Home » French Skillet vs Skillet - What's the difference?

French Skillet vs Skillet - What's the difference?

French Skillet vs Skillet - What's the difference?

Frying pans are undoubtedly one of the most important containers in the kitchen, but with so many on the market, how are you supposed to know what each one is for and which one is the best? All the sizes, shapes, coatings, names… it’s too much!

But fear not, because we are here to help you clear things up. A recent surge in popularity has brought French skillets to kitchens across America, but like many of us, you may not have even heard of them. A frying pan is a frying pan, right?

So what is the difference between a French frying pan and a frying pan?

French skillets and skillets are much the same, from the sizes and materials to even the uses. The biggest difference between the two are their sides. Skillets have low, sloped sides, while French skillets have much taller, straighter sides.

In this article we will take an in-depth look at frying pans and French skillets. This will help you understand what the differences are in both design and usage.

What is the difference between a French skillet and a skillet?

Before comparing the differences, it will help to first see what each of these pans is and does.

Frying pan

Let’s start with the more commonly known term: pans. Frying pans are very diverse cooking vessels in any kitchen.

They come in various sizes, with an average of about 12 inches, although they can range from 6 to 16 inches.

The size, to some extent, determines the function. For example, you’ll probably fry an egg in a 6-inch pan, while you’ll use a larger pan if you want to fry more eggs at once.

Larger pans are also often used for stir-frying or shallow frying.

The pans are designed with flat bottoms so that the heat is distributed evenly and effectively. The low sides are also a defining feature that works as a barrier to prevent liquid from spilling.

These sides are not high (only an inch or two), since the function of the pan is to fry food, not to simmer it.

These pans usually have a long handle so the user can easily maneuver it on and off the heat, but some larger pans may also have a second, smaller grip handle, just to help support the weight.

Pans don’t have lids: If you have a pan with a lid, it instantly converts to another type of pan, like a sauté pan or nonstick universal pan.

Turning to the type of materials with which the pans are made, we are referring mainly to stainless steel, although they can also be made of aluminum or ceramic.

Stainless steel is a great anti-corrosion material that distributes heat very well and is capable of withstanding a lot of heat. It is very durable and the best long lasting option.

However, with the rise of non-stick and PTFE-coated products, over time, pans began to change. You can very easily find and buy stainless steel pans that have a non-stick coating on the inside.

However, ceramic pans are also popular for their chemical-free nonstick surfaces, but they don’t usually last as long and can crack or chip.

As their name suggests, frying pans are designed for precisely that: frying. You can fry anything without the excessive amount of oil that cooking methods like deep-frying need.

You can fry practically anything you can think of: shredded mushrooms, cuts of meat, vegetables, caramelize foods and much more. Since the frying pan is so diverse, it can be used as a substitute for other cooking vessels.

The pans also work great for toasting nuts and seeds, melting chocolate, and cooking pancakes, to name a few.

Skillets are also not to be confused with cast iron saucepans, so we have a whole article that dives into saucepans vs. skillets and what differentiates them.

french skillet

A French skillet is much like a skillet, but with a few small differences. These differences, however small, make a big difference in the kitchen.

French frying pans also come in various sizes, but the range is much smaller. They usually range from 8 to 12 inches.

They have been designed with a flat bottom to allow excellent and efficient heat conduction. The flat bottom also allows for more surface area for more food to cook at the same time.

The sides of a French skillet are much taller than those of a regular skillet. The pan has been designed with sides that are 2-3 inches high (depending on the size of the pan).

They are almost always very straight, but you can also get French pans with slightly sloped or rounded sides.

This design allows the pan to hold much more food and liquid. The ones that still have slightly sloped sides will allow you to flip and flip the food.

A French skillet also has a long handle on one side and sometimes a grip handle on the other. It works just like a frying pan, allowing you to control and move the pan with ease.

Although “skillet pan” is in the name, these pans are rarely made of cast iron. They are actually made from stainless steel, just like frying pans.

Like skillets, French skillets can also have nonstick coatings, but because of their straight sides, that’s less likely.

These cooking vessels are used in much the same way as frying pans; the biggest difference is that they can hold much more liquid.

Here is a comparison that clearly highlights the differences and similarities between these two pans.

The differences

The main difference between these two cooking vessels is their sides. The pans have low, sloped sides to help you flip and stir food. However, this also means that they cannot hold as much food or liquid.

This is where the French skillet comes into play, as it has much taller sides that are usually straight. This allows you to continue frying more food, but it is much more difficult to flip and shake.

The other big difference between the two is that pans come in a much larger variety of sizes. This means that you can easily adapt the pan to the food you are making.

In frying pans there are not so many size options. However, the main function of the French skillet is to make large amounts of food, so this is not necessarily a problem for those who tend to make large meals anyway.

The last difference worth mentioning is the materials from which they are made. Yes, both pans are usually stainless steel, but the difference is the non-stick coating.

Frying pans usually have a non-stick coating, while French frying pans do not.

This means that when you’re going to make something that can’t stick, for example crepes, you’ll have a much harder time on the normal stainless steel surface of the French pan.

Frying pan french skillet
Size 6-16 inches 8-12 inches
Background flat bottom flat bottom
sides slightly sloping sides Straight or slightly rounded/sloped high sides
handles A long handle and sometimes a short handle A long handle and sometimes a short handle
Materials Stainless steel, aluminum or ceramic, sometimes with PTFE non-stick coating Stainless steel or (rarely) cast iron
Top Capless Capless
Applications Frying food in small amounts, turning or stirring, may contain small amounts of liquid and food Frying food in large quantities, can contain large amounts of liquid and food

French Frying Pans and Frying Pans: Are They Interchangeable?

The short answer is yes, but it depends on what you want to cook.

For many foods, you can easily substitute the skillet and French skillet for one another. This includes, for example, frying eggs, sautéing vegetables, browning meat, thickening sauces and much more.

The problem arises when the pan you use fulfills a specific function.

For example, if you’re making crepes, a stainless steel French skillet won’t be able to do them as well as a skillet, because they’ll stick to the flat, uncoated bottom and you won’t be able to flip them as easily.

The functions in which the French frying pan is superior are frying large quantities of food or simmering sauces and stews.

If you try to do something like this in a skillet, the food will constantly leak out of the pan and it won’t be able to hold any excess moisture either. Risotto and paella are great examples of dishes that are best made in a French skillet.

So again, yes, for certain functions these two pans are easily interchangeable, but for other, more specialized functions, they are not.

Is a French skillet a sauté pan?

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to comparing frying pans, frying pans, and even French frying pans. A French skillet is often said to be a combination of a sauté pan and a fry pan.

A skillet always has very straight sides and comes with a lid.

A French skillet, as we just discussed, usually has slightly sloped sides, but the biggest difference is the lid. Skillets are typically much larger and have much higher sides than a French skillet.

This, along with the lid, helps trap in moisture to prevent food from burning and allows vegetables to steam properly.