Our Place Always Pan
How we tested
The fall after I graduated from college, I moved to New York City and into an apartment with two roommates and a very tiny kitchen. It had a stove, a couple cupboards, a single countertop, and a refrigerator. Only one person could fit in there at a time, and with such limited space (countertop- and cabinet-wise), I had to leave 99 percent of my cookware and kitchen supplies, including my Dutch oven, saucepans, and stainless-steel and nonstick skillets, at my parents’ house. I would’ve loved to have had a pan that offered an all-in-one option, something that maximized functionality and minimized needed storage space.
The Our Place Always Pan promises to do just that: replace a fry pan, sauté pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, nonstick pan, spatula, and spoon rest. Priced at $145, it’s pretty, too, with a matte finish and shades such as “spice,” “sage,” and “lavender.” Reviews in Vogue called it a “game changer” and praised the pan's "chic minimalist appeal," while Food & Wine loved its nonstick surface, nesting spatula rest, and built-in spout.
We were curious: Could the Our Place Always Pan actually do it all? And how does the pan compare with the cookware and tools it promises to replace? To find out, we put it through a round of tests, using it to make Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry; steam dumplings, broccoli, and eggs; boil pasta; and simmer tomato sauce—tasks designed to test the pan’s multiple components, capacity, and maneuverability. We also cooked eggs in the pan one after the other without any fat until they started to stick. We performed this test both at the beginning and end of testing, to see how the pan’s nonstick coating performed with use.
Cooking in the Pan
The Our Place Always Pan is shaped like a sauté pan, with medium-high, straight sides, but has a ceramic nonstick surface (more on that below). Here’s what we liked about cooking in it: Its 3-inch-tall walls helped contain food when we were sautéing and stir-frying, such as when we made Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry, and we thought the pan’s pour spout was smart, since it allowed us to easily pour water and tomato sauce from it. The pan was also fairly light—about 3 pounds without the lid—which made it easy to lift and maneuver around the stovetop. It was also painless to clean, thanks to its nonstick surface.
However, we took issue with the pan’s size and shape. The Our Place Always Pan had a 8.5-inch cooking surface, whereas our favorite 12-inch nonstick and ceramic skillets have surfaces that are 1 to 1¼ inches larger. This smaller cooking area was especially noticeable when making the stir-fry. The ingredients were crowded in the pan, so the beef took longer to brown. The straight, high walls also made it trickier to maneuver a nonstick spatula under the eggs. Another complaint? The pan wasn’t ovensafe, which limited what we could use it for (no frittatas, for example, which start on the stove and finish in the oven); both our favorite nonstick and ceramic skillets are ovensafe up to 430 and 600 degrees, respectively.
The pan also claimed that it can replace a saucepan and a saucier. However, its walls were not as high as either one of those pans. We knew just by looking at it that it was too small for cooking a whole pound of pasta, so we tried making just one serving instead. After we brought the water to a boil and added the pasta, the water erupted over the sides of the pan multiple times throughout cooking. In addition, tomato sauce spurted up and over the sides of the pan when we heated it.
Durability: Nonstick and Otherwise
Next, we evaluated the pan's nonstick coating. A good nonstick coating allows you to cook foods that tend to stick, such as eggs and fish fillets, without tearing them or leaving a mess behind. The Our Place Always Pan had a ceramic nonstick surface. The coatings on traditional nonstick skillets contain polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a compound that can release dangerous fumes when heated above 500 degrees. Ceramic skillets get their nonstick properties from a material derived from beach sand, so they pose no risk of releasing toxic fumes, even at high temperatures. As we’ve found in previous tests, a ceramic coating does have some drawbacks: It’s more brittle and likely to develop microscopic surface cracks with use. The more microscopic surface cracks, the likelier food is to stick to it.
So how durable was the Our Place Always Pan’s ceramic nonstick coating? To find out, we cooked eggs in it without any fat, in succession, with a plan to stop at 50 eggs or whenever the eggs began to stick, whichever came first. In the initial test, we made it to 44 eggs—a clear sign the coating had begun to be much less effective; we tried a second egg test at the end of testing for good measure and made it through only four eggs before there was severe sticking. When we compared the Our Place Always Pan’s performance with those of our favorite nonstick and ceramic skillets (both were able to easily cook 50 eggs without sticking at the beginning and end of testing), it just didn’t measure up.
