The Best Frying Pans You Can Buy

Whether ceramic, copper, or cast iron, a frying pan is an essential tool for every cook.

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The Best Frying Pan

Photo: amazon.com

A frying pan is a cooking essential everyone should own. As the pan you reach for to fry an egg, brown tortillas, or sear steak, It’s one of the hardest-working pieces of cookware in a kitchen. Even though it’s a simple pan, there are many types of frying pans from which to pick. There are cast-iron frying pans, ceramic frying pans, stainless steel frying pans, nonstick pans, and uncoated pans.

Picking the best frying pan for you depends on the type and amount of food you cook, the cooking methods you use, and your personal preference. You probably should plan on buying more than one type of frying pan, because not every skillet can do every cooking task. The following frying pans have different features that make each a top pick for its category.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Tramontina 80114/536DS Professional Aluminum Fry Pan
  2. BEST BUDGET: Sensarte Nonstick Frying Pan Skillet
  3. BEST UPGRADE: All-Clad 6108SS Copper Core 5-Ply Bonded Fry Pan
  4. BEST CERAMIC: Koch Systeme Stone Earth Nonstick Frying Pan
  5. BEST STAINLESS STEEL: Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel Cookware Pan Set
  6. BEST CAST IRON: Victoria Cast Iron Skillet Large Frying Pan
  7. BEST COPPER: Mauviel M’Heritage M250C 2.5mm Copper Frying Pan
  8. HONORABLE MENTION: SAVEUR SELECTS Set of 2 Tri-ply Frying Pans
The Best Frying Pan

Photo: amazon.com

The main distinction to keep in mind when shopping for frying pans is whether you may prefer nonstick or non-coated.

Nonstick pans are treated with either a chemical or silica-based coating that keeps food from attaching to the surface of the pan when heated.

Non-coated pans are pure metal—typically stainless steel, copper, or cast iron–and require a little oil or cooking spray to prevent food from sticking.

PTFE Coated

Also known as nonstick pans, these skillets are coated in a chemical called polytetrafluoroethylene (also called PTFE or Teflon) that keeps food from sticking to the surface. This coating cuts down on oil usage and makes cooking and cleanup easier. Nonstick pans don’t last as long as cast-iron, stainless, or copper frying pans because the coating wears off and scratches. Nonstick pans are the best choice for cooking foods that tend to stick to the pan.

Ceramic

Ceramic pans are considered a greener, healthier, nonstick alternative to PTFE skillets. Instead of chemicals, ceramic pans are treated with a silica-based gel that prevents food from sticking. They are more delicate than uncoated metal pans, as they can be scratched with metal utensils and cannot take high heat. Ceramic frying pans are best used at lower temperatures for making foods like sauces, poached chicken, and veggies. They’re not good for frying or searing meat.

Stainless Steel 

Stainless steel can take a lot of punishment, standing up to high heat and a lot of wear and tear. Multilayered pans, featuring stainless steel atop layers of aluminum and copper, are the best choice because they conduct heat more evenly than pans made of stainless steel alone. Stainless steel frying pans aren’t coated with chemicals or silica, so you’ll need to use oil or cooking spray to keep food from sticking. But a good stainless frying pan lasts for years and is oven-proof. Stainless steel is good for any type of food that needs frying or browning.

Cast Iron

Every kitchen should have one cast-iron frying pan. These pans are just about indestructible; think of them as an heirloom-quality pan that can last for generations. They’re also one of the most affordable types of skillet. When properly cared for, a cast-iron skillet develops a patina that releases food almost as well as nonstick pans. Over time, this seasoned surface will interact with the food itself, subtly enhancing the flavors of meat, breads, pancakes, and more.

Hard-Anodized

Stronger than both commercial-grade aluminum and stainless steel, hard-anodized aluminum pans get their nonstick abilities through their manufacturing process, not a special coating. These pans won’t scratch, even if you use metal utensils. While hard-anodized frying pans may be slightly more expensive than coated nonstick pans, they tend to last longer and don’t need to be replaced as often.

