Does the Always Pan Cook as Good as It Looks?

CR tested the heavily hyped skillet in our cookware lab, and a dedicated home cook tried it out in her kitchen for a month to find the answer

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Always Pan cooking peppers on a stove Photo: Luz Montez/Consumer Reports

As a journalist, I was taught to never say “never” and to always avoid “always.” Things rarely—or almost never—fit those extreme descriptions.

So I was dubious when I heard about the Always Pan, which was introduced in 2019 and has been popping up all over social media ever since. “Always what?” I wondered.

When Consumer Reports decided to test the Always pan, I ordered one of the $145 nonstick skillets directly from Our Place (it’s also available at Nordstrom and Goop). Our test engineers put the instafamous pan through its paces in our cookware lab, gauging cooking evenness and non-stickability by making pancakes and fried eggs, assessing handle temperature and sturdiness, and then abrading the surface with 2,000 strokes of steel wool to test the durability of the nonstick coating.

Me? I cooked what I usually do at home, trying out several dishes in the Always Pan over the course of a month.

What's in the Box

The 10-inch Always Pan is made of cast aluminum and comes in 10 colors (I ordered the Blue Salt to match my kitchen). It’s super slick-looking and has a gray coating that the company calls “ceramic nonstick.”

Always Pan with accessories
Unboxing the Always Pan.

Photo: Mary Farrell/Consumer Reports Photo: Mary Farrell/Consumer Reports

The pan comes with a lid made of the same material, a wooden spatula, and a metal steamer insert (shown above). But there’s a disconnect here. The directions say not to use the pan with metal, but the steamer’s three metal legs sit right on the nonstick surface. Johanna Albertsson, an Our Place spokesperson, offered this explanation in an email: “The steamer basket’s legs are rounded, and it is designed to ‘sit still’ in the Always Pan, as opposed to scraping at the surface the way you might with a metal spatula.”

Our Place plays up that the pan and its accessories all fit together nicely, which they do, and that you can rest the spatula on the handle by matching up a circular hole in the spatula with a raised dot in the pan handle. The pan also comes with a warning that the small D-shaped lifter handle opposite the main handle gets hot—and it does.

On its site, Our Place claims that the Always Pan “replaces your fry pan, sauté pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, nonstick pan, spatula, and spoon rest.” It also touts that with the Always Pan, “you can braise, sear, steam, strain, sauté, fry, boil, and serve.” I decided to find out.

Evaluating the Claims in the Kitchen

As an enthusiastic home cook who covers cookware for Consumer Reports, I used the Always Pan as I would any nonstick pan, cooking my usual repertoire of recipes like risotto, chicken cutlets, zucchini and potato pancakes, French toast, and blueberry pancakes, to name just a few dishes.

More on Cookware

The first thing I noticed about the Always Pan is that it didn’t feel great in my hand. The handle is chunky and doesn’t taper like most pan handles. (And in our testing, we determined that the handle became a bit loose over time.) The spatula is also a bit clunky; it’s not thin enough to flip anything effectively. But you can push food around with it, and it won’t scratch the surface. I dispensed with the spatula immediately in favor of my preferred kitchen implements. (And replacing a spoon rest wasn’t a problem I needed to solve.)

On to the cooking. I started with a colorful risotto with shrimp, mushrooms, and peas—white, pink, beige, and green.

Usually, I wouldn’t make risotto in my nonstick skillet because it’s too shallow. But the Always Pan is almost 1 inch deeper than most nonstick skillets, making it more versatile and suitable for a risotto.

I cooked the mushrooms and shrimp separately, finding that the mushrooms didn’t caramelize and the shrimp didn’t brown as I expected. With the Always Pan, the liquid in the food didn’t evaporate as quickly as it does in my usual nonstick pan. The same happened with the onions, but once I added the Arborio rice and ladled in the broth little by little, the pan did a good job of cooking everything through. When I assembled the whole dish, it was tasty.

