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We tried the Instagrammable pan that claims to replace 8 kitchen tools

Dubbed “the kitchen magician” by Oprah Winfrey, the alleged cult-favorite, all-in-one nonstick Always Pan, from brand Our Place, has haunted all of my social feeds for most of the year. With its millennial monochrome appeal and promise to replace eight traditional pieces of cookware, the Always Pan certainly caught my attention. But after reviewing a dozen pans earlier this year and coming to realize that once you reach a certain quality threshold, no two pans are all that different, I needed to know: Is the Always Pan really worth the hype?

TL;DR: Maybe.

The rundown

Always Pan
Always Pan
PHOTO: Our Place

For starters, the Always Pan arrived in wonderfully sustainable packaging: It was encased in a cardboard box, and smaller cardboard strips kept everything in place, without a piece of plastic in sight — a total win for the environmentally conscientious consumer. Along with the actual pan, the package came with a soft, dehydrated sponge and cleaning instructions. (You’re directed to give the pan a rinse in soap and water before first using it.)

While the product description claims Always Pan is lightweight, it clocks in at 3 pounds, and the lid is an additional pound. This is relatively heavy for a frying pan, and because of its heft, I can’t imagine anyone relying on it to flip flapjacks in the air (though maybe this is something that happens only in cartoons?). The pan is equipped with two pour spouts, which are convenient in theory, but because of the overall weight are not so easy to wield.

Chalk the pan’s mass up to its materials: It’s made from sturdy aluminum and coated with nonstick ceramic that’s free of chemicals, according to its website. The pan feels incredibly durable, similar to the standard cast iron that can withstand years of use and wear (but only time can tell here — Our Place has only been around since 2019).

The Always Pan also claims to ace the nonstick category, advising users to rely on just a tablespoon or two of fats with high smoke points (think olive, coconut, peanut and avocado oils), and here it delivers. Cheesy scrambled eggs, fried fish and smashed potatoes all cooked evenly with close to zero residue sticking to the pan’s surface. Impressive! I also boiled some pasta in the pan; the 2.7-inch depth (with 2.6-quart capacity) is definitely deeper than that of a standard frying pan, and my noodles reached perfect al dente texture without a hitch. Most exciting to me during this process was using the steamer basket to strain out the pasta water; the stainless steel basket isn’t huge, but I managed to fit a whole box of manicotti, only spilling a few outliers in the sink. This steam basket, by the way, does its intended job of steaming too. But the space between the basket and the pan’s surface is kind of puny, and it could be insufficient when you’re steaming something you want to keep water from messing with. If you’re just steaming a bag of frozen broccoli, however, you’re covered.

The pan’s accompanying beechwood spatula fits like Tetris into its allotted spot, and while hardly necessary for kitchen success, this feature is really thoughtful. Instead of placing the spoon on any clear section of the countertop — something that can be frustrating for a person who has very little counter space to begin with — the spoon nestles comfortably in the pan. I did find myself forgetting to take advantage of this bonus, but imagine with a little more practice, I could learn this new behavior.

On the spatula itself: A good wooden spoon is essential for cooking, especially because many pans, including the Always Pan, don’t mesh well with metal, which can scratch the coating and undo the non-stick functionality. Beyond its neat “integration,” however, there’s nothing so stand-out about the spatula; I found it nice to hold, but otherwise unremarkable. After only a handful of uses, my spatula is already stained red with pasta sauce, and since it’s a hand wash-only piece of equipment, I imagine it will stay this way. The spatula is also thicker than what I’m used to, and I couldn’t operate it smoothly when cooking eggs or flipping over fish fillets (and so I used a different spatula, which is absolutely fine, but not when something claims to replace eight pieces of cookware).

The lowdown

Always Pan
Always Pan
PHOTO: Our Place

If you’re in a small space, have yet to amass a cookware collection or prepare very simple meals, this pan may charm you. Some highlights: The Always Pan is accomplished at even heating. Its integrated spoon rest is clever, keeping messes off countertops, and the steamer basket can double as a colander — a true perk for anyone who experiences a rush from using as few dishes as possible.

Where it falls short? While the pan can braise, sear, steam, strain, saute and fry, it cannot do any of these cooking verbs simultaneously. That’s the beauty of having multiple pans on a stovetop: You can steam veggies in one while braising chicken in the other. It is possible this pan poses a learning curve to people (like me) who are used to running at least two burners at the same time. But from my cooking experience, it’s nice to have separate dishes cook concurrently so everything stays hot.

One thing I found a bit surprising: The Always Pan is not meant to be put in the oven. There are plenty of frying pans that can withstand upward of 400 degrees fahrenheit, and since this pan claims to replace so many kitchen tools, it’d be extra convenient if it could serve as a baking dish, too.

The bottom line

This pan currently sits on my stovetop, and it is nice to look at. I will keep using it, but it won’t be the only pan I ever use again. At $145, it’s not a budget buy, but it’s not a one-and-done, either — like, you won’t regret buying this pan in a month. I think it’d make a great gift for someone new to living on their own (a college grad, perhaps), but it’s not a must-have investment for someone who loves to cook, and cooks a lot.

This article originally appeared here