Copper

Copper pans are pricey, but they have excellent heat conductivity. That means they heat up quickly and cool down fast, giving you more temperature control over delicate food that can be destroyed fast by too much heat. Copper pans are the complete opposite of cast-iron skillets, which are made to get super hot and stay super hot. Copper pans generally can only take temperatures up to 450 degrees or so. Copper frying pans are a good choice for cooking seafood, melting sugar, and making candy and sauces.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Frying Pan 

You’ll want to buy a pan based on its size, material, the kind of food you prepare and ease of cleaning.

Size and Quality

A frying pan’s size is determined by its diameter. Generally, 10-inch or 12-inch frying pans offer the most versatility because they have room to cook enough food for two or more people. You can also get smaller, 8-inch frying pans that can be used for a single person or a side dish.

In terms of quality and durability, thickness counts. Cast-iron skillets are the thickest and heaviest of all and can last a lifetime. Aluminum and stainless steel pans are lighter, so look for frying pans with multiple layers (plies) of metal, as they won’t warp in high temperatures and have the best heat conductivity.

Easy Care and Maintenance 

Frying pans last longest when you give them proper care. Each type of skillet has different needs. Hand-wash frying pans unless they are dishwasher-safe. Nonstick pans can be scratched in the dishwasher, and the heat from the drying cycle can weaken the coating over time. Cast-iron skillets can rust if you put them in the dishwasher. If scraping burned food out of a pan isn’t your cup of tea, choose a pan that can be run through the dishwasher. Many non-coated stainless steel, aluminum, and copper pans are dishwasher-safe.

Don’t use metal utensils when cooking with nonstick pans. They can scratch the coating off the surface, making the pan lose its nonstick power.

Healthfulness

There have been questions about the safety of nonstick cookware, especially pans coated in PTFE or Teflon. The fears were based on a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that was used in the past and shown to be unsafe. Though it is no longer widely used in cookware, look for pans labeled PFOA-free.

Teflon and PTFE pans have been shown to be safe. That said, researchers have found that PTFE-coated pans can leach toxins into food if used at extremely hot temperatures or if the surface is damaged. For that reason, replace your nonstick pan when it appears scratched.

Our Top Picks

Here are the top picks, based on considerations like durability, construction, and ease of cleaning.

Best Overall

The Best Frying Pan Option:Tramontina 80114-536DS Professional Aluminum Fry Pan
Photo: amazon.com

This is a versatile pan that can handle a lot of cooking styles, thanks to its mix of features. This 12-inch, professional-grade pan is made of heavy-gauge aluminum alloy, so it’s lightweight yet durable. It is coated with PFOA-free nonstick material and is dishwasher- and oven-safe to 400 degrees. The Tramontina is compatible with all types of cooktops and comes with a removable silicon grip you can slip over its triple-riveted handle to keep from burning yourself. The Tramontina can handle everything from frying eggs to sauteing veggies to searing meat.

Best Budget

The Best Frying Pan Option: Sensarte Nonstick Frying Pan Skillet
Photo: amazon.com

Sensarte’s sturdy, nonstick frying pan looks and feels more expensive than it is. The cast aluminum pan is coated with granite stone imported from Switzerland that is PFOA-free for healthier cooking. The pan is made of stainless steel, and its handle is made of bakelite, an old-school plastic that’s lightweight and stays cool to touch. It’s dishwasher-safe and oven-safe to 302 degrees. Compatible with all stovetops, Sensarte’s nonstick pan is an elegant, European-style addition to your cookware and comes in four sizes ranging from 8 inches to 11 inches.

Best Upgrade

The Best Frying Pan Option: All-Clad 6108SS Copper Core 5-Ply Bonded Fry Pan
Photo: amazon.com

All-Clad’s copper-core frying pan is a pro-quality pan, with a copper core sandwiched between five layers of metal. Its durable construction provides even heating and warp-free strength. It’s dishwasher-safe and oven-safe up to 600 degrees and comes in three sizes: 8 inches, 10 inches, and 12 inches. The stainless steel interior offers stick resistance, but it is not nonstick in the traditional sense; you’ll need to use oil to coat the surface. It has a riveted handle and flared edges for pouring. It’s a high-quality pan built to last for many years.

