We tried the pan that claims to do 10,000 different things—does it work?
Here's how the Always Pan performs
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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 devices that claim to do it all.
Enter the 10,000 Abilities Pan from direct-to-consumer brand Our Place, which claims to have—yes—10,000 uses. Intrigued, I wanted to know if the pan was worth the hype—so I put it to the test in my own kitchen. The 10,000 Abilities Pan is so popular, there’s a waitlist for the restock, unless you order it as part of the Year of the Rat bundle, which also includes a cleaver and two plates. But the pan itself is the same as its flagship product, the Always Pan (which just lacks an additional spruce steam basket).
What’s the 10,000 Abilities Pan?
On first sight, the pan seems like a piece curated for Instagram aesthetics—every detail bears design in mind. Painted in a bright, clay red, the cast aluminum pan comes with a domed lid, an acacia wood spatula, a nesting metal steam basket, a spruce steam basket that fits over the pan, and a pair of long chopsticks. It's a hybrid of sorts—it’s deeper than a frying pan but flatter than a wok.
To test its “10,000 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, 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 this pan
I’ve used a wok for a few years and the nonstick coating has slowly worn out. As I began the hunt for a new pan, I wanted to find a nonstick pan 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 accessories are sometimes useful. I like the spruce steamer because it’s large enough to cook three dozen dumplings simultaneously, which is a major step up compared to the bamboo steamer I own. The basket is also deep enough to hold a small bowl if I want to make steamed egg custard, or chawanmushi.
I mostly used the nesting metal steamer for blanching vegetables or cooking pasta. It works well for those two 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 pan is also a good 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.
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 about this pan
Although I’m obsessed with the velvety color, the exterior paint chips easily, 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 scratched bottom after my first use.
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.
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 qualm? 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, if 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 10,000 Abilities or Always Pan?
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 10,000 Abilities pan (currently available in the Year of the Rat bundle) 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 you're willing to forgo the wooden steamer basket, 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.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.