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A great frying pan is a kitchen essential you’ll turn to again and again (and again…). From whipping up simple scrambled eggs to cooking a crowd-worthy paella, it’s a workhorse that’s as versatile as it is necessary. A frying pan is distinguished by its long handle and wide, sloped edges.
You can go to any department store and be faced with a staggering selection of pans. Sometimes called a skillet or sauté pan, frying pans come in all sorts of sizes and materials. In a dream scenario, you’d have all the frying pans for every sort of culinary occasion. But due to budget and space constraints, most of us choose a top few contenders to stock in our kitchens.
Our list of the best frying pans can help you start navigating the options.
Best Overall: Anolon Advanced Hard-Anodized Nonstick Frying Pan
Anolon is renowned for its durable cookware, especially when it comes to nonstick. This sturdy frying pan would be useful in any kitchen, from beginner to expert.
This 8-inch pan, which is also offered in a 10.25-inch and a 12.75-inch size, has a heavy-duty hard-anodized construction that promotes even and efficient heating. The PFOA-free nonstick interior is reinforced with sapphires so that it will not get scuffed from metal utensils and lasts longer than other nonstick coatings. The exterior is also nonstick for easy cleaning, and it can be used on every type of stovetop aside from induction. Available in four different colors, there is a color-coded silicone grip that makes the pan easy to handle,
Oven safe to 400 degrees, it’s possible to use these for dishes that start out on the stove and finish in the oven. Make sure to hand wash to keep the nonstick surface from getting damaged.
Best Budget: Carote 8-Inch Nonstick Skillet
You can’t get a better deal than this snazzy, eco-friendly granite-coated nonstick number from Switzerland. This pan from Carote is scratch-resistant and easy to clean, and its ergonomic, stay-cool handle offers a comfortable grip for maximum control.
Carote makes its pans of die-cast aluminum for extra durability. It’s then coated with five layers of ceramic-reinforced Granistone material that’s free of PFOA, cadmium, and lead. Reviewers mention that the interior is even more nonstick than old Teflon pans. This pan can be used on any kind of cooktop including induction and halogen.
Its 8-inch size might be too small for many things, and like many pans, it’s best to keep it out of the dishwasher. It does come with a 1-year warranty.
Best Stainless Steel: All-Clad D3 Stainless-Steel 12-Inch Fry Pan
Professionals, enthusiasts, and home cooks alike swear by All-Clad’s three-layer bonded stainless-steel frying pan. It consistently provides even heating, its surface doesn’t react with food, and the ergonomic handle stays cool to the touch.
All-Clad’s tri-ply construction sandwiches a heat-responsive aluminum core between an easy-to-care-for stainless-steel interior and exterior. The pan’s broad surface is ideal for browning, frying, and sautéing, and its gently sloping sides simplify turning and removing foods.
The handy lid means you can also use it for simmering and braising. Even after years in heavy rotation, this frying pan won’t discolor from the heat. Best of all, it can be used on any kind of stovetop.
Best Nonstick: Nordic Ware Restaurant Cookware 10.5-Inch Nonstick Frying Pan
This is the sort of pan that will get a whole lot of use. Nordic Ware’s professional-grade frying pan has PFOA-free nonstick interior surface to make it easy to cook and flip without much or any oil. Cleaning is also a breeze. The pan’s silicone grip is removable to allow for oven and broiler use. It's heavy enough to feel good in your hand, but not too heavy to be unwieldy.
Word to the wise: This is made of heavy-gauge pressure-cast aluminum, which won’t work on induction cooking surfaces. Over time, the nonstick surface can slowly erode, but you’ll get several years out of it before you have to worry.
Related: The 8 Best Nonstick Pans in 2021
Best Carbon Steel: Lodge 10-Inch Carbon Steel Skillet
Carbon steel is known for being incredibly durable, and carbon steel skillets heat up more quickly than cast iron skillets and sear just as well. It does require some maintenance in order to retain its seasoning, like cast iron.
This 10-inch skillet from Lodge comes pre-seasoned, which means you can start cooking with it right away. It’s made of 12-gauge carbon steel, a high-density metal that lets the pan heat up quickly yet also retains the heat needed for even cooking. They work on all cooking surfaces, even (especially!) outside over a campfire.
Best Cast Iron: Lodge Pre-Seasoned 10.25-Inch Cast Iron Skillet with Assist Handle
Founded in 1896, the Lodge family still makes high-quality cookware on the banks of the Tennessee River in the town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee. This is a favorite for good reason—you’ll use it to sear, sauté, bake, broil, braise, fry, or grill.
