In Search Of A Flat Pan…

Aka the pan for all reasons!

This article is for you if you are searching for the best flat pan to make any kind of flat, leavened or unleavened bread.  This the pan that goes by many names and has many uses.

 

For American cooking, you might be looking for a griddle pan or a pancake pan.

 

Into French cooking?  You might be looking for a crepe pan.

 

If you’re into Indian cooking, you might be looking for a traditional cast iron tawa (or tava) for making roti or chapati or dosa.  Or if you’re wary of cast iron, you could be looking for a good alternative pan that can release the bread without sticking and is designed for easy flipping.   

 

And for Mexican cooking?  A flat comal type pan for making those yummy tortillas.

 

Now if you’re like me, your cooking style might include a bit of everything. Could be pancakes for Sunday breakfast, tortillas for dinner, crepes for dessert….

 

And if you’re really like me, you really don’t want a different flat pan for each day of the week.  You want a pan that’s versatile but performs well for a variety of needs.   

 

Whatever your cooking needs, I’m going to suggest a one pan fits all strategy when it comes to your flat pan needs.  

 

And I’m going to offer you a couple of alternatives so you have a choice based on preference.  Fair enough?

 

Let’s get started.  But first, let’s dissect the basic needs of each of these types of flat pans.

 

Not interested in details and just want to know the best flat pan options?  Go here

Pancake/griddle pan:

You need a pan that conducts heat evenly and is super flat.  I also think you need a pan with a good non-stick surface.

 

Crepe pan:  

Definitely need a pan that heats evenly and is flat. Because a crepe is a thin and delicate flat bread, it can be tricky to turn and flip a crepe.  So it would help if it had low sides.

 

Indian Tawa or Tava for making roti/ chapati / dosa

The Indian tawa is quite an interesting piece of cookware.  The traditional tawa is made of cast iron and is either flat, concave or convex.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tava).  

As with any cast iron cookware, a cast iron tawa needs to be seasoned.  But once you get over the learning curve and learn to season it, it is extremely durable and lasts for generations.

For making Indian flatbreads, a pan needs to have a thick base so that heat is properly distributed to cook the flat bread quickly and evenly.  A thin pan is likely to burn the roti or flatbread.

Nowadays, of course, we have the convenience of a hard anodized aluminum tava/tawa with non-stick coating.  So if the idea of seasoning cast iron is daunting for you, you have an option. Just be aware that with constant use, a non-stick pan will wear out its coating and will need to be replaced.  

Mexican Comal Pan:

From the description on Wikipedia, a Comal pan seems a lot like an Indian tawa.  Traditionally made from heavy cast iron, it has a smooth, flat surface and is used to cook South American goodies like tortillas and arepas as well as a variety of other uses.

I’m sure there are other uses of flat pans that I haven’t thought of but the point of this article is to suggest a few choices so you can select the best flat pan for your needs.  

 

Flat Pan Choice #1:

If you’re looking for the absolute best, most versatile pan for making pancakes, crepes, roti or tortilla, my #1 recommendation is the Lodge Cast Iron Round Griddle.

The Cookware Advisor rating:

5/5 stars

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Let’s see how it does on our ‘Flat Pan Checklist’ of 6 criteria:

Heavy Gauge:

Made of thick, heavy cast iron. This means that it doesn’t get hot instantly (thereby, won’t burn thinner types of flatbreads) but when it does, it stores and maintains heat.  In fact, it holds the heat for a long time after the flame is turned off.

 

Even Heat:

Because it is heavy and flat, the Lodge cast iron pan provides even heat which ensures the flat bread cooks evenly and quickly.

 

Flat Bottom:

The lodge cast iron griddle sits completely flat on your stovetop.  This makes it ideal for all kinds of cooktops including ceramic glass tops. The flat bottom also ensures that the entire flat bread cooks evenly.  

 

Nonstick:

There is no non-stick coating on this pan.  By its nature, cast iron needs seasoning to make it non-stick.  This pan is pre-seasoned and users recommend lightly oiling before cooking on it.  But here’s the real bonus: over time, the pan develops a natural non-stick coating with use which is more non-stick than Teflon

 

Easy To Flip:

 The pan has a very low lip so it is ideal for things that need to be flipped. Which includes crepes, pancakes rotis, dosas….

