There are cult followings, and then there are just… followings. The former: GG Allin’s fan base. The latter: the Beyhive. The former: people who have seen every P.T. Anderson movie. The latter: people who have seen all 28 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The former: people who obsessively drink cold-pressed juice every morning. The latter: the viral world of the Always Pan.
If you Google “cult-fave cookware,” you’ll be overwhelmingly inundated with images of this specific colorful, artfully photographed sauté pan, to the point where nothing else even compares. At what point does the ultra-viral, feed-dominating Always Pan cross over from underground-hit status to major player? When does it go from Laney Boggs to prom queen? When does it get its “Running Up That Hill” moment on Stranger Things? Hell, even Halle Berry said she “can’t live without” this pan.
I’ve been eyeballing that modern-icon pan for months and months, but with some skepticism. I’ve seen the posts, the delectable shades of dusty peach and subdued olive, the claims that it is a whole new nonstick experience and that it can do it all, all, ALLLL! But, the second that the popular narrative is that everyone likes something, I'm instantly suspicious. I'll admit right out the gates that I'm a recovering "nOt LiKe OtHeR GiRLs" girl—blame it on my misguided belief in seventh grade that I was the only girl listening to Enema of the State and Milo Goes to College on repeat. I've eradicated the internalized misogyny (very happy that Britney was freed), but I still have the impulse to side-eye any person or thing that is universally adored to what I consider to be a troubling degree. After all, a lot of people have bad taste, and it seems statistically unlikely that something could be unanimously lauded while still being genuinely swaggy and not just populist gruel.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule: grilled cheese sandwiches, for instance, or Nevermind. Those deservedly get five out of five stars from everyone. But this pan—how great could it be? How has it broken the internet even more effectively than Kim Kardashian’s 2014 Paper shoot?
It was time to get my coconut-oil-covered paws on one and meet the non-binary, non-sentient entity behind the colossal reputation. Thus, the Always Pan entered my kitchen, and I took it on a personal odyssey.
I'm not sure how large I was expecting the Always Pan to be based on photos I've seen on the internet, but it's big! Not in an intrusive way, just in a higher-capacity function than I expected—scale was a little hard to gauge before seeing it IRL. (Side note: The box in which it arrives is all recyclable cardboard with no plastic or styrofoam—genuinely appreciate that.) The Always Pan comes with a wooden scraper/multi-tool, a metal steamer designed to fit snugly in the pan, and a scrubber for gentle cleaning, since that famous nonstick coating should be treated with care. I got the sage color and loved how gorgeous it looked right out of the packaging—I mean, isn't that kind of the point? The interior coating was super-smooth and shiny and while, again, it was hefty, it was also light, thanks to the aluminum construction.
The first thing I cooked in the Always Pan was a Bolognese sauce, starting by sautéing mirepoix and browning some grass-fed ground beef. I drizzled the nonstick surface with Pineapple Collaborative olive oil out of habit—I’m used to needing some lubrication when frying onions, lest you end up with charred little bits of allium cemented to the bottom of your pan. But honestly, the Always Pan might not have even needed it. This thing is straight-up averse to sticking.
One thing that did surprise me was the lack of sizzling—sure, steam was rising off the meat and veggies as they cooked, but there wasn’t that hissing, crackling, popping sizzlefest I’ve grown accustomed to from other cookware.
The Bolognese turned out toothsome and reduced to rich, savory perfection, and served as the base for some baller bucatini. Over the last two months, I’ve cooked a wide variety of dishes in the pan, including pillowy pesto gnocchi, perfect sunny-side up eggs, Cajun shrimp, and plenty of other miscellaneous vegetables and pasta dishes. I even used Our Place’s Spruce Steamer Basket to steam xiao long bao (Chinese soup dumplings) in the pan… although I can’t say I made those from scratch; they were from The XCJ (and I highly recommend them).
You know how it is to have a new special something in the kitchen, whether it’s a KitchenAid stand mixer or an internet-famous pan with the aesthetic appeal of Jennifer Connelly: You want to use it! Unlock the charisma… unravel the appeal… reveal the truths.
What was rad about the Always Pan
The Always Pan heats up super-quickly, and they are not joking one bit about that slip 'n' slide nonstick coating. Like, it practically REPELS food. The food is levitating on top of the pan like one of those levitating tops they sold at Sharper Image in the 90s. Aside from its good looks (which sort of make it the cookware Eames chair of the 2020s), the nonstick coating is really the star of the pan.
