material.
  • Aluminum is very light, and very strong – this makes it perfect for the manufacture of large frying pans. Aluminum is also a great heat conductor making it ideal for any type of cooking.
  • Stainless steel skillets are the most popular skillet used in homes (and professional kitchens) because of their durability and ease-of-use.
  • Ceramic coated steel skillets are nonstick which makes them easy to clean after use.


Skillets can be nonstick or not. Nonstick skillets are made using Teflon, a resin that has been applied to the surface of the skillet at super-heated temperatures so that there’s a thin layer on top, making it incredibly smooth and preventing food from sticking (great for omelets and pancakes). Cast-iron skillets don’t have a nonstick coating but can be treated with oil before use to allow food to slide off easily (though not as easily as if it had been treated with Teflon).

Handle Design:

Skillets can have one handle or two – they’re available in either design. Two handled skillets are great for large dishes like casseroles, while the single handled skillet is preferred by those who want to slide their dish from pan to plate without dishing it up.

Capacity & Surface Area of the Cookware

Skillets come in many different sizes to accommodate small, medium, and large dishes. For example, a small skillet is great for frying eggs – but not big enough for searing steaks or making stir-fry. A larger skillet can accommodate cooking two servings of meat at once which is much more efficient than having two smaller skillets going at once (great time saver).

Weight of the Cookware

The weight of the skillet is important to consider as a heavy skillet can be difficult to handle on the stovetop. If you have weak arms or wrists, it’s best to opt for a lightweight skillet that’s easier to handle.

How to Choose the Right Size Skillet?

Know what you’re cooking: When it comes to buying skillets, it’s important to know what you’re going to be using your skillet for. If you cook large meals often or like to whip up omelets in the morning, it sense you’d want a larger skillet that can accommodate large dishes.

Know what you have and what’s available: If you already own a skillet, be sure to measure the inside diameter of your skillet and then compare it with other skillets in the same category (size). For example, if you have an 8 inch skillet but find that an 11 inch skillet is more ideal for your cooking needs – go ahead and buy a larger one. Buy according to need: Pan material should also be taken into consideration when deciding which size skillet is best suited for you. For example, if you’re concerned about weight, aluminum skillets will allow you to cut back on cooking utensil weight even though they conduct heat well (if that important to you).

How to Clean a Skillet?

There are two main ways to clean skillet – the first is with soapy water, and the second is by using coarse salt. Both methods require time and effort to work properly.

To clean your skillet with soap: Wash it as soon as you can after cooking (so food doesn’t dry harden onto the skillet). Soak for 20 minutes in warm, soapy water then scrub gently with a sponge or brush until all residue has been removed. If some stubborn food particles remain after washing, allow your skillet to soak another 5-10 minutes before trying again. Rinse thoroughly under running water and wipe dry with a kitchen towel to prevent rusting. For extra protection against rusting, you can rub a thin coat of oil, fat or grease onto the skillet (this will need to be washed away before cooking again).

To clean your skillet with salt: For very stubborn food particles, rinse skillet with warm water and allow it to soak for 5 minutes. Combine 1/3 cup coarse salt and 2 cups white vinegar in skillet then bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand 20 minutes then scrub mixture off using a sponge (don’t use steel wool as you may scratch the surface). Rinse thoroughly under running water and dry immediately with a kitchen towel – this method is best used when you plan on reseasoning your skillet soon as washing it away can strip the seasoning causing rusting.

See more on how to maintain a cast iron skillet.

Skillets Vs Frying Pans – Why Are They Often Confused?

Skillets are flat-bottomed pans with straight sides that are used for browning foods on top of the stove. They’re often used in combination with a lid to reduce cooking time by trapping heat.

A frying pan has sloping sides, which makes it easier to scoop up food from its surface. It’s also useful for shallow frying since there’s more room for oil to spread out without running over the edge.  Sauté pans have high, sloping sides and come with either a long handle or short handles on both ends so they can be easily held when stirring food around while cooking. This third type of cookware – a sauté pan— is where the difference between skillets vs frying pans comes from.

With a difference this subtle, it’s no wonder home chefs are unsure which skillet to buy next or what kind of frying pan will do the job best.

To relieve this confusion, we’ve separated out all that you need to know about skillets, frying pans and sauté pans so you can make an informed decision when buying cookware for your kitchen.

What is a Sauté Pan?

While a skillet is used for frying, searing and browning foods like omelets, burgers, and pancakes. It has sloping sides which makes it easy to shake food as it cooks.

A sauté pan is different from a skillet because it is taller than a skillet and comes with a lid. It is also different from a frying pan because it has straight sides without sloping sides like a skillet.

Conclusion: Difference Between Skillet Vs Frying Pan

If you’re looking for a difference between skillet vs frying pan, this article should have given you all the information that you need to make an informed decision. We’ve provided pros and cons of cast iron skillets vs stainless steel skillets as well as what is a sauté pan along with nonstick pans (with Teflon) or without.

The difference between skillet vs frying pan has been made clear so your next purchase can be just right!




Photo by Klaus Nielsen from Pexels

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