We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

What’s the Difference Between a Skillet and a Pan?

A piece of seared steak in a skillet with rosemary and garlic.
Tatiana Volgutova/Shutterstock.com

Pretty much everyone has a skillet or pan in their kitchen. Maybe even both. But are these two items different? Can they be used for the same type of cooking?

Although both kitchen tools look very similar, depth is the main difference between pans and skillets.

A skillet is deep and wide, which makes it the perfect tool for sautéing and stir-frying. It has a flat bottom and raised edges, making it easier to cook soups and curries. Skillets are available in cast iron, non-stick, and stainless steel forms.

Rio Ceramic Non-Stick 12-Inch Frypan

Cook in eco-friendly style with this frypan.

On the other hand, a pan is shaped like a skillet but is shallower and thinner. Since a pan isn’t quite as deep as a skillet, it heats up oil much faster. This item is ideal for frying up food with fast cooking times. You can buy cast iron, non-stick, and saucepans.

Although the depth of skillets and pans makes some foods simpler to cook than others, you can honestly use either tool interchangeably most of the time. Both items are extremely versatile and can help you make great meals in the kitchen.

Cast-iron skillets are particularly popular among chefs for their ability to retain heat. When cooking with this tool, you’ll want to make sure to properly season it first.

Kelsey Opel Kelsey Opel
Kelsey Opel is a freelance writer and digital storyteller based in Austin, Texas. She enjoys writing for food, entertainment and mental health spaces. Off the clock, she loves indulging in an avocado margarita and chips and queso at her favorite Tex-Mex spot in town. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on one thing: making your life outside of work even better. Want to know more?