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We put this year's must-have pan to the test to find out if both the hype and the price are justified.
The best non-stick frying pans are key kitchen tools that should last you at least five years with the right care, but their versatility is often limited. So when the Always Pan launched in the UK in July 2021, it’s no surprise the huge claims of replacing 'eight traditional pieces of cookware' with its unique integrated design, created a buzz.
The all-in-one messaging and choice of eight contemporary pastel colours make it an attractive prospect; an ethically-conscious, Instagrammable pan designed with the user in mind to enhance the experience of cooking. The core attributes you'd want from a pan are all there; a heatproof handle, non-toxic ceramic non-stick coating, good heat conductivity. But it's the added extras that make this stand out.
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Plastic-free packaging is used throughout. On opening, each element was layered with a protective cardboard or paper sleeve. The spatula is sealed in a biodegradable and compostable bag made of two layers of mineral oil. One natural sponge is included, as is a short postcard of care instructions.
The unique selling point of the Always Pan is its aim to save you money and cupboard space by fulfilling the functions of a:
In turn, this opens the door to make braised beef with red wine and cranberry, sear sea bass for that crispy fish skin, steam and strain vegetables and boil pasta for the ultimate spaghetti carbonara – all in one pan. We tested its performance for all of these claims in addition to using two simple recipes: basic omelette and American pancakes.
You can sear, sauté and fry in a normal frying pan without having to spend £125, so we don’t count that as unusual multi-functionality. Because of its cast aluminium body, the brand also recommends using low to medium heats; not ideal for searing and steak lovers, even if it is conducive to prolonging the life of the pan. We tested with the heat cranked up anyway, and the pan did sear well.
What we did like is the chemical-free, non-stick ceramic coating (one you’d also see on Le Creuset or Staub cookware). The coating doesn’t contain PFOAS or PTFES chemicals that can transmit into your food. The surface is like an ice rink with its smooth non-stick abilities and evenly distributed heat across the surface during testing. Without any oil at all, the American pancake batter only spread gently and slid off once cooked without any sticking. The seriously impressive non-stick abilities also meant washing up was a doddle.
The pans combined width and depth means that once the lid is on (which has a grippy heatproof handle for safe lifting), the ‘saucepan’ box is ticked. A notch on the handle secures a ‘nesting’ beechwood spatula as a simple but effective feature for minimising splashes and mess.
Two pouring spouts on either side of the pan make decanting liquid contents easy to control, for example when straining excess water from cooking spaghetti. The pan handle is a chunky, grippy affair, although the underside does get too hot so we needed to use two hands to lift it when full. A mini handle on its far side is an excellent addition for this.
A custom stainless steel steamer basket sits comfortably inside the pan. This also doubles up as a shallow sieve but is most useful for steaming vegetables and would work well for dumplings. It sits low in the pan so you’re not able to add much water beneath it and needs to be used with the lid.
Capacity-wise, it’s a great size for making a meal for two, but it’s the type of pan you want to show off in your kitchen so we loved the way it looked on the table for shared meals.
The Always Pan is compatible with ceramic, gas, electric and induction hob types.
Thanks to its non-stick coating, we found that grease and even stubborn recipe residues like porridge slid off under warm-hot soapy water with the recommended soft sponge.
The Always Pan is not oven- or dishwasher-safe. Customer reviews have also reported seeing a loss in effectiveness of the pan’s non-stick surface after six months of regular use, which certainly challenges the brand’s intent to produce ‘new heirlooms’. When asked for response to these claims, the brand offered advice for helping prolong the pan's life;
'We recommend cooking on low to medium low heat as high heat over a long period of time can degrade the quality of the non-stick. That said, the occasional sear is totally fine! Our cast aluminium body is designed to heat quickly and evenly distribute energy so you shouldn't need to cook higher than medium for most of your cooking. Better design = better heat distribution.
We also recommend using non-aerosol, high smoke point oils and fats like refined coconut, avocado, peanut, and clarified butter (like ghee). An oil's 'smoke point' refers to the point at which the oil gets too hot and begins to break down (and smoke). When this happens it can leave behind residue that is difficult to clean. Oils with a high smoke point at ~400-520°F, like extra virgin olive, refined coconut, avocado, peanut oils and ghee will work best. Of course, if you're overheating your pan and using high heat for extended periods, it might cause some of those same issues regardless of the oil/fat you're using.'
If you’re just looking for a new frying pan, there are lots on the market that are as effective but cheaper than this.
However, it would make an excellent gift for anyone lacking kitchen or cupboard space, wanting to use less oil in their cooking, or a multi-functional piece of cookware that’s compact and easy to store. It’s undeniably an investment purchase and unlike similarly priced counter-parts of the Smeg Cookware Range or top-range Le Creuset numbers, can’t be used in the oven. But the brand’s ethos around sustainability should be applauded, along with its commitment to an ethical chain of production and supporting community projects across the pond.
Available from Our Place, £130
Additional: stainless steel steamer basket, two pouring spouts, lid, nesting beechwood spatula
Materials: sturdy aluminium body
Weight: 1.36 kg body
Lid: modular lid for releasing steam or locking heat in
Hob compatible: all cooktops
Non-stick coating: ceramic non-stick coating
Recipes for a frying pan
Frying pan filo tart
Pan-fried rib-eye steak
Pan-fried sprouts & crunchy chorizo crumbs
Pan-fried potato gnocchi
Paneer & chickpea fry
Pan-fried sea bass with ratatouille & basil
One-pan egg & veg brunch
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