BA Reviews Vermicular Frying Pan
Last summer I wrote about cast iron pans on this very site, insisting that you absolutely need it. (I stand by that.) “If you already have one, move on!” I added. I believed it – and for many cooks, a cast iron workhorse will do. But since I wrote this article, fancy cast iron pans have been following me everywhere, popping up in targeted ads and serious conversations from fellow cooks. Fortunately, finally, I yielded to the temptation; I tried the elegant Vermicular stove.
The vermicular skillet claims to do everything you’d expect from a classic cast iron skillet, like this reliable Lodge which is often on sale for $18. This means you can expect the pan to be durable, evenly heated and ideal for high heat cooking. But beyond that, Vermicular says its skillet will “recalibrate your cast iron cooking expectations” with its “featherweight design” and “heavyweight performance.” Unlike traditional cast iron skillets, the Vermicular also sports a nonstick enamel coating and claims to offer the best of both worlds: the smoothness of the best nonstick skillets coupled with the high heat capacity of cast iron. I loved the idea of a pan that doesn’t require two hands to move from stovetop to table. But I worried that without the weight, the vermicular pan would cool quickly when it came into contact with a large cut of meat and wondered if the pan could really be as low maintenance as expected. Plus, this pan is $155, with a matching glass lid for $40 – would it be worth it?
To test these factors, I used my Vermicular in place of my backup Lodge for Everything for three months. (Well, almost everything – more on its limits later.) I browned some mushrooms and wilted bok choy, seared this fancy-looking skillet steak, actually steak, fried shallots and steamed plump clams using this $40 lid. I’ve also cooked a few things I’d normally only trust on the shiny surface of a nonstick skillet: that weekday crispy tofu, for example, and scrambled eggs.
After a few months of frying and searing, I can say the vermicular pan is light and heats evenly and quickly as advertised. If you’re looking for a pan that will live permanently on your stovetop, this is the one. Its design is eye-catching enough that you never want to put it away anyway; while most cast iron cookware is rustic and inviting, the skillet is more modern than prairie. You’ll sear meat and fish, sautéed vegetables, crispy tofu, roasted nuts and caramelized onions here with bliss, thanks to the searing surface and quick evaporation of moisture. The nonstick enamel coating will stay in reasonably good condition with little maintenance, making it ideal for anyone intimidated by the rigors of cast iron maintenance. It’s a beautiful piece of cookware that delivers precision where traditional cast iron just delivers a huge dose of heat.
Yet the wooden handle, although ergonomically designed and lightweight, is not oven safe and cuts the use of the pan in half. For this reason alone, the Vermicular Skillet is ideal for someone who already has a traditional cast iron skillet for all their skillet cookies and roast chickens.
- Lightweight and evenly heating
- Almost non-stick
- Easier to maintain than traditional cast iron
- High price
- The handle is not oven safe
The Vermicular Skillet comes in two sizes: a 9.4″, which has a 2″ depth for easy frying, and a 10.2″, which has a 1.6″ depth. The 9.4″, which I tried, weighs only 2.3 lbs. In comparison, a 9″ Lodge cast iron skillet weighs 4.17 lbs. The base of the pan itself is as thin as a non-stick pan and has a smooth enamel coating, which essentially means the pan is even better at evaporating liquid than a standard cast iron, allowing for deep frying, faster and more even searing and caramelization. Think of the enamel layer of your dutch oven: it is a thinner layer of it. It’s not as scratch-resistant as the thick, glossy coating of a Le Creuset; it’s just a step up from standard, naturally porous ‘raw’ iron.