 

Durable:

This is one of the most rugged pans you could own.  There’s no need to treat it delicately since there is no non-stick coating to worry about and you don’t need plastic or wood utensils. If you use it well and treat it right, it can last for generations.

 

There’s nothing like cooking on cast iron and once you get the hang of it, you have a pan that heats uniformly and produces remarkably consistent results.

 

Things to know:

  • Yes, there is a slight learning curve when it comes to cast iron cookware.  But at the end of it you have a pan that will last literally forever.
  • It’s a good idea to apply a very light coating of oil before each use.
  • Season the pan after each use and over time it will becomes virtually non stick.
  • Avoid the use of soap to clean it.  Sometimes even a dry wipe down is enough.  If not, just use a soft brush and hot water.  Dry on stove and then apply a light coat of oil to re-season it.

Conclusion:

This pan is great for mainstream uses like pancakes, crepes, omelettes and eggs but is also  the perfect alternative for the Indian tawa/tava and the Mexican Comal pan.   

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Note: This pan comes in a 10 inch size but if you feel you need a slightly bigger cooking surface, consider the Lodge 12 inch Square Griddle Pan.

 

Flat Pan Choice #2:

My second choice for a versatile pan for making flat breads is Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Nonstick Hard-Anodized Crepe Pan.

The Cookware Advisor rating: 

 4.5 stars

 

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We measured this pan against our ‘Flat Pan Checklist’ and it came out with flying colours:

Heavy Gauge:

The Chef’s Classic crepe pan is a heavy duty pan made of a thick base of hard anodized aluminum. The thickness of a pan is a sign of quality since it means more material was used to make the pan and it’s more likely to sit flat and have no hotspots. A heavier pan is also less likely to warp from high heat. But this pan is not too heavy for the hands, making it a great option if you find cast iron pans too heavy.

 

Even Heat:

By all accounts, the pan heats up quickly and evenly with no hot spots. Aluminum is one of the best conductors of heat and this pan delivers on the promise of quick and even heating.

 

Flat Bottom:

The pan is heavy so its stays perfectly flat on the stove which ensures the flatbread gets even heat.

 

Nonstick:

This flat pan is coated with a ptfe (like teflon) based nonstick coating called Quantanium. This is a reinforced nonstick coating with titanium particles blended into it to make it a lot more durable and longer lasting. Quantanium is a 3 layer nonstick coating made by the company Whitford and according to the company, this nonstick coating is designed to stand up to almost anything. As a matter of interest, the number of layers in the nonstick coating is one of the factors that determines the quality of the nonstick. A 3 layer nonstick pan will very outperform a cheaper pan with only 1-2 layers of nonstick.

Easy To Flip:

 The edges of this pan are smooth, curved and very low which makes it easy to flip an item.

 

Durable:

The pan itself is heavy weight and durable. However, keep in mind, any nonstick coating will eventually wear out after use and this is no exception. The good thing is the base is a hard anodized aluminum which is non-reactive with food and ‘low-stick’ by nature. So even if the nonstick wears out, you have a usable pan. But still, unlike a cast iron pan, you will likely be be looking to replace this pan after a couple of years of use. This is the only reason we give it a 4.5 star rating vs a 5 star rating for the Lodge Cast Iron pan.

Note: This pan comes in a 10 inch size but if you feel you need a slightly bigger cooking surface, consider the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic nonstick square griddle.  It’s a slightly bigger 11 inch square.

 

Conclusion:

Don’t let the name ‘crepe pan’ throw you off.  This pan performs well for all kinds of flat bread needs including pancakes, crepes, roti, dosa, tortilla.     Get this pan for your flat pan needs if you are not interested in seasoning a pan and are looking for something lighter than cast iron.

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Summary:

Here are The Cookware Advisors top choices for a flat pan for making crepes, pancakes, roti, dosa, tortilla etc:

  1. Lodge Cast Iron Round Griddle.
  2. Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Nonstick Hard-Anodized Crepe Pan.

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