Christopher Kimball: Back in the early ’70s, when I first learned to make a French omelet from Julia Child’s book, I actually used [picks up omelet pan] a black steel pan just like this one, because that’s all we knew [gestures toward Adam, who shrugs in agreement]. These days you have all sorts of non-stick skillets and variations on that theme. So we’re here with Adam in the Equipment Corner to figure out which omelet pan makes the most sense for the least amount of money.
Adam Ried: Chris, let’s take a look at this pan. [Takes steel omelet pan from CPK] This is the classic French omelet pan. As you said, it’s carbon steel. It almost works like cast iron. After a while it develops a patina and some non-stick properties. It’s got a nice shallow shape, gently sloped edges, easy to roll the omelet out [rolls pan in demonstration], and it’s inexpensive. It’s only about $20. In the Test Kitchen, though [puts steel omelet pan on counter], we reengineered the French omelet recipe a little bit, and we tend to use just an eight-inch non-stick skillet with a cover. The classic recipe doesn’t cover the omelet; we do. So we wanted to find out what was going on with eight-inch non-stick skillets. [Camera pans to skillets on counter] We gathered the six that you see here. The price range was between $20 and $140 for one of these. This is actually [picks up skillet] an interesting pan to discuss. This was the $140 model. This is the French Chef omelet pan, and it was designed and made according to the specifications of Julia Child herself. It’s made right here in Boston. It’s still made to this day. It’s very thick cast aluminum. It did a fabulous job. We tested all of these with our French omelet recipe with the cover.
CPK: Is it heavy?
AR: [Hands skillet over to CPK] It’s very heavy. The heat distributed beautifully and evenly and slowly. The omelet didn’t brown at all, which is what you want. This pan did a great job, but [heavy emphasis] at $140 [CPK hoots and grimaces and furrows brow] for a fairly limited use pan, we wanted to look further.
CPK: Yeah, you have to go in the omelet business to pay for that. [AR laughs]
AR: [Laughing] Open a breakfast shop. Maybe we can do that out of the Test Kitchen. The next pan [picks up second skillet] that we looked at was this one. This is actually the All-Clad non-stick stainless eight-inch skillet. Frying pan, really, they call it.
CPK: But All-Clad’s expensive too, right?
AR: All-Clad’s pricy also. Now, in addition to shape, even heating was the name of this game. Just like the French Chef omelet pan, [camera cuts to All-Clad skillet] the All-Clad pan distributed the heat very evenly. We got nice blonde fluffy omelets out of this pan. It did a great job. It comes with a cover [picks up cover and places on skillet] that fits right on it. $90 for this pan, though. [Places skillet down on counter] Actually, the other three pans in the lineup did reasonably well. We didn’t have any disasters. Some of them heated a little faster than we wanted. You had to adjust the heat a little more to make sure the omelet didn’t brown. But this pan [picks up third skillet] is by KitchenAid. It’s the KitchenAid Gourmet Essentials Hard Anodized Nonstick [emphasizes each word as he chuckles] Open French skillet. We had to adjust the heat a little bit, but it did a very good job. It didn’t brown the omelet. There was great release. [CPK takes skillet from AR as camera cuts in] And this one is only $20.
CPK: I like the handle, too.
AR: Yeah, the handle’s great. So we think for this recipe and this project, for a small skillet, this is the winner. It’s the KitchenAid for $20.
CPK: So if you can get hold of some federal bailout money [AR laughs], you can go for the Julia Child memorial omelet pan, or for 20 bucks the KitchenAid… what was the rest of that?
AR: It’s the KitchenAid Gourmet Essentials Hard Anodized [chuckles as he rattles off the full name] Nonstick Open French skillet. [Laughs]
CPK: Whatever he said. For 20 bucks, the KitchenAid is our Test Kitchen winner.
View the full report of our Omelet Pans testing.
Captioned by Media Access Group at WGBH
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