15 Types of Pans to Suit All Your Cookware Needs
Author: Anne Cowart | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
Braising, caramelizing, blanching, basting, broiling—phew! Those Michelin chefs really do deserve those stars with all the types of pans they understand.
Whoever said cooking is uncomplicated probably did so in the Stone Age. Cooking is anything but uncomplicated today, right from the prepping to the actual cooking.
As if cooking in itself wasn’t complicated enough, the kitchen woes deepen further with the array of vessels that exist—pans, for starters.
Kitchen pans exist in a mind-boggling number of shapes and sizes, each one serving a different purpose. From roasting to grilling to baking to even just boiling eggs, there’s a pan out there for every need.
So, nope—it, unfortunately, isn’t as simple as Googling ‘frying pan’ and picking the first option thrown at you. Yes—you’re going to have to invest a little money and effort into getting the right pan for your needs and this starts with learning about the different types of pans.
15 Types of Pans
Whether you’re training to be the next MasterChef or you’ve just realized that there are vessels other than those two pots you’ve been using interchangeably to cook soup and instant ramen...
Here’s a learning opportunity on pans—our comprehensive guide on the types of pans that any kitchen should boast. When you're done, learn about the types of pots as well.
Let’s start with the easiest pan out there—the humble frying pan. The subject of many a wise English quotes and a feature in a majority of the kitchens around the world, frying pans, as the name suggests, are best used for frying, as well as searing, sauteing and scrambling foods.
To help them achieve their purpose efficiently, these shallow pans feature sloped sides so that steam doesn’t form in the pan.
The sidewalls are also curved, making it easy to stir and slide cooked food out of the pan (which also completely explains why it’s ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ and not ‘out of the griddle’ instead, FYI.)
Additionally, the long handles make handling these cooking pan types easier. Frying pans are available in cast iron, ceramic, nonstick and stainless versions. You can even put ceramic in the oven, too.
A heavy-duty pan will cost you a little bit but a good pan can turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime investment. Be careful about overheating or scratching non-stick pans, though. You can end up consuming chemicals that are not safe.
If you want to boil water, stew, reduce a sauce, simmer, make soup, cook grains or even just boil eggs, these round pans with high walls, snug lids and long handles are your best friends. Extremely versatile, these pans can be used with or without the lid to achieve the results you want.
The high walls give you more space and let you fit larger quantities of food and liquids into the pan while ensuring an even distribution of heat, whereas the tight-fitting lid locks in the heat and reduces the cooking time (unless you need evaporation).
The long handle lets you handle the pan without burning yourself in the process. Saucepans come in different sizes (1, 2, 3-quart or more) and two main types—tapered and straight-sided saucepans. These are great types of cooking pans.
The former features flared sides and a smaller bottom (for lesser heat exposure) and is a good option when you want to cook at lower temperatures for longer periods.
The latter has straight sides that are 90-degree perpendicular to the bottom (ensuring maximum conduction of heat) and are good for reductions and cooking vegetables.
Skillets look extremely similar to frying types of pans, which explains why many folks use the two terms interchangeably. However, though they’re pretty much used for the same purposes, skillets are a little deeper than their counterparts and are generally made from cast iron.
The flat bottom, rounded sides and cast iron make these pans among the best for even heat distribution, as well as flash cooking at high heat.
A cast-iron skillet can even be put directly on the fire, making it a great option for camping trips and if you’ve ever been a fan of Tangled, you know that these heavy pans are pretty great for self-defense too.
If you’re considering investing in a cast-iron skillet, ensure that it is pre-seasoned, so that no food sticks to it while cooking.
Roasting pans are great for cooking dishes like lasagna, ratatouille, your Thanksgiving turkey and the like.
These large, rectangular trays resemble oversized casserole dishes and can be safely used in the standard types of ovens with or without the included V-shaped racks.
This is depending on what you’re cooking and whether the food needs to be elevated above the cooking temperature. The racks also help the fat and juices drip into the tray, which makes basting easier.
Roasting pans have low sides so that the heat inside the oven can reach as much of the food as possible. These are different types of pans in that they're built for this explicit purpose.
The handles let you easily load, unload and transport the tray, the large size lets you accommodate large cuts of meat and the heavy-duty construction withstands high temperatures and dry heat.
