A good omelette classes up a meal to an unbelievable degree. It’s as skilled a performance as you’ll ever see at breakfast and the only eggs you should eat at a hotel buffet (or the hard-boiled, but those are the most boring of eggs). Making an omelette isn’t about the ingredients so much as it’s about technique, and a key part of the technique is your omelette pan. Do you need to spend a fortune to make that happen?
Read on to the see the results from our testing.
|1. Calphalon Select|
|2. Copper Chef|
|3. All-Clad Essentials|
|5. Gotham Steel|
|7. Stone Earth|
|8. The Rock|
OMELETTE MAKING & PANS
There are a lot of things around the world that get classified as omelettes, mostly because they’re so tasty and versatile. The core concept is beaten eggs cooked in a pan and kept as a whole unit (break up the curds and you get scrambled eggs). From there, omelettes go out in all directions. Some sort of filling is pretty standard, though the classic French omelette is just eggs on eggs. Usually the omelette is cooked on the stovetop and folded around its fillings to have a distinct inside and outside, but the frittata gets finished in the oven and stays open-faced. Most of the time omelettes are savory, except the Japanese tamagoyaki is often sweet.
Special thanks to Peter Crane for taking us through the art of making The American Omelette.
That paragraph could go on and on, but I think the point is clear: omelettes are diverse. For this article, we’re focusing in on the classic American omelette, which I’m defining as beaten whole eggs, cooked on the stovetop in a little butter, and folded around a savory filling. We’re also targeting 8” and 10” pans here, so we’re looking at a reasonable omelette for one person using two or three eggs. Giant omelettes have their own set of issues.
Enough, Just Jump Me to the Results
Do you really need a special pan for cooking omelettes?
It depends on how you define special pan. Your basic pan for cooking omelettes is an eight inch nonstick skillet with gently sloping sides. This sort of pan might do any number of jobs in the kitchen, but there’s value in assigning one pan for just omelettes (or at least just for eggs). To make a good omelette, you need a pan that is thoroughly and aggressively nonstick. Any problems with the pan will leave important chunks of your omelette stuck on the pan, so you’ve got to maintain the nonstick finish carefully. The omelette pan should be for eggs only, with only soft utensils used on it — no metal.
Nothing lasts forever, especially nonstick pans.
Your cast iron and your stainless steel pans will last your entire life if you take good care of them, but even the best nonstick cookware loses its nonstick luster in a couple of years. Once the nonstick starts to fade, they become super-sticky, which is the kiss of death for eggs. My family’s pattern has been that a new skillet starts off as the egg pan, then bumps down to become the new small skillet, then falls down to be the camping skillet.
One of the questions we really wanted to answer with this test kitchen is whether a cheap pan could make do as your omelette pan. The new coatings they’re making now are incredibly nonstick and very inexpensive, which points to them making great omelette pans, but we were wondering if they’d last long enough to be worthwhile. Three eight-month pans can be a good bit cheaper than one two-year pan, and you don’t have to worry about damage that much. If somebody scrapes up your $100 All-Clad, that’s a big problem. If somebody scrapes up your $18 Copper Chef, there’s a new one waiting for you at the grocery store.
The most-classic way of making omelettes is in a steel or cast iron pan with copious amounts of butter to keep everything from sticking. Tasty, but this requires careful seasoning and plenty of work to maintain. Since the late 1950s, companies have taken regular pans and applied Teflon to them to make them non-stick. Better quality pans start with a better base pan and get more and better applications of nonstick coating.
The idea of applying a nonstick coating to pans doesn’t end with Teflon. Manufacturers in the last decade or so have introduced new coatings, often on relatively inexpensive pans. One you see a lot is the ceramic-lined copper-style pans. Copper is a classic material for high-end and restaurant pans because of its extremely high heat transfer. Copper pans change temperature very quickly, which restaurant chefs love because they can work with a very hot stove and control the pan temperature by moving it on and off the heat. You can recognize actual copper cookware by the staggering price tag.
The cheap pans you see at the supermarket use a ceramic lining on an aluminum pan plus copper coloring for advertising. They’re advertised as extremely nonstick and easy to clean — we’ll see how that bears out.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve been seeing pans with a speckled stone styling and a so-called stone-derived nonstick surface. What is it? Hard to say. The manufacturers aren’t saying directly, but it appears to be a combination of something extremely similar to, but not exactly Teflon, possibly plus a ceramic layer, and definitely with a custom-branded finish to show off their line in the marketplace. We’ll see how it goes in the test kitchen.
Got Eggs? Check out our electric egg cooker testing.
Specialized Omelette Pans
We added in a couple of specialized pans just to try them out.
One is a Japanese tamagoyaki pan in a rectangular shape. It’s for making the Japanese rolled omelette by layering up several layers of omelette into a big roll that’s shaped and sliced.
