Cooking should be simple. Yes, sometimes elaborate meals are just what your palette was looking for, but after almost a year of cooking our own meals, there is something to be said for a basic, well-cooked breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I was craving chicken parmesan. Sure, it’s a little bit complicated for a mid-week meal, but it is perfect for a nice and slow Sunday feast. Creating meals for my family is just one way to show appreciation, and seeing everyone enjoying the hot hours I put in over a hot flame makes me tingly inside.
I had everything planned out—the cheese, chicken breasts, red sauce, and pasta were purchased from FreshDirect a couple of days prior, and I’d finally use the Always Pan from Our Place to get a bite out of a classic Italian dish. If you aren’t familiar with the Always Pan, you must have been living under a rock for the past year and some change. It boasts the ability to cook one-pot meals easily, and is essentially an 8-in-1 non-stick pan that can make sauces, fry, steam, and more. A jack of all trades, and a master of most.
The pan itself is made out of aluminum with a non-stick coating so it’s able to heat evenly no matter if you have a gas or electric stove. For the purposes of this story, I used a gas stove, but I don’t think that matters. Altogether, it’s only 3 pounds, so it’s easy to move it around your stovetop.
Because it does have that non-toxic, non-stick coating, I was wary of deep-frying the chicken breasts needed for my chicken parm but was able to achieve the rest of the meal without having to use a ton of pots and strainers. The Always Pan sample I received also had an added spruce steamer with cooking chopsticks.
It was a lazy Sunday, so I decided to try making traditional spaghetti with just that. I filled the pan with water, waited for it to boil, then placed the added strainer on top with the dry pasta. While it did cook, it was still kind of raw despite being submerged. The steamer basket is pretty narrow, and because the pan is a bit shallow, I was afraid it would over boil onto my stovetop, which isn’t good for the eventual clean-up. So I had to make the spaghetti in the traditional way—in an oversized pot with water salted just like the sea and then strained once al dente.
Once it was cooked, however, I was able to mix in the leftover red sauce I had to actually, you know ... create a finished spaghetti. For extra flavor, I added fresh garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, and thyme. Even though the steamer was a bust this time around for pasta, it did well in melting the mozzarella cheese when placed on top of the spaghetti. It took maybe 10 or so minutes to evenly spread on the fried chicken breasts, which eliminated placing the cutlets into the oven for a while and risking them drying out from the extra heat.
Making a meal in the Always Pan was a simple experience, and even after making chicken parm, it was used to steam veggies and cooking ramen later on. Clean-up was easy—I was able to rinse with a bit of soap and water without any real elbow grease, which is a plus in my book. Our Place now recommends that you hand wash to keep the non-stick intact for longer, but if you don’t care about it, throwing it in the dishwasher is an option.
Now, is it worth $145? Maybe! If you figure in the different ways you can use the pan as well as the custom strainer and spatula (which I didn’t even use), you’d probably pay that much to buy everything separately. The added bamboo steamer is a bonus, and I do see myself eventually making dumplings and stir-fry if quarantine continues well into the spring. It’s an investment, and I think I’d recommend it to anyone who already likes to cook, or is serious about learning how. It would especially be helpful for anyone who lives in a small space and can’t afford to use precious shelf space on thousands of pots, pans, and the lids that follow. All in all, the Always Pan is a solid option whether you’re passionate about food or just want to be a part of the fad.