What Is the Difference Between a Skillet and a Frying Pan?

by Véronique Raymond
pan with vegetables

It’s no secret that you’ve seen a frying pan or skillet in any kitchen. Usually, these terms are used interchangeably as some people consider these utensils different types of cookware. As such, you might be a tad curious as to whether there’s any difference between the two. After all, there’s immense debate and confusion on the subject.

Nevertheless, they are closely similar in appearance and functionality, which means you can cook the same foods in a frying pan as you can in a skillet. In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know on the commonly asked question, ‘what is the difference between a skillet and a frying pan?’

What Is a Skillet?

While a skillet can be used interchangeably with a frying pan, it was initially as deep as a saucepan. A skillet has slanted sides, so it’s often confused for a frying pan. The slanted edges make it perfect for frying and fast-cooking techniques, for instance, the constant shifting of the ingredients in the pan.

Furthermore, it’s perfect for frittatas and other fried treats. Skillets and frying pans can be used interchangeably, which breeds immense confusion. After all, they are crafted from the same materials – cast iron skillets and stainless steel versions have been very popular. The diameters are also the same, which means the only variation lies in the shape of the sides.

One pan might be better suited for particular tasks. However, that doesn’t imply the other is unsuitable for the same tasks. Although this might be seemingly confusing, you’ll soon realize that the difference between a skillet and a frying pan is negligible.

What Is a Frying Pan?

It’s a shallow pan with a long handle, generally is nonstick, and is a lifesaver in frying a vast assortment of foods. You can’t braise or slow cook in a frying pan. It doesn’t need a lid because you don’t need to seal in the juicy goodness as you would for a slow cooker.

While a frying pan has flared sides, its height is shallow. It shouldn’t be overly heavy for you to pick it up. The handle should remain cool so that it’s safe for you to lift the pan as need be. For lowering the temperature of your food in a jiffy, a frying pan can be your holy grail.

A Skillet vs Frying Pan: What’s the Better Option?

A modern frying pan has flared edges with relatively vertical sides. It’s no secret that most people use a frying pan and skillet interchangeably. Rather than use a deep-fat fryer, a frying pan is more suitable to fry different foods.

Besides cooking potato pancakes, pork chops, and soft-shell crabs, a frying pan is perfect for sautéing peppers and onions. When you fry in a tad bit of fat and add other ingredients, you can accomplish that quickly. Nevertheless, a seasoned sauté pan with straight edges is best suited for this type of cooking.

To fry large quantities of the same foods, a skillet with a diameter of 10 inches to 12 inches is ideal. Furthermore, a bulky pan that’s an excellent conductor of heat is perfect for stir-fried foods. A skillet of up to 8 inches in diameter is a multipurpose utensil that’s perfect for sautéing veggies, garlic, and whipping up scrambled eggs.

A sauté pan has straight sides, and its large surface area makes it perfect for reducing the sauce in it or searing meat. Additionally, it prevents food from spilling at the sides when stirring. However, both are good, long-lasting options for any home cook – you just need to make sure to differentiate between the two.

cooked sausage on grey pan

Source: Unsplash

A Frying Pan vs. Skillet: What Are the Similarities?

The confusion between the two cooking utensils stems from their interchangeable use. Besides being crafted from the same material, skillets and frying pans cover the same cooking area, both have flat bottoms, both have non-stick coating options, and both are great at heat retention. The only difference is their shape on the sides.

Granted, one pan might be a better fit for cooking particular foods. However, that doesn’t imply the other isn’t appropriate for the same tasks. There’s no denying that taking your pick between a frying pan and skillet can leave you feeling confused as to the better option.

It’s advisable to begin with a skillet. Although it has a smaller surface area, you can make up for it by investing in a bigger size. A larger skillet ushers in versatility with sloping edges and makes food easier to access.

When Should You Use a Frying Pan?

Regardless of its shape, a frying pan is perfect for sautéing liquids. It also comes in handy for a shallow fry, sear, poach, and pan-fry that doesn’t entail stirring the ingredients every few minutes.

It’s worth noting that the weight and size of a sauté pan curbs it from being used to shake and stir food. Cooking in a frying pan is quicker and more efficient due to the size.

Frying pans are perfect for cooking liquid foods such as soups, braised lamb shank, falafel, and stews because minimal stirring is required.

Why Should You Use a Skillet?

A skillet is ideal to stir-fry and sautés contrary to the expectations of a multitude of people. Besides being lightweight and having sloping edges, a skillet aids in the uniform distribution of food and returns it to the bottom. Stirring ingredients in a skillet is a breeze as it grants access to the cooking surface.

Pan-frying and searing meat in a skillet is a popular cooking method. The skillet shines through when it comes to quick meals. For instance, a dish that calls for constant stirring and flipping, such as a beef stir-fry and spinach mushroom.

What Is the Difference Between a Skillet and a Frying Pan?

Both utensils are the same. A pan refers to the vast assortment of cooking utensils. Therefore, there are boiling pans, frying pans, and sauté pans. In essence, a skillet is synonymous with a frying pan.

A closer look will reveal that a frying pan is shallow with elevated sides. The sides are moderately sloped, making it perfect for frying various types of food. A skillet is almost the same when it comes to function and design.

Both tools come in handy for searing on high heat, shallow frying, flipping food, grilling, and stirring. A frying pan and skillet can usually withstand high temperatures; otherwise, they won’t be suitable for frying food.


Let’s delve into the answers to the commonly asked questions on skillets and frying pans.

1. Is a frying pan the same as a skillet?

A frying pan is a utensil that’s usually mistaken for a skillet. Nevertheless, a few differences set them apart. For example, a frying pan has straight edges, whereas a skillet typically has sloped sides. You get a bigger cooking surface with a frying pan, which implies that it’s heavier and bulkier than a skillet.

2. When should you use a skillet in place of a frying pan?

Given that a frying pan is closely similar to a skillet, both utensils come in handy in cooking many foods. However, at times, you might have a better cooking experience with a skillet rather than a frying pan.

To know whether or not a skillet is suitable for the job, consider whether you need to grab a spatula to flip the ingredients. If so, then a skillet is perfect for the job.


Although a skillet is closely similar to a sauté pan, some differences set them apart. Now that you know the similarities and variations between these pieces of cookware, make an informed decision on the better fit for your cooking needs.


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