The other is a hinged pan that claims to make an easy American omelette by cooking eggs on both halves of the pan, then flipping the hinge closed to sandwich the omelette together around the filling. You then flip the whole thing over like one of those hotel Belgian waffle makers to finish the omelette on both sides. We’ll be trying both of these out to see what we think. Read on, or catch the video by clicking here.
The goal of our omelette pan test is to find a pan that will make good omelettes over a reasonable period of time. We’re looking for a pan that’s easy to use and produces a good omelette, both right out of the box and after getting scratched up in our torture test.
- After washing out each pan, we cooked an omelette in each one and noted the ease of use and quality of the finished product.
- We then washed out the pans and scraped each fifty times with a metal spatula, changing directions every ten scratches.
- We washed the pans again and looked for visible damage, then made another omelette and noted any differences.
- After another wash, we scraped the pans with a chainmail scrubber eighty times: twenty circles each direction and twenty scrapes each horizontally and vertically.
- Another wash and damage check come next, followed by another omelette.
Whisk together 3 large eggs, 1 tablespoon whole milk, and a big pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Heat an omelette pan over medium heat until hot (about 350°) and add 1 teaspoon butter. When foaming subsides, pour egg mixture into the pan.
Add filling to the half of the omelette nearest the handle. Slide the omelette in the pan to get it loose (free with the spatula if there is a sticky spot), then let it slide up on the far side of the pan. Give it a little flip towards you to fold the top half onto the bottom half. Reverse your grip on the handle and bring the skillet over the plate. Slide the finished omelette out of the pan onto the plate.
- This is a fast-cooking recipe, so have everything you need at the ready, including the plate. It’s about 90 seconds from when the eggs go in the pan to when the omelette hits the plate.
- Don’t overdo the filling — plan on about 2‒3 tablespoons per omelette at most. Make sure fillings are ready-to-eat, precooking as needed. Grate cheese finely so it can melt quickly.
- Our test kitchen omelette is an Omelette aux Fines Herbes featuring a filling of about ½ teaspoon finely minced tarragon and 1 teaspoon minced chives.
- To prepare this in quantity, mix the same ratio of ingredients in a large bowl and portion with a ½ cup ladle.
The Calphalon Select comes in a set of two pans — an eight-inch and a ten-inch. We tried out the eight-inch pan. This is a traditional nonstick pan made from anodized aluminum. All three omelettes cooked easily and well, although there was a slight amount of visible damage to the surface after getting worked over by the chainmail. The final test with the ungreased fried egg revealed that the nonstick surface had been degraded enough that the egg stuck pretty good.
Despite the decay of the nonstick, this was one of the best feeling pans in the roundup. It was lightweight and easy to control, and features a very nice handle. One notable thing about this pan is that, though nominally eight inches, it’s got a relatively small cooking surface due to its very gentle slope on the edges. This is nice for controlling an omelette, but not the best for other uses.
We’ve beat on Copper Chef products on this site before, but this is their perfect opportunity to shine. Copper Chef stuff is always extremely nonstick, but the build quality can be lacking. The skillet outshone expectations, with three excellent omelettes and no visible damage after all of the scraping. The no-fat fried egg went the best of any of the pans in the test.
The ceramic coating here demonstrates that it can be extremely effective in the right hands. The pan is lightweight and easy to maneuver, including a comfortable handle that looks like it will hold up pretty well. The price is extremely good too, making this an easy choice for our best buy.
Don’t worry — you don’t need a second mortgage for the All-Clad Essentials. This is a relatively new value line from All-Clad, and you can pick up a set of 8” and 10” skillets for $50, or $100 for the 10” and 12”. This isn’t the Cadillac experience of their top lines, but there’s a lot to be said for affordability. All three omelettes cooked up nice, although the shape of the edge is a little too sharp for an easy fold. The no-fat fried egg went basically perfectly, with a nice easy release.
The All-Clad Essentials are heavy pans, and shape of the rim is not conducive to making great omelettes. The biggest problem, though, is the handle, which is just plain uncomfortable. Everything else about this pan is great, and while I don’t necessarily want it as my omelette pan, I’m really happy with it as my everyday pan.
The Techef is a rectangular pan for making Japanese tamagoyaki, a very cool omelette where you roll up multiple thin layers of omelette to produce a thick sliceable roll. The end product is slightly sweetened and has a nice creamy texture throughout. Or at least it does when a skilled person makes it. Armed with the expert training of two YouTube videos, I tried it out, and came up with something lopsided and a little overdone on the outer layers, but tasty. The pan is extremely nonstick, but a bit on the thin side, so you’ve got to really manage the heat. If you want to take a go at something different, this is a great tool for the job.
