Since my sister, Molly, graduated from culinary school, she has been my guiding star. She’s greatly improved our Thanksgiving meals, promptly answers my frantic texts about whether it’s okay to eat lentil soup I left on the counter all night, and gives me the best kitchen gifts, like a chef-favorite vegetable peeler and a pepper grinder that looks like an alien obelisk.
The best thing she ever gave me, though, was my All-Clad fry pan. Like most of her cooking-related gifts, it’s not especially cute; it doesn’t come in millennial pink or millennial rust or millennial turmeric. In fact, it looks like the platonic ideal of a pan. It’s a real pan’s pan.
The pan achieves its purpose beautifully. Because of its heavy composition, it retains heat evenly; because it’s made of aluminum and steel, it can go straight from the stove into the oven. Its curved walls let you toss food easily, if you so choose. You can probably flip an omelet in it, though I haven’t tried, because I prefer my eggs scrambled — which it does very well, especially when you use both butter and olive oil (another trick from Molly). And I’ve been told it will last forever, or at least much longer than the lifespan of our family’s early-2000s nonstick set, which began flaking its coating around year three. It’s humble, but high-quality, something you might find in a fine dining kitchen; regular restaurants probably have something more like these.
As a gift, it pairs well with a $1.99 canister of Bar Keepers Friend, an abrasive scrubbing powder. No, the pan is not nonstick, but it shines right up. Get something stuck on it? Just scrub the hell out of it — you can’t do that with nonstick pans or even fancy Le Creuset. It’s a Black Friday staple, too, subject to breathless discounts, if you’re into that kind of thing.
A lot of the time, the gifts we give and receive seem extraneous, like objects invented to fulfill the need to gift-give, rather than the need to cook or eat or live. There’s something dispriting about White Claw wine tumblers and novelty spatulas, items that seem destined to end up in the trash. Which is why what I love most about this pan as a gift is that it is just that: a pan.
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