Wide, flat-bottomed, with tapered rims that flare out and long handles, skillets are used for searing, pan-frying, cooking, scrambling, sautéing, and even making thick sauces or curries. They’re also great for quick-cooking recipes that need a lot of surface area, such as omelets, frittatas, pancakes, and chicken and eggplant cutlets.
The slightly curved bases and angled edges—a key differentiator from sauté pans, which have tall, straight sides—make it easy to flip your food with a spatula, or even with a flick of the wrist from that extended handle, if you’re feeling confident.
A good skillet is a foundational piece of every kitchen. It’s one of the first things we buy when we strike out on our own. In my home, it’s a cooking vessel used so often that it has a permanent spot on the stove, no matter how much room there might miraculously be in the cabinet.
If all of that describes a merely good skillet, you can imagine what a treasure a great skillet is. But there are a lot of great skillets out there, from cast iron to stainless steel, copper to ceramic. Some require seasoning, and others are nonstick right out of the box. Not to mention the differences in sizes, heat conductivity, weight, oven compatibility, and more.
To help you sort through all the options, we had our home tester look at several aspects of each skillet: how quickly oil came to heat, how quickly and evenly it took to cook a fried egg, whether it was easy to release the egg, and how easy each skillet was to clean. In the end, the Anolon X 10-Inch Frying Pan checked all the boxes and came out on top.
Based on our research, online reviews, and home testing, here are our recommendations for the best skillets you can buy.
Anolon AnolonX Nonstick Frying Pan
What We Love: Oven-safe, rivets are flush and nonstick, stainless steel mesh traps heat well
What We Don't Love: Comes without a lid, rubber utensils don't work as well with the metal grid
If performance, flashiness, technology, and modern panache are important, the Anolon X 10-Inch Frying Pan is the dream. It's made with anodized aluminum and stainless steel for even heat distribution and heavy use. Out of the box, our home tester found the pan well built, with its curved edges and the sturdy dual-riveted handle that provided her with a good grip.
It is triple-coated to be resistant to both chipping and scratching, and the surface has a steel mesh grid panel. "[This would be] good for cooking or grilling meat, leaving a grill mark on the food," our tester notes. Anolon also claims that this grid protects the finish enough that you can use metal tools and promotes even browning and caramelization.
However, even though our tester used a rubber spatula to remove a fried egg, she found very small scratches on the bottom of the pan. Still, there was very little residue left over—"just little crumbs," she observed. Also, the finish showed no discoloration, and it was relatively easy to remove the fried egg from the pan with a gentle nudge of the spatula. "If more oil was used, the egg could have slipped out easily," she adds, noting that she had only used a quarter teaspoon—what she typically uses for a nonstick pan.
"I would buy this pan," she concludes, because it lives up to its promise of even browning and no hot spots. The yolk of her fried egg didn't break, and the egg white was cooked well and thoroughly. Plus, cleanup was easy: "I wiped the pan with a paper towel and it was clean. ... No oil spit was left in the pan."
"I liked the feature of the metal grid on the bottom ... but since the pan is made with a mix of nonstick and metal grid, it was confusing what kind of a spatula to use." — Prerna Singh, Product Tester
Price at time of publish: $140
Material: Aluminum, with nonstick and stainless steel mesh interior | Dimensions: 17.75 x 10 x 2.5 inches | Heating Capacity: 500 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Anolon Advanced Home 12-Inch Covered Ultimate Pan
What We Love: Comes in four striking colors, great when cooking for groups, truly nonstick, lifetime warranty
What We Don't Love: No helper handle
When you want the high walls of a wok but need the flat searing surface of a frying pan, there’s nothing more perfect than this deep skillet.
Standing 6.7 inches tall with a foot of cooking area, this Anolon skillet is an ideal and affordable choice for volume. And we don’t just mean portion sizes—we also mean cooking occasions. "It's a good size when cooking for a bigger group, and a flat cooking surface helps with the even searing and sautéing of food," notes our home cook.
