If there’s one kitchen item that gets almost daily use, it’s the skillet.
Skillets are shallow, flat pans with flared sides that are used for a variety of meal preparations. Most commonly, they’re used for pan-roasting, pan-frying, and searing. The best skillet will withstand the heat and conduct it evenly throughout your food. The following models are definitely worth considering to add to your cookware set.
- BEST OVERALL: Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, Pre-Seasoned, 10.25 Inch
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: All-Clad E785S264/E785S263 HA1 Fry Pan Set, 2-Piece
- UPGRADE PICK: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Skillet, 11.75″
- BEST STAINLESS STEEL: Cuisinart 722-36H Chef’s Classic Stainless 14-Inch
- BEST CERAMIC: GreenLife Ceramic Nonstick, Frying Pan/Skillet Set
- BEST ELECTRIC: Presto 06857 16-inch Electric Foldaway Skillet
- BEST NONSTICK: Cuisinart 622-30G Chef’s Classic Nonstick Skillet
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Skillet
Choosing a new skillet requires some homework. Everything from the pan’s size to its thickness to what kind of material it’s made of should factor into your decision. In the section below is everything you need to know about choosing a skillet so you can make the best choice for your kitchen.
Size and Weight
While skillets come in all shapes and sizes, there are common options: 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch. Larger sizes are often better when it comes to stovetop cookware because you don’t want to overcrowd your pan. Family-size meals and multiple portions of meat will work best in a 10-inch or 12-inch pan. Smaller sizes, like the 8-inch, will be fine for frying a couple of eggs or cooking single-serving meals.
Weight is another important factor to consider. If you’re spending a lot of time in the kitchen or if you’re prone to wrist pain, a lightweight skillet will work best. Cast-iron skillets and pans are often heavier than stainless steel or ceramic skillets.
Skillets on the market today are made of either stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum, ceramic, or cast iron.
Stainless steel skillets have the least amount of heat retention, but they are dishwasher safe, rust-resistant, and the most affordable. However, they’re also prone to scratches and dents. Carbon steel is lightweight and thinner but doesn’t have as much heat retention, which can cause food to cook unevenly.
Aluminum is lightweight, affordable, and scratch- and dent-resistant if it’s anodized. However, anodized aluminum is more expensive. Ceramic has stronger heat retention and heat-resistant properties, but it’s also typically more expensive.
Cast-iron skillets are reactive to acidic and alkaline foods—meaning they can make those foods taste like metal. Cast iron is the most durable and can retain heat the best, but it requires more effort to clean. It can easily rust if it’s not properly maintained.
A skillet’s thickness is important because it determines how well it conducts heat and how sturdy it is when exposed to heat. Thicker skillets will give you a more even heat production, and they will be less susceptible to damage, thus making them longer-lasting.
Most manufacturers measure skillet thickness in either gauge or mils. If the thickness is labeled in gauge, look for lower numbers, such as 10-gauge construction, since a higher gauge number is thinner.
Some skillets are measured in millimeters. If the thickness is labeled in mils, look for a higher number since 1 mil is equal to about 0.001 of an inch. Lower-end models are often 0.5-millimeters thick while high-quality skillets are typically 5-millimeters thick. The thicker the skillet, the better.
Coating refers to whether the pan has a nonstick coating or not. Nonstick skillets are easier to clean and reduce the amount of oil you need to use for cooking. However, nonstick coatings can only handle heat up to 500 degrees. They’re also prone to scratches and are not as durable as skillets without nonstick coating.
Nonstick cookware will require the use of oil and is harder to clean—because food easily sticks to the bottom—but it’s a great option for searing meats and browning vegetables. The more oil you use to cook with, the less likely the food will stick to the pan.
A skillet’s handle is another factor to take into consideration. The common types available are riveted, welded, and screwed-on.
If the skillet’s handle has rivets, food can become encrusted around the rivets and thus be harder to clean. However, riveted handles tend to be the sturdiest option. Welded handles allow for a smoother interior of a skillet, but they’re not very sturdy. Screwed-on is easier to replace, but these handles may become loose over time.
When choosing a skillet, you might want to look for oven-proof handles so you can move the skillet from stovetop to oven, as required by many recipes. No matter what handle you choose, you’ll always want to use pot holders to grab the handles when cooking. There are also handle covers you can buy to make your skillet easier to work with.
Cleaning and Maintenance
If you’re using your skillet regularly, it will help to choose one that’s easy to clean. Because stainless steel skillets can be tossed in the dishwasher, they are the easiest to clean. Cast-iron and copper skillets require more maintenance to wash and prevent them from rusting. Anodized aluminum must also be hand washed. Nonstick skillets will prevent most food from sticking to the pan, but they might not last as long as skillets without a nonstick coating.
No matter what kind of pan you choose, it’s important to thoroughly clean it after every use to prevent rust and help it last longer.
Our Top Picks
The best skillets provide great heat retention, conduct heat evenly, and are thick enough to withstand high temperatures. While they come in various materials, sizes, and types, investing in a quality one can make a huge difference in your cooking.
