The millennial kitchen aesthetic is all about smart, well-designed products that are ethically made and multi-use for tiny kitchens. No company embodies it quite as well as Our Place, the instantly Instagrammable startup that brought us the Always Pan, a self-proclaimed replacement for “8 traditional pieces of cookware.” The 10″ pan is deeper than your average fry pan (2.7″) and broad enough to boil unbroken spaghetti (2.6 qt capacity). Add design quirks such as a peg and notch for the accompanying beechwood spatula, and a removable, stainless steel nesting steamer basket, and the Always Pan is just showing off. With one nonstick Always Pan, Our Place’s do-it-all claims include a: “fry pan, sauté pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, nonstick pan, spatula, and spoon rest.”
“There was a gap in kitchenware and cookware,” explains Our Place founder Shiza Shahid. “They’re selling a 16-piece cookware sets, but what’s the difference between a saucier and a sauce pan? A couple of inches? A little roundness? The cooking industry makes specific pots and pans in different sizes and calls them things derived from European cooking techniques. You end up with bulky, difficult-to-use, confusing sets that aren’t designed for the home cook.”
Stanford grad Shahid worked in consulting before cofounding the Malala Fund with activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. With Our Place, Shahid hopes to serve the “multi-ethnic kitchen,” creating products for homes like her own in Los Angeles, where she and her husband love to share Pakistani and Iranian food with friends, but don’t have tons of space. The Always Pan is Our Place’s “North Star,” an uncomplicated, modular, but beautiful design.
In my own small galley kitchen in Boston, I tested the Always Pan with my classic barometer: scrambled eggs with cheese. The pan is coated with nonstick, nontoxic ceramic that lends great slip to clingers like melted cheese. I also test-drove my own frequented kitchen headaches: sautéed vegetables cooked just a little bit too long and skin-on salmon in a sticky glaze, and both slid free from the pan with a nudge of a spatula. The pan also quickly washed clean, with a soft sponge and hot water, but it’s dishwasher safe as well.
The pan is made from cast aluminum and advertised as lightweight—but at 3 pounds, it’s still much heftier than most similar-sized iron skillets in my arsenal. However, the weight isn’t astronomical, and, in fact, feels satisfyingly grippy when held in one hand to give buttery pancakes an airborne flip. To measure the pan’s heat conduction, Shahid recommended I attempt a tried-and-true test by sprinkling a layer of flour to see if it browns evenly. My flour got toasty and beige after five minutes, and while the center browned slightly deeper, no section burned or remained white. The steamer basket works well, fits snuggly, and will be frequently used for one-pan meals and dumplings. Our Place also sells an additional set of Spruce Steamers that look like they’d make shumai and tamales a dream.
Oh, and it’s beautiful. Currently, the pan comes in dreamy shades such as Spice (a pale terracotta), Sage (a muted green), and Blue Salt (a new-for-December color that resembles a dusty robin’s egg blue). My pan arrived with a few cosmetic blemishes—chipped paint and dings around the edges and handle. Our Place ships its pan in the box it arrives in as to cut down on waste, but I do wonder if it’s given enough padding for something so precious. My gas burner also scorched and scratched the bottom, adding chipped paint spots, after only a few uses.
Searing proteins and shallow frying were also was a challenge. I was able to easily remove my sticky salmon filet, but it never quite got as caramelized and crisp as it would have in a cast iron or stainless steel pan. Based on its advertising (and name), I fully thought the Always Pan was oven-safe. It’s not, which means my trusty 2-quart Dutch oven remains in its rightful place, perched on the top of my stove. Not being able to add cheese on top of a bubbling pan of tteokbokki and throw it under my broiler is a major drawback. And so go my hopes for endless one-pot pasta bakes out the window.
Despite those flaws, I still like the Always Pan. And I like Our Place for their values, commitment to the environment, and plans for the future—Shahid hinted at new products down the line that hopefully are as clever as their first. There are several things the Always Pan can’t do, but they don’t quite cancel out the things it can. The recipes I can make in the Always Pan are the best kind of uncomplicated, and choosing it removes barriers such as excess pots and the dreaded sink soak before I can have a clean kitchen again.
Our Place is a year old and is challenging a multigenerational industry of kitchenwares and customs. It has plenty to work on and plenty of room to grow. However, in considering the needs of a multicultural household, Our Place and its Always Pan are headed in the right direction.
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