Furthermore, its triple-layer nonstick coating is touted to last 16 times longer than its competitors and 80 times longer than ceramic. And that coating is truly nonstick, at least when we performed our fried egg test. Not only was there no burning or browning of the egg, which took just over a minute to cook, but there was also no residue stuck to the bottom of the pan after our tester slid the egg off with just a gentle nudge of a spatula.
"The nonstick feature of the pan definitely helped with the cooking. I could have used less oil and the egg would still have not stuck to the pan," she notes, adding that she only needed to wipe the pan with a paper towel to clean it and that the spatula did not leave any marks on its surface.
This skillet also comes with a shatter-resistant glass lid, which made it easy for our home tester to keep an eye on her food without having to lift the lid, as well as a stainless steel handle coated with silicone that didn't conduct heat and made it easy for her to hold the pan while cooking.
Price at time of publish: $100
Material: Hard-anodized aluminum with nonstick finish | Dimensions: 19.8 x 12 x 6.7 inches | Heating Capacity: 400 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? No
Related: The Best Woks
All-Clad Electric Nonstick Skillet, 7-Quart
What We Love: Can be used anywhere with an electric outlet, great for cooking for a large group, heats evenly, easy to clean, very nonstick
What We Don't Love: Takes up counter space, no pouring spout
If you’re looking for a freestanding, self-cooking skillet, we’re going to assume that you’re cooking for a crowd. And for that, a 7-quart capacity spread across a 14-inch diameter ought to please every member of it, even if its straight walls make it seem like more of a sauté pan.
Its high-polish stainless steel exterior is used all the way through (in single-ply) but is covered by a nonstick coating on the interior, that All-Clad claims to hold no hot spots, just a hot surface. Our home cook fried an egg to put this to the test, to favorable results. Not only did the interior heat up quickly, taking about 1 minute for the oil to start shimmering, but the oil did not "spit" at all, and the egg was cooked perfectly in just 2 minutes: There was no browning or burning, the yolk did not break, and there was no white residue left on the pan.
The interior finish also helped with other aspects, our tester says. For starters, "the nonstick definitely helped with the seasoning, and the pan used very little oil," she says, adding that cleanup was a breeze: "Just wipe the pan with a paper towel and the pan was clean and left with no residue."
As a standalone pan, all this skillet needs is an electric outlet and it's ready to use, so whether you want to do a cooking demo or cook for a party, feel free to take it along. Note, however, that if used in your kitchen, it will likely compete with other appliances for counter space. Still, given its large 7-quart capacity, this pan is surprisingly light and relatively easy to move, our tester found.
"The nonstick surface is high-quality so it was very easy to clean. I literally just wiped it with a paper towel, and it was good to go." — Prerna Singh, Product Tester
Price at time of publish: $210
Material: Stainless steel with nonstick interior | Dimensions: 14.8 x 18.6 x 6.9 inches | Heating Capacity: 450 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes (when probe is removed)
Related: The Best Electric Skillets
Best Stainless Steel
Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel Frying Pan with Lid
What We Love: Copper-banded base helps with heat control, has high sides and wide diameter, oven-safe
What We Don't Love: Heavy, food sticks to the bottom easily, not easy to clean
This stunning stainless steel skillet channels culinary excellence and instills confidence, from its handsome, solid-metal dome lid to its sleek high walls and gorgeous copper-banded base. But make no mistake: This anti-corrosive, durable, long-lasting, and non-reactive classic beauty from Anolon is designed to be a workhorse. Case in point, that cheery rosy stripe along the reinforced cap is part of a copper and stainless five-layer metal base construction that ensures optimal heat control and resistance to warping.
Our home tester mostly agrees. After handling the pan right outside of the box, she could tell the pan is of high quality, coming pre-seasoned. The heavy bottom, she says, is great for cooking meat and other fatty foods. Plus, the heat lasts longer in the pan, which is great for browning.
