Whether you’re baking, roasting, or frying, you’ve got options.
If you’ve ever had to suffer through a dry, chewy chicken breast or burnt thigh, you know that a good pan can make all the difference when cooking this staple protein. Since the margin of error is slightly smaller with chicken than with steak—which is fine to eat even if it’s a bit rare—you want a pan with excellent heat distribution, whether you’re roasting, frying, or sautéing. That way, you can avoid dry cutlets, chicken with pink interiors, and other potentially hazardous pitfalls.
Just like there’s no single best recipe for chicken, however, there’s no single best pan for cooking it (though some are more versatile than others). To help you choose the right pan for cooking tender thighs, crispy cutlets, or succulent coq au vin, we’ve created this comprehensive guide. Read on to learn when to use cast iron vs carbon steel, what silhouette works best for deep frying, and new methods for preparing your favorites.
An enameled cast iron skillet might be the closest thing you can find to an all-purpose pan—especially when it comes to cooking chicken. From pan roasting to shallow frying to sautéing, you can pretty much do it all in this incredibly versatile piece of cookware. If you don’t have a roasting pan—or you don’t feel like hauling yours out for a small, 3-4 pound bird—a cast iron skillet can deliver similar results. Pro tip: you can also use your skillet to bake an entire chicken pot pie.
For flawlessly seared chicken breasts or thighs, our vote goes to the stainless clad frying pan. Fully cladded with 5 layers of metal for optimal heat conductivity, Made In’s Stainless Clad allows for precise heat control—meaning you can sustain the exact level of heat needed for deeply browned, crispy skin. Plus, since stainless steel is non-reactive, you can use acidic ingredients like wine, citrus, tomato paste, and capers to create a velvety pan sauce when you’re done (maybe not all at once, though).
If your main objective is easy cleanup, non stick is a no-brainer. While you might not get as deep of a sear as you would in a carbon steel or cast iron skillet, a quality non stick frying pan (like Made In’s) should feature a core material made of stainless steel or another heat conductor. This means efficient conductivity at lower temperatures, which results in juicy, golden brown cutlets or tender, lightly charred stir fries any night of the week, without needing nearly as much heat.
You can roast a whole chicken just as easily you can deep fry in your enameled Dutch oven—in fact, it’s one of the absolute best tools for the job. The incredible heat retention of cast iron combined with its smooth, easy-to-clean enameled surface makes for safe and effective deep frying at home. And while we love the cast iron skillet for shallow frying things like cutlets, a wide, deep pot like a Dutch oven is an absolute must for deep-frying chicken, donuts, and more. The high sides allow you to add enough oil to fully submerge your food, while minimizing hot oil splatter.
Making a whole roast chicken? Ditch the flimsy single-use roasting pan and go for something with excellent heat retention and responsiveness, like a carbon steel roasting pan. Just like how a carbon steel frying pan is fantastic for searing steaks and chops, a carbon steel roasting pan gets—and stays—really, really hot, transferring that heat to your food for a deep, evenly golden brown exterior that rivals Norman Rockwell’s.
Plus, if you’re using an oven-safe carbon steel roasting pan like Made In’s, you can even use your pan to start roasts on the stove before finishing them in the oven, or reverse it and finish with a stovetop pan sauce.
Looking for a single, one-and-done pan for simple braised chicken dishes? Try a stainless clad rondeau, which gives you the excellent searing power of stainless steel cookware but with a bit more depth, so it holds plenty of braising liquid. With two side helper handles, you can carry even the biggest cut to the table with ease.
If you’re anything like us, you like eating grilled chicken wings way more than you like cleaning and oiling the grates of your outdoor grill. A grill pan offers the perfect solution: Typically made of highly conductive materials like carbon steel and perforated for maximal food-to-flame contact, these pans are the perfect surface for safe, convenient grill cooking.
When shopping for a grill pan, we suggest going for one that’s lightweight but durable, like Made In’s Carbon Steel Grill Frying Pan. Made to tolerate temperatures of up to 1200F and weighing significantly less than cast iron counterparts, the Grill Frying Pan is both easy to maneuver and offers the same great heat retention as other carbon steel cookware.
For chicken dishes that require low and slow cooking, we like to use a 9 x 13” porcelain baking dish. While metal pans might work well for thin, crispy chicken cutlets because of how quickly they heat up, we prefer porcelain for baked chicken—as well as lasagnas, bread puddings, and casseroles—because they heat up more slowly, and distribute that heat evenly throughout the dish. This ensures uniform browning and perfectly tender interiors.
Another major benefit of porcelain bakeware is that it tends to be naturally non stick and thermal shock-resistant. This means you can transfer your dish to the oven straight from the fridge, and even put it under the broiler. Plus, porcelain is typically non stick, so you’ll have an easier time scraping up any juices that may have gotten baked on in the oven.
If chicken for dinner is starting to feel a little boring, we strongly suggest switching up your pan. Break out the stainless clad frying pan if you’re craving crispy thighs, a carbon steel grill pan for perfect BBQ vibes, or a non stick frying pan for a low-effort but totally delicious weeknight stir-fry. The world is your oyster—which just so happens to be our favorite part of a roast chicken.
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