Griddles have ridged surfaces that are large and flat and can come with or without sides and in a square or round shape. They're among the most fun types of cooking pans to use, for some reason, and among the easiest to clean (here's how to clean an electric griddle).
These are excellent for cooking breakfast favorites such as eggs, hash browns and pancakes, as well as for searing food at high temperatures, such as steaks and burgers, giving you those perfect grill marks.
Griddles are available in cast iron as well as in electric versions. These types of pans are generally large enough to occupy two burners on your standard types of stoves, which is great when you’re looking to achieve high temperatures.
Given the name, you’d assume that these pans are good for one thing only, but they can be quite surprisingly versatile, letting you pan roast and slow cook with just as much ease as braising.
These pans, similar to Dutch ovens, feature low sides with flat, wide cooking surfaces and heavy, domed lids that let you fit in a larger roast if needed.
Braiser cooking pan typess are generally made of stainless steel, which also lets you use them on glass cooktops and induction stoves. Braiser pans are the perfect dutch oven substitutes.
Since they’re excellent for stir frying, woks are also called ‘stir fry pans’ by many. If you have one of the awesome Asian kitchen styles, then you need a wok.
A staple in Asian kitchens, these vessels are capable of heating food faster than most other pans, thanks to small, round bases that help in even heat distribution and with a smooth interior and gradually curving walls, they can move food around easily even with minimal oil added in.
Woks have sloping, high walls and are deeper than frying pans. Sometimes, you may find that woks and stir-fry pans actually differ—the former has a smaller, rounder bottom than the latter which has a flat bottom and hence, a wider surface area.
In addition to stir frying, wok types of pans can also be used to deep fry and steam food. Traditionally, woks are made of carbon steel, though stainless steel and nonstick variants have also hit the market.
Woks are not suited for induction stoves and flat surfaces due to their round bases, unlike stir-fry pans. Cantonese woks feature two loop handles, unlike Mandarin woks that feature only one. Learn here how to season, wash, and otherwise care for your wok pan.
Don’t worry—the bakers haven’t been left behind by the pan clan!
From pans that help you cook perfect angel food cakes to steaming loaves of bread, baking pans make achieving the perfect bake achievable. Here are the various types of baking pans that exist:
Angel Food Cake Pan: These feature a hollow core to maintain the hole in the Bundt/angel food cake as well as allowing even heating.
Sheet Pan: These are flat trays ideal for baking cookies, rolls and other “dry” foods.
Bread Pan: These deep pans are great for puddings, cake and bread loaves and are built to withstand low temperatures for long periods of cooking.
Tart Pan: These have fluted sides to give you a good-looking tart and allow removal of the tart without breaking the crust.
Cake Pan: These circular pans are deep, with straight walls that allow you to take the cake out easily. These can also be springform types, where the sides can be removed for easier cake release.
Pie Pan: These have wide sides and angled sides to cook a pie easily.
Muffin Pan: Muffin types of pans come with muffin molds—these can be jumbo, mini or standard sized and have anywhere between 6 and 48 molds for baking.
What’s the secret behind good paella cooking pan types? Tons of practice. What makes a great paella? An equally great paella pan!
Well, maybe that is a little bit of an exaggeration, but a paella pan can go quite a long way in helping you get your paella just right.
With a wide, shallow and round build and sloping walls, these pans are designed to let rice cook evenly lying flat, so that maximum liquid is absorbed and ergo, the maximum flavor is achieved. The rice also gets perfectly toasted, giving the paella its iconic taste.
Some paella pans are made using cast iron, but of late, carbon steel pans are gaining popularity as they cool down and heat up quickly.
Types of Pans for Every Cooked Dish & Meal
Fortunately or unfortunately, pans exist in many shapes and sizes and for different purposes, as you’ve just seen. Hopefully, this guide made it easier to identify the different types and pick out what you need.
If you still find yourself confused, don’t sweat it—you can go a long way with just a frying pan and a saucepan in the kitchen.
After all, unless you’re training to be the next head chef at Mirazur, cooking is more about heart, soul and enjoyment than it is about equipment, so stop worrying about the different types of pans and focus on what’s inside, instead!