Best Ceramic

The Best Frying Pan Option: Koch Systeme Stone Earth Nonstick Frying Pan
Photo: amazon.com

Constructed of aluminum alloy and coated with nonstick ceramic, Koch Systeme’s 11-inch stone earth frying pan is easy to cook with and easy to clean. Five layers of metal form the body of the pan, providing strength, warp resistance, and even heat distribution. The pan is free of PFOA, so it won’t leach toxins into your food. The handle is thermally insulated and comfortable to grip while cooking. Best of all, this ceramic frying pan is super easy to clean. Simply rinse and wipe with a soft sponge, and then towel dry. It is not oven-safe or dishwasher-safe. It’s also available in 8-inch and 10-inch sizes.

Best Stainless Steel

The Best Frying Pan Option: Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel Cookware Pan Set
Photo: amazon.com

This pair of Calphalon frying pans is made of stainless steel and aluminum for quick, even heating. The 10-inch pan is big enough to cook for two or more people, while the 8-inch handles solo meals and sides. Their double-riveted handles stay cool even when the pans are hot. The pans have covers with straining holes for easier food prep, and fill lines make measurements a snap. They’re dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup and can stand up to the heat of an oven or broiler. Use them to sear steak or fry eggs.

Best Cast Iron

The Best Frying Pan Option: Victoria Cast Iron Skillet Large Frying Pan
Photo: amazon.com

Victoria’s cast-iron skillet is a roomy 12-inch pan that’s super durable and comes ready to use. It comes pre-seasoned with non-GMO, vegetarian flaxseed oil, so the skillet has a surface that will release food almost as well as a nonstick pan. It’s suitable for all cooktop types as well as campfires, grills, broilers, and ovens. It has a longer, broader handle than many other cast-iron skillets, making it easier to hold onto. It also has a second grip handle and two pour spouts. It’s big enough to fry a chicken or cook a roast.

Best Copper

The Best Frying Pan Option: Mauviel M'Heritage M250C 2.5mm Copper Frying Pan
Photo: amazon.com

French cooking has a certain reputation to uphold, and so does Mauviel M’Heritage. The company has been in the pan-making business since 1830, so it should know a thing or two about cookware. The M250C frying pan is constructed of 2.5 mm copper with a stainless steel interior, making this 10-inch pan both beautiful and highly efficient at conducting heat. The stainless steel handle has an electroplated iron finish so it will stay cool to the touch. It is suitable for all cooking surfaces; however, it is not dishwasher-safe.

Honorable Mention

The Best Frying Pan Option: SAVEUR SELECTS Set of 2 Tri-ply Frying Pans
Photo: amazon.com

SAVEUR Selects Voyage Series Tri-ply Frying Pan Set comes with ergonomically-designed and durable frying pans. Each one has a stainless steel body and a highly conductive aluminum core for fast, even heat distribution. The mirror-finished stainless steel exteriors don’t stain, tarnish, or rust, and they resist corrosion, oxidization, and flavor absorption. Ergonomic stay-cool handles (embossed with SAVEUR Selects’ signature milled texture) provide a comfortable non-slip grip. The broad cooking surfaces are ideal for searing and browning, while the low sloped sides make flipping and turning easy. The pans are suitable for all stovetops: induction, electric, gas, and vitroceramic glass; they are dishwasher- and oven-safe in up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The smaller frying pan measures 15 by 1.5 inches, while the larger measures 17 by 4.5 inches.

FAQs About Frying Pans 

Stil have questions about frying pans and which one is best for you? Here’s some more information.

Q. What size frying pan should I buy?

In general, choose a 10-inch or 12-inch pan so you can cook food for two or more people.

Q. What kind of frying pans do chefs use? 

Stainless steel pans with a copper layer are popular with pros. Chefs typically don’t use nonstick pans because they can’t stand up to the demands of a commercial kitchen and are not suitable for all cooking methods.

Q. Does olive oil ruin nonstick pans? 

No. In fact, pure olive oil is recommended for use in nonstick pans. Avoid using olive oil cooking sprays, however, because it can leave a residue that damages nonstick pans over time.

Q. Is it better to cook with a stainless steel or nonstick frying pan? 

Professional chefs go with stainless steel because it is the most versatile material for cooking, and it’s more durable than nonstick pans. Nonstick pans are good for limited use, like cooking foods prone to sticking.