Next up was chicken piccata, a family favorite (shown below). The chicken cutlets, dredged in flour, browned nicely in a combination of butter and olive oil. With those set aside, I sautéed lemon slices and shallots. I then made the sauce with chicken broth and, yes, more butter. In the end, the dish came out well, though the lemon slices and shallots didn’t caramelize as they would in my usual pans (same as the mushrooms for the risotto).

Chicken breasts being cooked in the Always Pan.
Dinner is served! Chicken piccata.

Photo: Mary Farrell/Consumer Reports Photo: Mary Farrell/Consumer Reports

That dinner was also my first (and last) foray with the steamer. Before starting on the chicken, I steamed a combo of broccoli and cauliflower, which came out fine. The Always Pan lid fits securely and prevents steam from escaping, making it an effective steamer. (But frankly, I prefer vegetables roasted, sautéd, or stir-fried.)

Sourdough bread is my go-to for French toast, and because I had some on hand, I chose that for my next trial. Usually when I brown something on medium heat, it slowly goes from undone to done, but in the Always Pan my French toast went from undone to burnt in a very short time (at the same temperature setting I always use). So I retested the pan’s browning capability by making three types of pancakes: potato, zucchini, and blueberry. The same thing happened: burned, burned, and burned. So take care care to watch and/or adjust the heat.

Another night I cooked up the filling for a calzone—hot sausage and broccoli rabe, cooked separately. The sausage did brown nicely, and the broccoli rabe, sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes, came out as tender as it does in my other pans. The calzone itself was cooked in the oven on a pizza stone, not the pan, which can’t be used in the oven because its handle is not heat-proof. That’s a definite minus for versatility in a pan that promises to replace all your other cookware.

I didn’t sear any meat in the Always Pan because nonstick pans, by their very nature, aren’t good at searing, so why waste a good steak? Based on our test results, to get excellent searing you need a cast-iron or stainless skillet.

The Always Pan’s slick surface does have this going for it: The interior cleans like a dream, much easier than any of my other cookware. You can just wipe out the inside with a paper towel. (Some nonstick pans claim to be dishwasher-safe, but we generally don’t recommend putting them in the dishwasher, because high heat and harsh detergents can damage the coating.)

Always Pan Lab-Test Results

So how did the Always Pan fare in our testing? The Always Pan is among the 25 nonstick skillets we recommend, earning an Overall Score of Very Good. Cooking evenness, based on making pancakes, was Excellent, and our eggs slid out fine in the food-release test, although not without a bit of nudging. The handle stays cool to the touch when cooking but didn’t fare as well in the sturdiness test, scoring a middling Good.

The Always Pan also held up well in our nonstick durability test (in which we swipe steel wool over the surface 2,000 times). But some pans do better, and online reviews (both favorable and unfavorable) note that the nonstick coating begins to wear out after about six months. When asked about these comments, Albertsson responded, “With proper usage, such as avoiding high flames, never heating an empty pan or placing it in the dishwasher, we expect our coatings to last, and we’re actively sharing these care tips with our customers.”

The Bottom Line

Should you buy an Always Pan? That depends on how happy you are with the cookware you already own. If you’re just starting out, an easy-to-wash Always Pan might serve as a good choice for frying eggs, steaming, and cooking up dishes that require a little more space than a standard skillet. But other pans do just as good a job for far less.

Check out our cookware ratings for lots of choices, ranging from other nonstick pans to cast iron, copper, stainless steel, and carbon steel pans. If you already have a fully stocked kitchen, you may decide there’s no room for one more pan with limited uses. 

Based on my experience, and despite the robust marketing claims, I wouldn’t replace any of my current nonstick, cast-iron, or stainless steel frying pans with an Always Pan. Even though I collectively have more pans, each has individual strengths that I found lacking in the Always Pan. Maybe it just doesn’t fit my cooking style, but more likely the Always Pan’s performance reinforces the fact that no one pan can do it all. In addition, with its lid, steamer insert, and spatula, it takes up more real estate in my cabinet than a typical skillet, space I’d rather devote to another piece of cookware that does the job it was made to do with perfection.

Interested? You can buy the Always Pan from Our Place. Not interested? There are lots of good choices in our nonstick frying pan ratings, including the options listed here in alphabetical order.

Mary H.J. Farrell

Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.