A good pan should also be able to stand up to aggressive use. To push the limits of the pan’s durability, we performed several tests. We started by dragging a paring knife across the surface, as if we were slicing into a frittata. This is a tough test and, unsurprisingly, the surface became marred by scratches. The pan did fare well in our other durability tests, though: It didn’t warp when we heated it up and plunged it into ice water, nor did it become dented when we whacked it against a cement block. Only a few exterior spots at the base of the pan chipped.
Getting a Handle on Things—Literally
The pan’s sleek design did itself a disservice when it came to ease of use. A big complaint was the shape of the pan’s handle: It was rectangular, with squared-off edges that dug into our palms. We did appreciate the handle’s included spoon rest, which was convenient, and liked the addition of a helper handle. However, we wished the latter was a bit bigger, which would have allowed us to easily grab onto it using a dish towel or oven mitt.
The Pan’s Lid
We also evaluated the accessories the pan came with. First up: the lid, which was a plus, as not all pans or skillets include one. The lid was light, and its handle stayed cool enough to grasp without a pot holder. The lid had a gap where it aligned with the pan’s handle so that you could lock the lid in place, preventing steam from escaping, a helpful feature when steaming dumplings, broccoli, and eggs.
The Steamer Basket/Colander
Next up: the pan’s combination steamer basket/colander, which was a better steamer basket than it was a colander. The stainless-steel basket was large enough to accommodate an entire bag of frozen dumplings and more than a pound of broccoli florets. However, its two handles—which rest on the outside of the basket and are lifted inward when in use—were floppy, and we struggled to grab them.
Using the basket as a colander had its limitations: Unlike our favorite colander, the basket was shallow and had short walls, which limited how much pasta we could drain in it; it worked best for one or two servings. It also lacked a base or sizable feet, which prevented water from draining efficiently and caused a large volume of water to pool in the sink and flood back into the colander.
The Wooden Spatula
Finally, let’s talk about the pan’s wooden spatula. While Our Place labels its included utensil a “spatula,” it more closely resembled our favorite wooden spoon, which is actually called a “spootle,” or a combination spoon and spatula. We liked the utensil’s slim, long front edge that was good for scraping and its rounded bowl that was helpful for scooping. But like the pan, the spatula had a rectangular-shaped handle and square corners that were sharp and uncomfortable to hold.
Bottom Line: Do You Need the Our Place Always Pan?
So should you buy this pan? Most likely not. If you’re a serious cook, you’ll probably find buying separate pieces of cookware more worthwhile. If you have minimal kitchen and storage space and want the same functionalities the Our Place Always Pan offers, we think a 12-inch nonstick skillet or ceramic skillet, a lid, a Dutch oven, a collapsible steamer basket, a wooden spoon, and a colander would be better investments and cost you about $205 (if you opt for our budget-friendly picks), compared with the Our Place Always Pan, which costs $145. And if you have room for only one or two pans, a good 12-inch nonstick skillet or ceramic skillet and a Dutch oven would be more useful. However, we can see the appeal for those who have small kitchens (the recent-college-grad version of me would’ve loved this pan) and value aesthetically pleasing cookware. This pan will also be more useful if you’re cooking for one or two people than if you’re in a larger household. However, it still struggled to boil pasta for one, so it’s less versatile than we’d like, even for small households.
- Test the Our Place Always Pan, priced at $145
- Fry eggs in a new pan with no oil, one after another, until they begin to stick (up to 50 eggs)
- Make Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry
- Steam frozen dumplings, broccoli, and eggs
- Boil pasta, drain it, and then heat tomato sauce
- Wash the pan and its parts six times by hand after each test
- After above tests, repeat dry-egg test to see if the nonstick coating has deteriorated with use
- Make four cuts in the pan (as if slicing a frittata into servings) using a paring knife and check for scratching
- Heat pan to 400 degrees and then plunge it into 32-degree water and check for warping
- Bang the pan three times on a cement block to gauge durability, checking for any dents or damage
Nonstick Ability: We noted how many eggs were cleanly released before sticking occurred and if food we prepared between the egg tests stuck or was easy to remove.
Capacity: We compared the size of the pan with our favorite nonstick and ceramic skillets and noted whether we could stir food without spilling it and whether it was able to accommodate recipes that serve four.
Ease of Use: We considered whether the pan was easy to maneuver on the stovetop and whether the pan’s handle and components were comfortable and easy to grasp.
Durability: We noted if the pan dented, warped, and/or scratched.