However, the hefty pan didn't perform as well frying up an egg, which is considerably lighter fare. While our tester was able to cook the egg quickly (clocking in at a little over a minute), it wasn't cooked evenly.
"The part of the pan where there was no egg only sputtered oil, which burned and browned the pan and gave away smoke as the egg was still cooking," she notes. Also, "the bottom part of the egg browned, close to burnt, while the top was still not cooked well." And once it was cooked, the egg didn't slide right off; she needed to scrape it off with a metal spatula. But luckily, it left no scratches on the pan's interior.
The residue left on the pan also made cleanup tricky, because the burned egg whites that stuck to its surface, as well as the leftover burned oil, meant she had to soak the pan to properly clean it. "This demands more fat content for cooking compared with a nonstick pan," she concludes.
This pan has riveted handles, stove-to-oven capability, and a lifetime warranty guarantee that its functionality ages as elegantly as its looks.
"This pan is a high-quality, heavy-bottom pan, which is great for cooking meat or food with high fat content. It could also work great for a simple stir fry. And because of the heavy base, the heat is contained longer in the pan, so it works great when you want to brown your food." — Prerna Singh, Product Tester
Price at time of publish: $90
Material: Stainless steel | Dimensions: 19.8 x 12 x 5.3 | Heating Capacity: 500 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
All-Clad HA1 Hard-Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan, 12-Inch
What We Love: Scratch-resistant, well built and durable, handles provide good grip
What We Don't Love: The top of the handle can be uncomfortable at certain angles, heavy to lift
Don’t need all the bells and whistles, just the power-playing workhorse? Then this All-Clad HA1 skillet is the one for you. It’s backed by a lifetime warranty, which is safeguarded by the use of an ultra-durable, three-layer, PFOA-free nonstick coating.
And that nonstick coating feels and looks of high-quality, according to our home tester, who's an experienced cook. And it was indeed good: During the fried egg test, the oil did not get spitty, and the egg did not splatter, brown, or burn.
But that said, it wasn't as good as expected, which she found surprising: "Some egg white stuck to the bottom of the pan. Probably because the oil scattered to the sides of the pan, and the surface where the egg was dropped wasn't greasy enough," she explains. Furthermore, the fried egg didn't slide easily off the pan on its own—she had to gently scrape it off using a spatula.
She suspects the culprit is the fact that the bottom of the pan isn't completely flat. "It's the bigger flaw [than the nonstick finish], as oil, sauce, et cetera, just runs to the edge of the pan rather than staying in the center," she says.
Cooking was, however, made easier by the pan's riveted helper handle and a long stainless steel handle. Our tester does have one note about the latter: There is a hollow concave channel at top of the handle that can be uncomfortable to grip at certain angles.
"Overall the pan looks good and is high-quality, but the failure of the nonstick feature was both surprising and disappointing. The pan is built well, though, and the handles on both sides make it easier to move, even when full." — Prerna Singh, Product Tester
Price at time of publish: $100
Material: Hard-anodized aluminum with nonstick coating | Dimensions: 22.5 x 12 x 5 inches | Heating Capacity: 500 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes, but handwashing recommended
Best Carbon Steel
Made In Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan
What We Love: Versatile, lighter than cast iron, looks better and gets more nonstick over time
What We Don't Love: Needs regular seasoning
This skillet calls itself a frying pan, but in truth, its sides are high enough to make this our top pick for carbon steel. This material takes the longevity and versatility of cast iron and makes it lightweight and quick to heat up for beautiful searing. It can also reach a maximum temperature of 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, you have to season carbon steel, but this pre-seasoned skillet gets you ready to go right out the gate with a nonstick finish that will improve with use (and regular seasoning).
Made In makes this pan in an 8-inch, a 10-inch, and 12-inch size, each with 2 millimeters of blue carbon steel. A triple-riveted handle with finger grooves is designed for reliable maneuverability, but the high arch is what really differentiates it. It’s just a more comfortable, natural grip than one that just sticks straight out.
