Are Expensive Pans Necessarily Better?

From left: Crestware 9-inch professional-gauge fry pan, All-Clad Master Chef 2 9-inch fry pan.

In this corner, clad in extra-heavy-duty aluminum for durability, from China by way of Bowery Kitchen Supply in New York City, and weighing in at 19.25 ounces, the challenger, Crestware Professional Gauge Fry Pan!

And in this corner, wearing brushed aluminum over stainless steel, from Pennsylvania by way of , and tipping the scales at 25.9 ounces, the champ, All-Clad Master Chef 2 9-Inch Fry Pan!

Tonight, these two frying pans will face each other in an epic battle to determine who can fry the better egg.

Is the All-Clad as professional as it claims? Can an upstart that costs a quarter of the price come from the kitchen-supply shop and reach the top? This is what I set out to determine in my kitchen. To maintain a level playing field, I put each frying pan on a gas burner and turned the heat to medium-high. After about a minute, I added one tablespoon of unsalted butter to each pan and continued to let them come up to temperature. Quickly, though, I became concerned. While All-Clad's butter bubbled nicely, Crestware's had already begun to turn brown. Determined to waste no time, I cracked an egg in each pan. The white set quickly on Crestware, barely spreading beyond the yolk. But the white moved out further on All-Clad. The pans seemed to be at two different temperatures, even though my stove dial was set to six. Ding, ding—end of round one.

Charging from their corners, both competitors commenced with sizzling, and I grabbed the handle of the All-Clad (nicely rounded on the edges, ergonomic for good gripping) to slide the egg a bit in the pan. I moved over and grabbed the handle of Crestware (not nicely rounded, squared off edges dug into my palm) and pulled my hand back quickly. That sucker was hot! Iremembered my restaurant days and used a towel to grab the handle while I slid the egg around the pan. So far, so good: Both eggs were bubbling and spitting, crisping nicely along their edges. But wait, what was that? Ding, ding—end of round two.

Smoke? Smoke was coming off Crestware as the butter burned! I looked to All-Clad. No smoke. Butter sizzling nicely. Clearly Crestware was now considerably hotter than All-Clad. An acrid smell filled my kitchen as I flipped each egg and cracked fresh pepper and salt on top. After an easy-over, I slid the eggs onto a plate (careful to use a towel when holding Crestware) for the final test: taste. In the last moments of the final round, the fight intensified as both eggs tasted delicious. Crisp whites, creamy yolks, ideal flavor. But there was an odd sound coming from my kitchen. I kept hearing a distinct "plink" every minute or so. Putting my ear next to Crestware, I determined it was "plinking" as it cooled. Ding, ding—end of the third and final round.

To the judges! How to score this frying pan battle? The champ's corner was hoping for a TKO, but the judges didn't oblige. The All-Clad pan is heavier, feels more substantial in the hand, and has a much more comfortable handle. Crestware got surprisingly hot quicker than expected and the butter burned. But this problem could have been eliminated by using a slightly lower heat on the challenger pan. Given the price differential ($9.99 for Crestware, $39.95 for All-Clad), Crestware delivered a nicely cooked egg.

The final outcome? Both eggs were delicious, but Crestware was outclassed in this battle by All-Clad.