There's nothing nicer than getting a sizzling curry on the go. When you start frying that delicious base gravy, your entire kitchen will be full of delicious smells. The end result can depend very much on the equipment that you use. Today, I will take a detailed look at the best pan for cooking curry in my Indian Cookware UK guide. I'll show you what they use in authentic Indian takeaways and talk you through some of the particulars. I've even included a few suggestions to make life easy.
Let's roll up our sleeves and dive in.
Quick Answer | What's the Best Pan for Cooking Curry?
In this case, I'm going to say cheaper is better. For the money, the Professional Chef's Skillet Curry Pan is about as good as it gets.
It is lightweight, really durable and actually gives a professional result. It is the one most similar to those used in UK curry houses. It is aluminium, easy to keep clean and is pretty basic in design.
Here's what I loved about it.
- It's a great price
- It is exactly like the pans UK Indian chefs use
- It's really lightweight and easy to store.
Here's what isn't so great about it.
- It is a little thinner than the other pans, so it will show signs of wear and tear
- You'll need to season it before use
- It isn't great if you are cooking for more than two people at a time
You can see some other great ideas right here...
A proper curry pan can make a great gift for a curry lover, check out some of my other curry gift ideas here.
Which Cookware is Best for Indian Cooking?
Alright, I'm just going to come straight out and say it. If you want to make curry as they do in a takeaway, you will need one thing.
Stainless. Steel. Frying. Pan...
You'll see all sorts of articles saying that you need a 'Kadai' and that's how they make curry in Indian restaurants. This couldn't be further from the truth. If you take a look at how much a Kadai costs (and how much space they take to store), it should come as no surprise that most Indian kitchens aren't filled with thousands of pounds worth of pans.
There simply isn't the budget or room.
Nope, they use cheap(ish) stainless steel frying pans. They get battered, and after a week of use, you'll rarely find one that is perfectly round.
Here's a quick video showing you what I mean… Have a quick look, then come back!
Notice anything? Not a Kadai in sight!
The best cookware for Indian cooking is a thick-bottomed, stainless steel pan. I talk through the various features of what you should look for in my easy reference guide below.
Hey! Are you new to cooking curry? If you want to get fully kitted out, be sure to check my complete curry cooking kit guide. It's got everything you'll need to make authentic curry.
What Pans do Indian Restaurants Use?
Let's not beat around the bush.
Indian restaurant chefs use heavy, flat bottomed, stainless steel Indian cookware. UK takeaways rarely use a Kadai.
After a little use, they start to become 'seasoned', where they soak up oils and spices. I swear it makes the curry taste better!
Why do they use stainless steel frying pans for cooking curry? Here are a few reasons: -
Stainless Steel Frying Pans are Cheap
Obviously, Indian chefs get through a lot of pans. The cheaper they are, the better!
They Are Easier to Store
Because they can buy a few curry pans in bulk, they are uniform in size and shape. This makes them easier to stack and store.
They are Easy to Clean
Once a frying pan has been used a few times, it starts to season. This is where the oils used in cooking heat and leave a residue behind on the pan. This residue becomes permanent and actually makes the pan non-stick. As a result, they are easy to clean.
They Can Be Heated to Ridiculously High Temperatures
Stainless steel pans can be heated to very hot temperatures without any adverse effects on the food. When certain non-stick coatings are heated, they can start to break down and release toxins that are really harmful. You don't get this problem with stainless steel.
What is a Kadai?
A Kadai is a type of high sided circular pan used for Indian cooking. It is similar to a wok; you'll often find them with a handle on either side. They can be made from a variety of materials, including stainless steel, aluminium and even enamel.
You'll also hear a Kadai referred to as a karahi.
Didn't you just say that they don't use a Kadai in Indian takeaways?
Indeed, I did, and it's true…
If you went to India, you'd see the Kadai used there. Because of its circular shape, it sits nicely on top of a tandoor, a type of traditional wood-fired Indian oven. Most Indian takeaways don't have a line of tandoors and instead use a large multi hob range cooker.
So why don't Indian takeaways use a Kadai? Here are some reasons: -
First off, a really good Kadai isn't cheap. Because they are fairly complex to manufacture well, they tend to be more expensive than a simple frying pan.
And here's the thing…
Imagine a busy takeaway and how many pans they need to give a full service on a Friday night. That's a lot of pans! If you have to buy a lot, you don't want to spend a fortune on each individual pan!
Have you ever heard of a Kadai before? When was the last time you saw one when you were out and about shopping? I'd hazard a guess and say 'rarely'.
In an Indian takeaway kitchen, those pans take some punishment and have to be replaced regularly. It is far easier to replace cheap stainless steel frying pans than it is to try and find a brand new Kadai every week.