"A number of the Simply Recipes editors have Made In skillets and we love them. If I need a new pan, I basically always go to Made In first. They're as good or better as All-Clad, in my opinion, while costing a lot less." — Cambria Bold, Senior Editor, Cooking Education
Price at time of publish: $99
Material: Carbon steel | Dimensions (for 12-inch): 21.5 x 12.5 x 2.25 inches | Heating Capacity: 1200 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? No
Related: The Best Carbon Steel Pans
Calphalon Elite Nonstick 8-Inch, 10-Inch and 12-Inch Fry Pan Set
What We Love: Safe in the broiler, three versatile sizes, scratch-resistant
What We Don't Love: Heavy, not induction-compatible
Want a sturdy starter set that’ll last you from now through the next decade or so? This Calphalon three-pan set is the one. With an 8-inch, a 10-inch, and a 12-inch pan, it covers you for every size and application you might need a skillet for, fulfilling your basic needs and functions with just enough hardiness and upgrades to grow with your skills.
This Elite line is two grades up from Calphalon’s accessible Contemporary line, but worth the investment for the ability to use metal utensils. Its specially textured, triple-layered surface is designed for gorgeous searing and the thick ergonomic handles for easy gripping. As you’d expect, these handles are all riveted, including the helper loop on the 12-inch. Safe in the broiler, oven, and dishwasher, this set is rugged and ready.
Price at time of publish: $250
Material: Hard-anodized aluminum with stainless steel handles | Heating Capacity: 500 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Related: The Best Nonstick Pans
Best Cast Iron
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Deep Skillet
What We Love: Has two pour spouts, will last for generations
What We Don't Love: Pricey
Everyone goes gaga over Le Creuset’s signature cast iron skillets, and honestly, they’re not wrong for it. The longevity, durability, and heat retention of these enameled deep skillets are legendary.
Two spouts let you empty out the skillet from either side—a boon for lefties—while an improved helper handle makes it easier to … well, handle its heft. The jaunty ceramic finish colors that make these irresistible to shoppers are resistant to rusting, chipping, and cracking for longevity. Best of all, the black interior requires no additional seasoning, taking the guesswork out of working with cast iron.
This comes in three sizes: 10-inch, 12-inch, and 13-inch. All are induction-friendly and dishwasher-safe.
Price at time of publish: $225 for 10-inch skillet
Material: Enameled cast iron | Heating Capacity: 500 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Related: The Best Cast Iron Skillets
GreenPan Venice Pro Nonstick Skillet
What We Love: Metal utensil-safe, attractive, heats quickly and evenly, easy to clean
What We Don't Love: Can chip or crack, may not last as long as non-ceramic skillets
Sand-derived ceramic skillets have become popular options for those concerned about nonstick finishes. For that, many feel it’s worth the shorter lifespan and the potential ceramic has to crack and chip.
GreenPan's mineral coating means that it’ll never release fumes since it’s free of PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium, relying on technology like diamond infusion to keep your food from adhering. Because of this, it’s metal-utensil safe, with a hardiness that also makes this multilayer three-ply stainless steel body oven safe to 600 degrees, higher than many of its hard-anodized brethren.
This skillet is reinforced to help its unique bright-white surfaces stay that way. This one also features a Magneto Induction Base for superior searing and browning, a scratch- and warp-resistant hard-anodized aluminum body, and a mirror-polish stay-cool handle.