The recommendations below are based on a range of categories to help you find the best skillet to make delicious meals at home.
While cast-iron skillets have a reputation of being difficult to use and hard to maintain, the Lodge Cast Iron Skillet makes cooking with this unique tool more accessible to every cooking level.
This affordable skillet is pre-seasoned with 100 percent vegetable oil to help even out the often bumpy texture cast iron has and to increase its heat retention and ability to cook evenly. You won’t have to pre-season this skillet yourself, but you will have to use it regularly to maintain the seasoning. To clean it, you need to hand wash it, dry it, and rub it with cooking oil.
The Lodge skillet comes in nine different sizes, and some include a silicone handle cover to prevent burns.
The All-Clad Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan Cookware Set is available in three options: an 8-inch and a 10-inch pan, a 10-inch and a 4-quart pan with a lid, or a 10-inch and 12-inch pan set.
These hard-anodized aluminum pans are designed with scratch-resistant, dishwasher-safe nonstick coating, making them easy to clean and reducing the amount of fat or oil you need for cooking. The base and handle are made of stainless steel, which adds to the pans’ durability and strengthens heat retention. These affordable pans are oven-safe (without lids) and can handle temperatures up to 500 degrees.
This isn’t your average cast-iron skillet. Unlike traditional models, the Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Skillet is designed with black enameled cast iron that requires no seasoning and little oil, and it can be put in a dishwasher for easy cleanup. The material it’s made of is also resistant to stains and dulling.
In addition to the high-quality cast iron, this skillet is designed with two handles, including a loop “helper handle” for easier carrying. Although it’s only available in one size—11.75 inches—you can choose from six different colors.
It is easy to wash, but allow it to cool before you put it under water.
The mirrored finish of the Cuisinart 722-36H Chef’s Classic Stainless 14-Inch Open Skillet is not only nice to look at, but it’s great for your food, too. Wrapped in stainless steel that doesn’t react, discolor, or alter flavors, this skillet also has an aluminum base that helps spread out heat evenly and quickly. Dreaded hot spots (where some food is warmer and other areas are colder) are avoided thanks to this combination.
This skillet’s curved edges help to prevent spills and drips. It’s also oven-safe for temperatures up to 550 degrees. The downside is that stainless steel is prone to rust, so avoid having any salty foods or water sit on it for long.
As its name suggests, the GreenLife Soft Grip Ceramic Nonstick Frying Pan/Skillet Set is one of the most eco-friendly skillet sets on the market. It’s designed with strong ceramic that’s free of chemicals like lead and cadmium, and the nonstick coating is derived from sand—much like a cast-iron skillet—which makes for easy cleanup.
A reinforced base—made from recycled aluminum—prevents wobbles and makes the skillet stronger. It’s also dishwasher safe and easy to clean. Plus, there are no rivets on the handle, so you don’t have to worry about food buildup.
This skillet set comes in two sizes, 7-inch and 10-inch, and can be used in the oven up to 350 degrees. It’s also available in six colors to choose from.
If you need a skillet that is easy to transport and can double as a serving tray, then look no further than the Presto 06857 16-inch Electric Foldaway Skillet. Constructed with a heavy cast-aluminum base and a nonstick surface both inside and out, this dishwasher-safe skillet evenly distributes heat and is easy to clean up.
This skillet is a great option if you need to transport it to an event or a large gathering. The handles fold down, and the skillet pan detaches from the base, so it’s easy to store or move. It also comes with a glass cover and handles that stay cool to double as a serving tray.
Thanks to the Cuisinart 622-30G Chef’s Classic Nonstick Skillet, loading up on olive or canola oil will be a thing of the past. This nonstick pan makes cleanup as easy as wiping away leftover food and throwing the pan in the dishwasher—and it doesn’t hurt that it’s made of high-quality hard-anodized stainless steel.
Hard-anodized steel is the result of soft aluminum being hardened through an electrochemical process, making it twice as hard as stainless steel. This pan is also nonporous, wear-resistant, and oven-safe up to 500 degrees, and it comes with a glass cover.
This pan is available in a single 12-inch size.
FAQs About Skillets
Now that you’ve learned how to choose the best skillet for your kitchen and reviewed some of the most popular models on the market, it’s time to get the answers to any remaining questions you might have. Below are the most frequently asked questions about selecting skillets and how to care for them properly.
Q. What is the difference between a skillet and a frying pan?
Skillets and frying pans look similar, but skillets are actually slightly deeper than frying pans. Skillets also often come with lids, and frying pans do not.
Q. How do I pick a skillet?
Choose a skillet based on how much food you’ll be cooking, what kind of food you’ll be cooking, and how much work you want to put into maintaining it.
Q. How do I season a skillet?
Coat your oven-proof skillet with a thin layer of vegetable or canola oil and bake it in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour. Use your skillet regularly to keep it seasoned.
Q. How long does a skillet last?
It depends on the material it’s made of. Cast-iron skillets can last for generations if properly maintained. Stainless steel and aluminum skillets (especially nonstick) will last a few years.