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What Is a French Skillet?

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  • Written By: Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 August 2014
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A french skillet is a pan for cooking that is essentially a combination of frying and sauté pans in shape. The sides of the skillet are flared outward, meaning they slope toward the bottom of the pan instead of going straight up. The slope of the skillet is steeper than that of a frying pan, allowing the pan to have increased depth. The different shape changes what a chef can do with the pan and provides both disadvantages and advantages.

The increase in depth available with a french skillet means that a chef can prepare foods with less worry about spilling the contents while stirring. The slope of the sides also makes it easier to flip foods. As the chef works, he can guide the food up the side of the pan somewhat.

In terms of size, there is little difference in diameter between a french skillet and other pans. The smallest one is about 7.5 inches (19.05 cm), and the largest is roughly 14 inches (35.56 cm). Many chefs have various sizes of skillets to accommodate different foods and portion numbers. As with other cooking pans, when people buy just one french skillet, they often buy a larger size to have more cooking options. The added depth of these kinds of skillets sometimes makes them a little inconvenient to store.

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French skillets usually are made from stainless steel, making them different from other pans that use iron. For one, the stainless steel is resistant to corrosion, which means the skillet lasts longer and poses less danger of metal leeching into the food. The stainless steel means the pan can be thinner and lighter, as well. Heat transfers well, and it doesn't take quite as long to reach the proper cooking temperature needed.

The way french skillets work with and distribute heat makes them ideal for searing. They thus are an ideal choice for cooking meats, including fish. On the other hand, it is easier to burn food in this type of skillet. Foods that require very low heat, such as delicate sauces, aren't good options for these pans.

One feature that usually is absent on a french skillet is a triangular protrusion or lip in at least one place at the top of the side. These lips are desirable because they allow easy draining or pouring of fluids from the pan. The inability to drain or pour fluids doesn't mean a chef can't use the french skillet, but it sometimes creates some difficulty in meal preparation.

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