"The SimmerLite ceramic set I got from GreenPan has been mostly delightfully nonstick. I've only really had an issue with the small frying pan, which has started to stick and discolor. I like that the lid for the pot is interchangeable with the small frying pan, too. It's a great starter or replacement set for anyone looking for a basic but attractive collection." — Taylor Rock, Associate Commerce Editor
Price at time of publish: $60 for 11-inch frying pan
Material: Three-ply stainless steel with ceramic coating | Dimensions: 16.1 x 12.2 x 4.2 inches | Heating Capacity: 600 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Related: The Best Ceramic Cookware Sets
Ninja Foodi NeverStick Hard-Anodized 12-Inch Fry Pan
What We Love: Great heat retention, cooks evenly, easy to clean, scratch-resistant
What We Don't Love: Takes a few extra minutes to heat up
While lightweight, aluminum, thinly coated nonstick skillets may be cheaper, they’re prone to warping and burning. That's why our budget pick is still a hard-anodized model. This Ninja skillet can compete against those costing nearly twice as much and in some cases, offering fewer features.
The most impressive highlight of this skillet is that it claims that it will never ever stick, chip, or flake, due to the fact that its nonstick, shot-blasted interior and exterior coating are finished at 30,000 degrees as opposed to a more standard 900. No surprise, then, that it’s oven-safe to 500 degrees. What is surprising at this price point is that it’s safe for metal utensils and made with a heavy-gauge 4.5-millimeter aluminum base for consistent, even heating. Sure, it may take a little longer to preheat because of this thickness, but patience is a virtue, right?
Price at time of publish: $60
Material: Aluminum with nonstick coating and stainless steel handle | Dimensions: 19.25 x 12.25 x 2.2 inches | Heating Capacity: 500 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Related: The Best Frying Pans
For superior, chef-like results each and every time, our overall do-it-all pick is the top-of-the-line Anolon X Nonstick Fry Pan (view at Williams Sonoma), whose bells and whistles come together in a symphony of elite features and near-guaranteed success. If you just want a reasonably priced, built-to-last, made-for-ease skillet, the HA1 model by All-Clad (view at Sur La Table) will serve beyond those basic expectations.
What to Look for When Buying a Skillet
Skillets come in an array of different materials, each with unique properties and strengths. All these choices will do a wonderful job of cooking your food, but some may be task or user-specific.
Stainless Steel: These skillets are considered best for everyday cooking. First, they don't react negatively to specific ingredients or tools, i.e they are nonreactive. Stainless steel skillets are usually layered with other materials, like aluminum and copper, in order to make them more heat-conductive and for even heat distribution. Cooks seeking an all-purpose and durable skillet that is low-maintenance would be satisfied by this one.
Hard-Anodized Aluminum: As the name suggests, this material is composed of hardened aluminum, making the skillets more sturdy and fortified. These are great for their durable properties, mainly being resistant to warping and corrosion. They heat up well and evenly distribute it throughout the surface area. They are not the cheapest of skillets, but you are paying for the high quality.
Cast Iron: This thick heavy material is made out of carbon and iron, and works best for the foods where you want that crispy sear. Although it may take a longer time, it can reach the highest temperatures out of all the other options. This type of skillet is also best for multi-purpose uses. It can easily go from the stovetop to the oven, even over the campfire. Of course, the unique properties of cast iron mean that it requires extra maintenance. When cleaning, avoid submerging in water too long as this will cause rust to form. You will have to reseason the skillet thoroughly with a light coat of oil and reheat it. These steps guarantee your cast iron will last for years and deliver the same incredible and consistent results each time.
Carbon Steel: These skillets are also made from carbon and iron, with slightly more iron than cast iron. This means they heat up quicker and more evenly than cast iron. The material has a smoother texture, which makes it the perfect surface for foods that tend to stick. Although it reaches desired temperatures sooner, keep in mind this means that it cools down quickly as well. And just like with cast iron, you must take care to maintain the seasoning. Carbon steel is a well-worth alternative to cast iron if the latter is too heavy for your preferences.
Ceramic Coating vs. Nonstick
Ceramic is a natural material coated on top of the metal. It makes sure that your food won’t stick to the surface of the skillet and usually works best with low heat. Oil is not necessary for ceramic skillets and is not recommended for use as it leaves behind a layer of build-up. Avoid using metal utensils on these skillets, since they can scratch and scrape the coating off. They are usually more pricey than nonstick skillets because the material is crafted with more care and quality.
