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
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.”
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.
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.”