Kitchen & Cooking

This pan had a 30,000-person waitlist—is it worth the hype?

We tried the Always pan that can replace eight pieces of cookware.

Our Place's cult favorite Always Pan is a small kitchen game changer. Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

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Having a fully functional kitchen typically requires more than one piece of cookware. There’s the frying pan, the cast iron skillet, and maybe a Dutch oven if you’ve got the extra bucks. Regardless of what your cooking demands are, trying to put together an array of useful cookware can be a hassle—which is why people love multi-functional kitchen tools that claim to do it all.

Enter the Always Pan($145) from direct-to-consumer brand Our Place, which is designed to replace eight pieces of cookware. Back in March, I tested the limited edition 10,000 Abilities Pan Lunar New Year bundle, which includes an Always Pan, a wooden steamer basket, and a pair of long chopsticks. The bundle was so popular that it was sold out quickly but Our Place now offers a Dinner for 4 bundle that comes with an Always Pan and gorgeous, ethically-made dinnerware and glasses.

What’s the Always Pan?

What's the Always Pan
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The Always Pan is a beautiful, functional cooking vessel that can replace eight pieces of cookware.

On first sight, the pan seems like a piece curated for Instagram aesthetics—every detail bears design in mind.

Painted in a soft, lavender color, the cast aluminum pan with ceramic nonstick coating comes with a domed lid, an acacia wooden spatula with spoon rest, and a nesting metal steamer basket. It's a hybrid of sorts—it’s deeper than a frying pan but flatter than a wok.

To test its abilities, I put this pan through the kitchen tasks that I typically throw at my sauté pan, wok, frying pan, and Dutch oven.

From deep frying chicken wings and searing thick cuts of meat to roasting peanuts and stir frying a vegetable medley over high heat, I evaluated its performance in cooking speed, heat retention and distribution, and ease of use. I also steamed dumplings, blanched vegetables, scrambled eggs, and cooked pasta using the accessories provided.

Further, I looked at how easy it was to clean and store this pan, as many of us live in small apartments or share apartments with others.

What I like about the Always pan

Our Place Pan
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

The thoughtful design of the pan makes it perfect for both shallow and deep frying.

I’ve used a wok for a year and the nonstick coating has slowly worn out. As I began the hunt for a new pan, I wanted to find a piece of nonstick cookware that’s PFOA-free, which made this pan’s ceramic coating appealing to me.

I started testing by roasting peanuts to see how the pan felt in my hands. I was amazed by how lightweight it felt; I could easily toss the peanuts as I do with my wok. Another advantage is that woks normally don’t work well on the flat induction or electric cooktop because of their cone-shaped bottom, but this pan is compatible with all cooktops.

Then I moved on to searing pork chops. Because of its aluminum core that conducts heat quickly, I had no trouble heating the pan within three minutes to get a crispy sear, while in comparison, my stainless steel pan takes more than five minutes to heat.

The pan is a perfect cooking vessel for deep frying, as it’s deep and wide enough to fry four large pieces of chicken at once, without crowding the space. The chicken came out crispy and delicious.

steam dumplings
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The steamer basket is useful for steaming dumpling, blanching pasta, and cooking pasta.

The accessories are sometimes useful. The metal basket is deep enough to hold a small bowl if I want to make steamed egg custard, or chawanmushi, blanched vegetables, or pasta. It works well for those purposes because there are handles on both sides that I can lift up instead of pouring all the contents of the pan into a strainer. The wooden nestling spatula is a nice addition to the pan, as you can start cooking right away.

All parts of the pan are dishwasher-safe, but the nonstick ceramic coating also makes it easy to rinse quickly under soapy water. In terms of storage, every accessory can be packed into the pan, which doesn’t take up more space than any ordinary sauté pan.

What I don’t like

Bottom
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The paint on the exterior becomes vulnerable when used against high heat.

Although I’m obsessed with the velvety color, the exterior paint can chip, especially over a gas stovetop where the metal grates come in contact with the bottom of the pan. This became more of an issue when I used the pan for stir frying, as I frequently tilted the pan back and forth over the stovetop. This doesn’t affect the overall performance of the pan, but it was annoying to see the lightly scratched bottom after my first use.

The handle gets hot
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The handle can get really hot while cooking.

Though the pan quickly got hot enough to give meat a nice sear, it didn’t retain the heat well. As I deep fried batches of chicken wings, I recorded a rapid drop in temperature as I adjusted the heat between each batch. If I used a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet for the same task, I wouldn’t have to wait as long to reheat the oil. While waiting for the pan to heat up, I also noticed the additional handle got overwhelmingly hot, which shouldn’t happen.

When it comes to accessories, my main qualm is that the metal nesting basket can’t function as a proper steamer. I’m no stranger to these baskets, as I grew up in a Chinese household. Typically, the baskets have at least 2-inch long legs so they can hold the contents above the waterline when steaming in woks and pots. This basket stands less than one inch tall in the pan, which makes steaming difficult as water easily reaches the bottom of the steamer. However, this basket can be helpful for blanching vegetables and cooking pasta.

My only other issue? This pan's not oven-safe. Although it can nail most kitchen tasks, unfortunately it can’t stand the high heat of an oven. It’s a bit disappointing considering that the pan, when sold individually, can be pricey. If you want a Dutch-oven-like piece that can handle the heat, then this pan will not do you any favors.

Should you get the Always Pan?

The ceramic nonstick coating
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

I love the smooth, ceramic nonstick coating—and it's chemical-free.

If you’re looking for a simple, nonstick pan that can make omelettes and stir fry, as well as cook steamed foods and one-pot pasta, then the Always Pan might be for you. Not only do I like how versatile the pan is over the stovetop, but I also appreciate that I can use it as a steamer to cook the foods that I grew up eating. If your kitchen routine involves simple, quick meals, then the standard Always Pan will do the trick.

If you live in a small apartment or share space with others, this is a storage-friendly solution to your cooking routine, as everything packs up in one piece. However, this is not the piece of cookware to replace all your pots and pans as it has a significant limitation—it can only cover stovetop cooking.

Still on the fence? We’ve tested popular cooking essentials from stainless steel skillets and stir fry pans, to trendy cookware sets, so you can find the best pots and pans to suit your needs.

Get the Always Pan from Our Place for $145

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