The Gotham Steel was the first of the copper-colored ceramic-lined pans we tried in this roundup. It started extremely well, with an aggressively nonstick surface that made a nice omelette. It rolled along after the spatula attack, but took some visible damage from the chainmail. That didn’t stop it from making a great third omelette, then an acceptable fatless fried egg.
The Gotham Steel pan was impressively nonstick, even after our abuse, but has an extremely awful handle. It’s thin and uncomfortable, and seems designed to jab into your palms when you try to pick it up. This pan is also one of the more expensive ones on this list, and while it’s not too bad, it’s not worth the extra money.
The T-Fal is another traditional nonstick skillet. Its gimmick is a color-changing spot in the middle that indicates when the pan is hot enough. How hot is that? Hot enough for what? Not a lot of info on that, so it’s a gimmick that’s better off ignored. The first omelette was a bit troublesome, with some tearing on the edges. Surprisingly, it got better after getting beaten up with the spatula (this probably involves the practice from making eight more omelettes in between). The third omelette after the chainmail scrub was also nice and easy. The T-Fal passed the final test of the no-fat fried egg with flying colors.
While the nonstick quality and the durability is quite good, the shape of this pan was unpleasant for omelette-making. It’s very slightly convex and the sides roll up a little too fast, which makes the eggs move in an awkward way. The handle is comfortable, but is a problem waiting to happen. There’s a small stub of metal coming off the outside of the skillet body that’s screwed onto a plastic handle. It’s only a matter of time before that comes loose or breaks.
The first of the stone-style pans in our roundup, the Stone Earth, did not make a great first impression. It’s noticeably heavier than the other styles of pan in the test, and was consequently slower to heat up. The omelettes had a bit of trouble with tearing at the edges on every test. The spatula also removed a bit of the lining, though the chainmail didn’t seem to do any more damage. The fried egg came out reasonably well, but did stick a bit.
The big problem with the Stone Earth wasn’t so much the durability issues (which were about average) but the shape of the pan. Where omelette pans should have a gentle curve so the spatula and pan movement can work the edges of the omelette, the Stone Earth has a very sharp edge that’s tough to work around. It’s also a little pricy, and not really worth the extra cash.
Though The Rock provided great opportunities for questionable Sean Connery impressions, it didn’t provide great omelettes. This is a stone-style pan like the Stone Earth, and acted similarly. It’s heavier than the other pans in this lineup and took longer to warm up to temperature. The omelettes stuck at the edges and wanted to tear in a similar way. The bottom of the pan took visible damage from the chainmail, and the fatless fired egg stuck too badly to flip.
The Rock had a little more forgiving shape than the Stone Earth, and the handle is quite comfortable. It has one amazing virtue: The Rock is cheap. You can get one for about the same amount as a Blu-ray of the movie, but you’ll be happier watching Sean Connery.
The NordicWare is an interesting concept. You get a pan split into two halves with a hinge in between them. The idea is, you put half of your egg mixture into each half, add fillings to one side (or both, I guess) when the egg is firm enough to support them, then fold the pan together to drop the sides together like a big sandwich of egg, then dump the whole thing on a plate with no folding skill needed. You also can get more fillings in there if you don’t have to make a clean fold.
In practice, it’s not so good. The semicircular chambers are hard to get a spatula into, so you can’t do much with the eggs, especially in the corners. When it’s time to flip, you have to grab a little loop handle that’s sitting right over the burner — not fun — and move it fast to keep everything inside. From there, flipping the whole thing to finish both sides requires a little dexterity with hot handles, as does dumping the finished omelette onto the plate.
The end product is fine for an overstuffed omelette, but not amazing. Since you can’t see inside the closed pan, it’s easy to overcook. The metal is also really thin, so it overreacts to little changes in heat. The nonstick worked admirably well on the first go, but when it starts to fade, this thing will basically stop working altogether. The NordicWare hinged pan is an amusing novelty, but not recommended, especially at double what the other pans cost.
The Cooksmark is another copper-styled ceramic-lined pan that looks exactly like the Gotham Steel, right down to the terrible handle. The similarity is uncanny, but sadly the quality is not. The first omelette came out great, but the surface started flaking off when attacked with the spatula, then more came off with chainmail, leaving readily visible scars on the surface. The second and third omelettes cooked OK, and while the fried egg stuck a little bit, it released without too much trouble.
This pan is a second-rate knockoff of the Gotham Steel, with significantly less durability and the same bad handle. It’s not even that much cheaper either.
A good omelette pan doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You can take a step down on the quality ladder and still get a good omelette, and should get a reasonable lifespan out of an inexpensive pan, provided you treat it right. Use only soft utensils, no abrasive cleaning pads, and put a dishtowel in it before stacking anything inside (or hang it up to avoid the problem altogether).
In conclusion, make more omelettes. Once you’ve got the technique down, it’s easy and impressive, and can do a great breakfast for one or a hundred. The right pan will make it simple.