Take a look at a Kadai. How many of those do you think you could fit in your cupboard? They are hard to store and hard to stack.
Let me ask you another question…
How many of these do you think you could fit on your hob at home? Space is at a premium in an Indian takeaway restaurant kitchen. Often the chefs will have 10 curries on the go at once. Do you think they have room for 10 Kadai's?
I've saved the most important until last.
After all, we want our Indian takeaway curry to taste authentic, and the pan goes a long way to influencing that taste.
Well, think about it.
As I said, most Indian takeaway chefs use stainless steel frying pans. They have a flat bottom. This means that the temperature along the bottom of the pan is pretty uniform and even. This means you get more consistency with fewer 'hot spots'.
A Kadai, on the other hand, is round. As you move away from the centre of the pan, some areas are further away from the heat. This isn't what you want.
A lot of the flavour from curry comes from the edges of the pan. Next time you cook a curry, take a look at what happens at the edges of the pan. You'll get bits of curry sauce caramelising along the edges. These can be scraped back in.
You want this. This adds to the flavour.
A Kadai tends not to fry the curry. Instead, due to its shape, it acts more like a saucepan and boils the curry. This isn't really what we are trying to achieve.
Can You Cook Curry in a Non-Stick Pan?
You can cook curry in a non-stick pan. However, the results might not be exactly like what you would get in an Indian restaurant.
When you fry ingredients and they 'stick' slightly, they start to roast on the surface of the pan. This releases flavours that you wouldn't get with a non-stick pan.
Non-stick pans can be easier to clean, but they said they don't tend to keep that non-stick coating for long (especially if you use metal utensils…); the metal underneath the coating doesn't tend to season well at all, leading to burnt patches and hot spots.
If you look at my Indian recipes, you'll notice that they are mostly cooked over very high heat. Non-stick coating tends to degrade quite quickly, so it is far better to use a material (like stainless steel Indian cookware) that doesn't suffer from these adverse effects.
Indian Cookware UK | Our 5 Top Picks
Alright, now that you know the ins and outs of Indian cookware, let's take a look at some great suggestions that I've used in the past...
I know what you are thinking.
I've been banging on about stainless steel, and yet this one is copper?
True, but you'll find that the pan's interior (the bit that matters) is stainless steel. So it will cook just as well as some cheaper pans.
It is a pretty eye-catching design. The hammered copper effect actually looks similar to the exterior of some of the pans I saw in the restaurant kitchen.
Looks aside, here's why I chose it.
The pan is 5cm deep and 28cm across. This is perfect for cooking curry. It is shallow enough to ensure that your curry fries instead of boils but is high enough to stop any sauce spilling over the side.
The pan will work well on most hobs (not induction, however).
When it comes to cooking, it works really well. The base is actually a tri-ply layer. This ensures that heat is evenly distributed and gives you a great finish to your korma or phaal.
- I really like the look of this curry pan
- It has a decent weight and feels well made
- The dimensions are pretty much perfect for cooking a curry
- It is a little on the expensive side
- It can't be used on an indication cooker
- While it looks nice, I'm not sure after a few months of use that it will look quite so polished.
If you're the sort of person who wants all matching Indian cookware, or you've got a colour coordinated kitchen and don't want plain old stainless steel making the place look messy, this could be ideal. It performs really well when cooking a curry, which is what matters more than anything.
Now, this is what I'm talking about!
If you want to use Indian cookware that you'll see in UK Indian takeaways, this is pretty authentic.
It's simple, no-nonsense and bulletproof.
I've opted for the 28cm version. This is ideal for home cooking Indian food as you can fit other pans and cookware on the other hobs. At 4cm, this sits well in the right range for cooking up a tasty Indian. If you cook for more or want to make bigger portions, there are also alternative sizes.
You'll also note that this isn't stainless steel. This curry pan is manufactured from alloy steel, which is a blend of metals. It performs just as well as standard stainless steel. You'll even get a nice caramelised ring of curry sauce around the edges.
Here's the bit I really love.
The top of the pan has a curved 'skirt'. This allows you to easily and quickly tip your curry out of the pan without making a mess.
While the handle is metal, you needn't worry about heating or burning your hands. It actually stays pretty cool.
You'll need to treat this pan and give it a good seasoning before first use. I show you how to do this in the FAQ below.
- Pretty great value
- It's a really durable pan with the potential to last forever
- I love the flared skirt allowing you to tip curry sauce out easily.
- Seasoning can be a pain to start off with.
- You won't get authentic results straight away… It takes time for those oily layers to build
- It is pretty heavy
For a mid-range curry pan, I think this is one of the best. Ok, so it isn't stainless steel, but the madras we cooked in it came out identical to that produced in our 'regular' curry pan. It's pretty great quality and value.
