Published January 1, 2009. From Cook's Illustrated.
What’s the best pan for making an omelet?
What’s the best pan for making an omelet? Most brands of cookware offer an 8-inch nonstick “omelet” pan, but these are usually just smaller versions of their full-size skillets, with upright sides that make it difficult to turn and roll out a perfect omelet. Traditionally, a French omelet is made in a shallow, curved pan of black steel, which becomes seasoned and increasingly nonstick over time. We began our search by testing a black steel pan, which heated quickly and held its high temperature, turning out two-egg omelets with precision. Unfortunately, this pan didn’t work with our French Omelet recipe, which calls for a tight lid to help cook the eggs through—the pan’s sharply sloping handle made it impossible for lids to fit. Another disadvantage: Black steel pans can never be washed with soap and must be dried completely or they lose the surface seasoning that makes them nonstick.
We also tested a pan made specifically for French omelets, created in 1963 when Julia Child asked The Pot Shop of Boston to design it, and where it is still sold today. Well-constructed of thick, heavy-cast aluminum, which maintains consistent heat, the curving shape and gently sloped sides are ideal for omelets. Time and again it produced flawless omelets that were perfectly golden with a creamy center, but the high price tag is a major drawback.
When developing our French Omelet recipe, we used the 8-inch version of our favorite nonstick skillet, whose stainless steel with an aluminum core produced steady, even heat, and its gently curving sides worked well for rolling out omelets, but again, the hefty price tag of $90 made us question whether we should revisit cheaper brands.
After testing three nonstick 8-inch pans (all under $25), we found that one of them—a gently curved model made of hard-anodized aluminum—came closest to replicating the performance of the pricier pans. It was thinner than the high-end pans, making it heat more quickly, but still was able to produce perfect French omelets—at a bargain price.