With cheap nonstick pans I've
inexplicably held on to since 2011 even though they’re full of now-banned carcinogens used in the past, onions and eggs were always the trickiest things to cook to perfection: the onions easily burnt and browned past their transparent/caramelized prime if I got distracted for even a few moments too long, and eggs went from heavenly to rubbery in the blink of an eye. The best nonstick pans will heat up evenly and cook food better by avoiding the uneven burning that will come with stuff getting stuck. I was genuinely amazed by how perfectly sunny-side eggs turn out every single time in the Always Pan; they look like cartoon eggs, utterly flawless. Scrambles, too, never turn out rubbery in the pan—I love a soft scramble with gently folded-in cheese and herbs, and the Always Pan’s coating ensures that the eggs remain fluffy and delicate, and don’t turn into a spongy brown turd. Ditto for onions; they drift across the pan’s surface like they’re floating on a bayou in a canoe, unbothered and uninterested in burning to a crisp.
However, the Always Pan does brown what you want it to brown, as evidenced by my gnocchi that came out with perfectly crispy, lightly caramelized sides (which admittedly, took a little more patience than if I’d made them in a stainless-steel pan), but retained their doughy, melt-in-your-mouth interiors. All hail gnocchi; truly a god-tier food.
I also really appreciate how many accessories and thoughtful design details there are to cement the Always Pan as a Swiss Army knife for different cooking techniques. At $30, the Spruce Steamer is pretty on-par, price-point wise, with wood steamer baskets you'll find on Amazon, and it comes with liners and cooking chopsticks (aka the extra long kind that let you reach and rummage around in your pan from a healthy distance). It fits perfectly over the Always Pan.
Also, the Always Pan is a real looker. You knew this, and it’s probably how you ended up on this review, so I won’t wax about it endlessly, but it really does just look damn good hangin’ out on a burner and being attractive. It’s the trophy wife of cookware, in addition to being the Justin Bieber, the Olivia Rodrigo, the Yeezys. Know what I mean? I’m a little short on cabinet space, so some pot or pan is always hanging out, exposed, and the Always Pan isn’t just a neutral object, it’s an accent piece.
What was tricky about the Always Pan
While I know I just mentioned the Always Pan’s impressive versatility, in the interest of honesty, I would also like to dispute the claims that it replaces eight different pieces of cookware—that's a little bit of an exaggeration. It’s a fun belief system to uphold the Always Pan as a pan that can do everything, but that’s just not how life works, baby!
There are things I wanna cook in a nonstick pan—to reiterate: EGGS! many eggs!—but if I’ve got an outrageously expensive, marbled ribeye steak that I plan to cook to a bloody medium rare and devour with duck-fat-drenched potatoes and roasted carrots, I’m gonna do it in a cast iron skillet, mainly because it just feels like the correct, medieval way to do it. (BTW, Our Place is releasing a cast iron edition of the Always Pan literally today. Still, like many others, I believe that cast iron pans are ideally passed down through generations and should have crud from several decades ago baked into their cores, and at some point have hopefully been used as a household weapon in some old-timey drama or a botched burglary. This is the true reason why an Always Pan cannot just replace a cast iron skillet.)
Also, TBH, it can be annoying how hot the Always Pan handle becomes at sneaky moments. (The brand says it’s a “Stay Cool handle,” but that was not always my lived experience.) I have an Equal Parts nonstick pan (which has served me well, though the brand has since stopped producing cookware) and a couple of All-Clad pans and don't have this same problem with them; I now prefer the Always Pan for many everyday cooking tasks because of how insanely nonstick-y it is, but I appreciate that on my other pans, the handles don't get hot. However, my mama taught me, with my aforementioned, hand-me-down, god-knows-how-old cast iron, that you can just pick up a silicone handle sleeve—or even a leather one, if you're hot/freaky!—slide it on like an anti-burn condom, and this problem is easily and cheaply solved.
TL;DR, is the Always Pan worth it?
Short answer: yes. Now's the time to get an Always Pan. But you've got to know why you want one. If you want a super-versatile pan that is awesome for everyday sauce-building, egg-frying, steaming, stir-frying, and sautéing, this is your guy. If you're living in an apartment that's short on space, and you're not doing hardcore recipe-developing night after night, the Always Pan will meet almost all of your needs.
To reiterate, however, it's unrealistic for a single pan to do everything, whether that pan is a stoic stainless steel fryer or a Selena Gomez-endorsed ceramic jawn in shades of lavender, terracotta, and “blue salt.” If you're a serious cook, you’ll want multiple pans no matter what, but you could get by with a great nonstick pan and a cast iron pan around in case you want to do a serious sear, cook a ribeye, or pop your pan in the oven at a high temperature. Still, it's pretty amazing that you could cook pretty much everything to perfection with just two pans. Our Place just released the “It Takes Two” set, which includes both the classic ceramic-coated Always Pan and the new cast-iron version. Then, to complete your stovetop arsenal, all you'll need is a Perfect Pot and a decent saucepan (think All-Clad or another stainless steel option).
But at the end of the day, it’s 2022, my friend. Who knows how long we are for this twisted world? It’s time to learn how to stop worrying and love the Always Pan.
The Always Pan is available for $145 at Our Place.
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