This is a little more mainstream than the Indian cookware UK chefs use. Still, it is a worthy contender if you want a good all-around pan for cooking curry and other non-Indian dishes. If you have an induction cooker (posh), then this could be a great choice as it can be used on all types of hobs.
It is pretty hefty; at 30cm, it is among the largest on my list, but that gives you plenty of room to cook a nice Phaal.
As with some of my other suggestions, it features a triple layer base… Essentially a thin layer of aluminium sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. You'll get nice even heat that is perfect for frying everything from ginger and garlic paste to huge ladles of base gravy.
While it isn't quite authentic, I included it as it is really easy to clean. And, it's probably much more durable than some of the cheaper Indian cookware UK takeaway kitchens use.
Make sure to clean it with a soft sponge, and it should stay looking good for a while.
- The shiny finish looks really nice
- Induction friendly
- Nice size
- While it is a very nice pan, I found it didn't quite give my curries the same finish as some of the cheaper models.
- For the money, there are other pans more suited to cooking curry
Don't get me wrong, this is a very nice pan and is great for curries. My only criticism is that it doesn't quite manage to give the finish of pure stainless steel (and cheaper) pans. However, if you need cookware for Indian and a good all-rounder, it is a great choice, particularly if you have an induction hob.
Now, this is what I like.
De Buyer is made in France (but don't let that put you off). This pan is absolutely perfect for cooking up a few Indian meals.
But wait, isn't it just the same as the other De Buyer pan we just mentioned?
Au contraire mon ami! There is a difference. Namely that it is made from cast iron. If you are looking for a curry pan that gives really high and even heat and is pretty low maintenance, then you've found it.
In three words…
I love it.
Well, for a start, it is PTFE free. This means that you can heat it to ridiculously hot temperatures, perfect for frying onions, bubbling down tomato puree and searing chicken before adding heaps of spices and sauce.
Time is of the essence when cooking. This one will allow you to get your Indian on in the quickest possible time. It gives great results that I'd say is as close to Indian takeaway standard as you will get at home.
The more you use it, the more 'non-stick' it becomes. To guard against corrosion, it comes sealed in a fine layer of beeswax, so you'll need to clean and season it before first use.
- Rock-solid curry cooking performance
- Tank-like construction, it's really well made
- Able to heat to very high temperatures
- It's cast iron, it's pretty heavy
- Seasoning can be a pain to start off with (but it does get better with use)
- It isn't the cheapest.
This could be a potential winner in my Indian cookware UK guide. I really like how durable it is and the result it produces. The only downside is the weight of the pan. But that said, I reckon if you invested in this, it could become your new favourite.
I've saved the best until last…
But wait? This is really cheap.
Exactly my friend, exactly.
If you want Indian cookware UK chefs use, this is as close as you'll get without going down the Asian cash and carry. It is identical to what they use in Indian restaurants. Remember above I said that they use cheap and battered stainless steel pans… This is exactly what I was talking about.
Ok, so it is aluminium instead of stainless steel. Still, you'll get all of the nice qualities found in traditional Indian curry pans. This includes corrosion resistance, even cooking, and most important of all, really authentic curry!
Here are some other great bits I really like.
First, you can use metal utensils, as there is no 'non-stick' coating to be scratched off. Speaking of non-stick, once you've used the pan a few times, it will start to season, and you'll find that it is really easy to keep clean.
The wooden handle is a nice touch too. One notable feature is the flared lip, which emulates a feature found in the more expensive models mentioned above. Oh, and it is really lightweight too!
The downsides, well, you kind of get what you pay for. It won't work on an induction cooker… If you are on gas or electric, you are laughing as it is a bit of a bargain and produces perfect results.
- Amazing value, with a really low price
- It makes perfect takeaway style Indian curries
- Lightweight and easy to clean
- You can't use it on induction
- It will start to get the odd ding and dent through constant use
Alright, I'm just going to say it. This is the best pan for cooking curry. If you want to get just one pan for making Indian at home…
It's cheap, easy to clean and is exactly like the pans the real Indian chefs use. It's the cheapest too.
Winner winner curry for dinner!
Best Curry Cooking Pans | Buying Guide
Ok, there are a few choices there. So, what to go for? Well, let me help you. I'll tell you what I normally look for when choosing the best pan for cooking curry.
You have to strike a balancing act when choosing the best type of cookware for cooking curry. On the one hand, you don't want that sauce to spill, especially when it is bubbling. On the other hand, you aren't looking for a high sided skillet.
You also want to make sure it isn't dominating the entire hob.
So what's the answer?