When a skillet is labeled as made out of nonstick material, this is usually referring to Teflon. It’s pretty lightweight compared to ceramic coatings. Food does not stick, making it great for all sorts of delicate dishes. It may not be as long-lasting as ceramic-coated skillets but comes at a more affordable price. As goes with ceramic, do not use metal utensils if you don’t want the coating to flake off into your food. Another significant thing to note with nonstick skillets is to avoid heating them too high, as this will cause the nonstick surface to break down.
10-inch skillets are standard and would probably best serve most of your needs. It is a sufficient size for families, or just yourself if you like to cook. You’ll want as much surface area for cooking as possible, whether it be for eggs, meats, or veggies while maintaining the heating power throughout. Skillets that are too large pose the disadvantage of uneven heating. With skillets that are too small, overcrowding is a risk factor to consider. If there are too many food items on such a small surface area, it won’t cook as quickly or evenly as to its potential. This is why a 10-inch skillet is probably the most versatile—it’s just the right size to accommodate a meal while cooking evenly and properly. Consider storage when choosing a size as well; determine if your kitchen cabinets can accommodate heavy or bulky skillets.
What does it mean to season a skillet?
Seasoning of a skillet is simply to cure the inside of the skillet to make it nonstick. The process used to cure or season cookware is called polymerization: a process of simply baking oil in a skillet (typically a cast iron on a carbon steel skillet) under very high heat. As a result, liquid oil turns into a hardened surface, creating a layer that is molecularly bonded to the iron.
A properly seasoned skillet will have a nonstick interior with a shiny surface. In the case of a cast iron or carbon steel pan, it should have a thin layer of a black shiny patina that keeps food from sticking to the pan. This yields a couple of benefits: It uses comparatively less oil, butter, or fat while cooking; and it is easier to clean and prevents the pan from rusting, giving it a longer lifespan.
Do you need to season your pan after every use?
Normally you only need to season a cast iron or carbon steel pan once, before the first use. After that, with gentle care, the seasoning would last you years. But if for any reason the seasoning withers, then you can re-season the pan. Having said that, you might need to season your pan two to three times initially in order to get to a desired seasoned state.
But caring for a seasoned pan is equally important as it decided how frequently you might need to season your pan. Keep the following tips in mind when caring for a seasoned pan:
- Clean your pan thoroughly after every use.
- Clean under warm water, no soap.
- Use a pan scraper for stubborn, stuck-on food.
- Wipe the pan dry with a paper towel promptly and thoroughly after washing.
- Store your seasoned pan in a cool, dry place.
Am I supposed to season stainless steel pans?
You do not necessarily need to season a stainless steel pan. Most people choose not to season their stainless steel pans, but then some do!
Those in favor believe that seasoning the pan helps fill in the pores of the pan, that keeps food from sticking to the pan but those against the idea claim, you add oil to the pan before cooking and that should be enough to aid the cooking process and in preventing the food from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
In short, there’s no short or clear answer to this question. So the answer to the question, “Am I supposed to season stainless steel pans?” would be no, you don't. But if you ask, “Can I season stainless steel pans?” Then we would say, sure, go for it. There’s no harm in seasoning a stainless steel pan.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
This guide was authored by Su-Jit Lin, who has over a dozen years of experience writing about food, twice that in cooking it, and thrice in enjoying all of it with extreme and likely unseemly gusto. She has more skillets than storage space, but even more purposes for each, which is how she justifies continuously adding to her collection.
Prerna Singh tested many of our top picks and updated this piece. The food blogger and cookbook author, who specializes in Indian cuisine, is a longtime recipe developer and contributor for Simply Recipes. She's excited to share her passion for cooking in another way: by finding and testing the best kitchen tools to make the delicious meals we all enjoy.
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