Cast iron is handsome, versatile, and somehow makes everything from pancakes to burgers taste just a little bit better. It’s well-known for its heat retention (always use mitts!) and can be used on all kinds of stoves, as well as in the oven and broiler. It’s a little heavy, but very much worth getting used to the lift.
Like all cast irons, Lodge pans must be maintained to stay seasoned, but don’t let that intimidate you: just rub it with a very light layer of vegetable oil. Cast iron should be hung or stored in a dry spot since it can easily begin to rust.
Best Enameled Cast Iron: Le Creuset Signature 10-inch Fry Pan
Enameled cast-iron skillets are simply cast-iron pans that have been coated with a vitreous enamel glaze. They’re a low-stick option that does not require seasoning and prevents the cast iron base from leaching iron. Like cast iron, they can stand up to the high temperatures of a hot oven.
Revered by both professional chefs and home cooks since its 1925 debut, Le Creuset's classic French cookware is prized for its good looks, cheerful colors, and excellent heat retention. Its 10-inch skillets are compatible with all types of heat sources and undeniably pretty. Enameled cast iron often has issues with chipping and cracking, but Le Creuset’s skillets have a more durable exterior than others.
Like raw cast iron, these skillets can be used on any kind of cooktop. In addition to being able to withstand high temperatures, they’re dishwasher and freezer safe.
Best Ceramic Nonstick: GreenPan Paris Ceramic Nonstick Fry Pan
Ceramic cookware is metal cookware that's been finished in a ceramic coating to make it nonstick. The challenge is that ceramic pans can lose their nonstick quality over time.
GreenPan combats this issue by reinforcing its nonstick coating with minerals while maintaining great heat conduction. Manufactured without PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium, the hard-anodized exterior delivers maximum strength and scratch resistance. The stainless-steel handles are riveted to the pan and also coated to avoid food buildup. Plus, there’s a nice medium weight and a comfy feel.
Reviewers note that pancakes and eggs kept sliding beautifully off their GreenPan Paris pans, even as years went by.
Best Copper: All-Clad Copper Core 14" Open Stir Fry Pan
Julia Child famously had 30 copper pots hanging in her Massachusetts kitchen. Copper pans heat up quickly and evenly, it's their superpower. They look gorgeous, too!
All-Clad’s Copper Core fry pan has a five-ply construction of securely bonded metals: a thick, extremely heat-responsive copper core sandwiched between two layers of highly conductive aluminum with an easy-clean stainless-steel exterior and interior that won't react with foods. (Say that three times fast!) What this means is you’ll get speedy heat-up time, maximum temperature control, and rapid, even heat distribution on any type of cooktop, including induction.
The riveted handle is designed to stay cool, and it is recommended that you hand wash the pans.
What to Look for in a Frying Pan
What kind of frying pan to choose? It depends on what you’re planning to cook. Size is one consideration. The most standard sizes of frying pans are 8, 10, and 12 inches, and they’re measured by diameter. When I lived alone, I used my little nonstick pan all the time for quesadillas and eggs. These days, I’m more likely to whip out my big pan to fry up sausages or caramelize onions for the whole family, or my trusty cast iron for my favorite weeknight cheesy pasta bake. If you’re unsure, you can never go wrong with a 10-inch pan.
Nonstick aluminum pans coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (commonly referred to as PTFE or Teflon) live up to their names and provide a nonstick cooking surface, even without butter or oil. They’re designed to cook delicate foods like fish, eggs, or crepes. This is your omelet go-to. Need a good sear? A cast iron is the pan for the job. It transfers heat extremely efficiently and holds heat for longer periods of time. These durable, heavy pans are safe to use at high temperatures, even in the oven or over a fire, so you can finish your steak in the oven after you sear it on the stovetop, or use your cast iron for baking (Southern cornbread, anyone?).
Copper frying pans tend to be expensive, but they offer superb heat conductivity. That means they heat up quickly and cool down just as fast, which gives you precise control when you’re cooking dishes that require a lot of TLC, like delicate fish, or a temperamental caramel sauce.
There is no one-size-fits-all pan option here, but there are many great pans out there for your specific needs. Make sure to care for your pan carefully to ensure its longevity; different types require different methods of cleaning.
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Hannah Howard has been writing about food and cooking for over a decade, including the memoirs “Feast” and “Plenty.” She spends a lot of time in her kitchen in Brooklyn, frying/ sauteing/cooking up something delicious.