Well, here's the optimum. Choose a frying pan that is around 26-30cm and 4-5cm high. This is an optimum size to make a really great curry without making a mess.
While the Indian cookware UK chefs use is generally stainless steel, you'll be able to get all of the positive qualities from aluminium, alloy or even a cast iron pan. If you take a look at the list above, you'll notice that there is a mixture of materials.
Any of the following will work well: -
- Cast iron
- Stainless steel
Remember that you will have to season your curry pan before you first use it if they aren't coated. Over time this requirement becomes less as the pans season themselves through constant use.
What's this got to do with a pan?
Well, get it wrong, and you'll have a bad time (and a cold curry).
What do I mean?
Well, induction hobs need to be made from a ferrous material (IE it is magnetic); things like copper and stainless steel are not going to work. Be sure to check whether your choice of curry cookware is induction compatible.
Ease of Cleaning
So you've eaten the curry, and now it's time to wash up.
Welcome to my world. I hate washing up.
The quicker and easier this is, the better. You'll tend to find that the more you use a pan, the easier it is to clean as it becomes seasoned and builds up a fine layer of oil within the cooking surface.
And don't get me wrong. You don't need to scrub that pan to within an inch of its life. Some manufacturers recommend not cleaning the pan.
Here's what I think.
Go halfway and pick one that you can give a quick and easy wipe with a soft, damp cloth.
Best Curry Pan Handle?
In Indian restaurants, you'll find that the pans have an all-metal handle. This is because industrial hobs are so fierce that they quickly scorch and degrade wood handles.
However, for home use, you may want a little insulation.
Some pans feature metal handles that have insulated layers. This prevents heat from the pan being conducted up the handle.
Choose whichever you are most comfortable with. I find that metal handles are the easiest to maintain.
Oh, and before I forget…
Don't get a frying pan with a plastic handle. The high temperatures you'll need for cooking a curry will melt it in next to no time!
Keep a good lookout for tri-layer frying pans for cooking curry. They are the best for ensuring even heat distribution. They also tend to be a little more durable.
Tri-layered cookware is basically different types of metal arranged in a sandwich in the base. It allows you to get all of the benefits of one type of alloy, combined with the benefits.
You'll tend to find that tri-layered pans are a little more expensive, but they can be well worth it when it comes to results.
I'm going to let you into a secret.
When cooking curry, paying for a more expensive pan doesn't mean you'll get a better taste.
Take a look at my list above. The best Indian cookware, for the money, also happens to be the cheapest!
Spend what you can afford, taking into account the above factors.
Curry Cooking Pans FAQ
How Do You Season a Frying Pan?
Seasoning is when you build up a fine layer of oil on the cooking surface of your pan. This happens naturally over time as the oil heats and soaks into the microscopic pores in the metal.
But you haven't got time to wait for that to happen… So here's a video showing you a quick and easy way to do it.
Why is a Non-Stick Frying Pan Bad for Curry?
A few reasons…
When you cook a curry, you generally want to cook over high heat.
But here's the thing.
High heat tends to degrade non-stick coatings. As a result, they can start to come away from the pan (often in microscopic amounts). This material can be really bad for your health.
With non-stick frying pans, you tend not to get caramelisation either. This is a key stage in making your curry taste authentic. This process is called the Maillard reaction. You can learn more about it here.
Go for a metallic, stainless steel type pan for the best results.
Which Material is Best for Kadai?
Still, looking at a Kadai?
Ok, then… (rolls eyes)
If you insist on buying one, your best bet is to go for stainless steel. It tends to last longer, is durable and will allow you to get a good sear on your food (just don't complain to me when there is no room on the cooker.)
Is Stainless Steel Cookware Good for Indian Cooking?
Stainless steel should be your go-to choice for Indian cookware. UK chefs use it predominantly when they prepare your takeaway dishes. It tends to be pretty cheap and durable too. It is also pretty bulletproof when it comes to cleaning, and it won't discolour and rust like some other alloys.
Which Cookware Brand is Best?
From my above list, De Buyer is of pretty great quality.
However, listen, I'm going to be upfront…
Don't pay big money for a named brand, as you are literally paying for a name. You'll be able to get great results with cheaper brands. Instead, focus on things such as the material, size and shape of your pan.
What goes into the best Indian cookware? UK chefs tend to use all uncoated metal pans. You want a pan that is light, easy to keep clean and gives uniform heat. You should also be able to heat them to really high temperatures without worrying about their longevity. The best pans for cooking curry will encompass all of these qualities. Armed with the above knowledge, hopefully, you'll whip up a tasty curry in no time.
While you are here, why not check out some of my other guides? Maybe some spice storage solutions so that you can cook like a real pro?