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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 cookware that claims do the job of two or three gadgets (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.
I quickly learned that 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, sauté 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, sauté, fry, boil, serve, and store. A pan that you won’t just use often but — get ready for it — “always.”
Not gonna lie, the Always Pan has a lot going for it. Here are some of the pros that impressed me.
The look and feel
What’s hard not to notice about this pan is how darn good it looks. Its aesthetics, I’m sure, account for a healthy portion of its popularity. It sports an understated, modern shape and is available in multiple warm hues, from “blue salt” (a dusty gray-blue) to “rosa” (a lush berry pink).
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! It allows you to do much more than your typical frying pan, including safely making sauces or even soups (with a depth of nearly 3 inches), or steaming foods like fish and vegetables with a custom insert.
Built-in spoon rest and storage
Why doesn’t every pan have one of these?
The pan’s handle, which features 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.
One potential downside here, though: the spoon does jut out over the base of the pan. I assume, over time, the heat might damage the wood if left 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 feel the Always Pan is on the small side. But, as mentioned above, its sides are amply high for less spillage, and it has plenty of vertical berth for steam to build for fish and veggies.
Speaking of steaming, this form of cooking is super fast and easy in a skillet, so it makes sense that a steamer basket should fit snugly in the pan. It’s another feature I’ve used regularly — one that had me wondering, “Why doesn’t every frying pan come with one?” (It can’t possibly be too costly to produce.)
Despite its many advantages, the Always Pan isn’t perfect. Here’s what I wasn’t thrilled with.
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.
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. As this pan is priced at $145, you’d likely want it to stick with you (literally and figuratively) 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 example, it’s not recommended to ever use metal cooking tools with the Always Pan.
This is a minor critique, but the handle is squared, not rounded. 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, 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 sticks to, let’s say, lots of scrambled eggs, stir-fries, pan-seared chicken, and steamed or sautéed veggies, then this is a solid pan to own.
In fact, with just this one pan (coupled with a saucepan and/or stockpot) you’d 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.
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 value in having 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.