All-Clad Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan
All-Clad Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan

Best stainless-steel skillet

Among stainless skillets, the All-Clad Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan is the clear standout in both professional and user reviews. Its fully clad construction delivers even heat and great browning, and it's roomy enough to hold a chicken with room to spare. Reviewers also say it's durable and comfortable to use.
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T-Fal Professional 12.5-Inch Fry Pan
T-Fal Professional 12.5-Inch Fry Pan

Nonstick skillet

Pros say the T-Fal Professional 12.5-Inch Fry Pan is the best value among nonstick skillets. It heats quickly, releases food easily and has comfortable handles. Although there are a few complaints about warping, this is the only nonstick pan in this review that had no user complaints about its coating wearing off.
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Beka Chef Eco-Logic 100% Fry Pan
Beka Chef Eco-Logic 100% Fry Pan

Eco-friendly nonstick skillet

Reviewers say the Beka Chef Eco-Logic 100% Fry Pan offers excellent nonstick performance without the chemicals found in Teflon. In professional tests, it sears and simmers well, and users say it's easy to clean. However, they are divided about how well the ceramic nonstick coating holds up over time.
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Lodge Logic 12-Inch Skillet
Lodge Logic 12-Inch Skillet

Best cast-iron skillet

The Lodge Logic 12-Inch Skillet is the top performer in one professional test, cooking every dish to perfection. The pan comes pre-seasoned (coated with baked-on vegetable oil); giving it a surface that owners say releases food nearly as well as nonstick pans. With proper care, this durable pan will last for years.
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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Skillets Runners Up:

Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick Omelette Pan Set *Est. $80

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Cuisinart GreenGourmet Hard Anodized 12-Inch Skillet *Est. $45

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Emerilware Cast Iron 12-Inch Skillet *Est. $30

3 picks including: Food & Wine Magazine, Macys.com…

Cuisinart MultiClad Pro 12-Inch Skillet *Est. $70

3 picks including: Amazon.com, Cook's Illustrated Magazine…

Le Creuset 11.75-Inch Iron Handle Skillet *Est. $155

2 picks including: Amazon.com, Cook's Illustrated Magazine…

Skillets are sized for large portions

Cookware sets offer an economical way to get the basics, but most sets do not include a 12-inch skillet. Because a pan this size is useful for cooking large portions, we endeavored to find the best model to add to your kitchen essentials. The terms "skillet" and "fry pan" are used interchangeably to refer to pans with a long handle. Some 12-inch skillets also have a loop-shaped helper handle opposite the main handle to make carrying easier. Skillets can have either vertical or sloping sides, but most don't come with a lid.

Stainless-steel skillets are the go-to for pro chefs

Skillets come in several materials. Many professional cooks like "clad" stainless-steel skillets, which have a core of fast-heating aluminum sandwiched between two layers of heat-tempering stainless steel. This material heats evenly on gas or electric stovetops, and experts say it does a superior job of browning food. Skillets with oven-safe handles can typically withstand temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven or under the broiler. Many stainless-steel skillets are dishwasher-safe, although manufacturers recommend hand washing.

Stainless-steel skillets don't have nonstick surfaces, so cooks have to use oil or nonstick spray, and they may also need to adjust their cooking methods to prevent foods from sticking. Stainless skillets can also become scratched and may discolor when heated to temperatures beyond 500 degrees. The best stainless-steel skillets covered in our sources fell in the $70 to $150 range. While we did find some budget models costing $50 or less, none gets consistently strong reviews.

A decent Teflon pan won't break the bank

Another skillet option is hard-anodized aluminum, made by subjecting aluminum cookware to a chemical process that makes it harder and nonreactive to acidic foods, such as tomatoes. Anodized aluminum is durable and conducts heat very well, but it is heavier and can become scratched or discolored. Hard-anodized nonstick cookware often comes with an interior coating that's usually made of Teflon or a similar material.

Experts say a nonstick surface can come in handy for cooking delicate foods like eggs and fish. However, they warn that any nonstick coating will eventually wear off with use. For this reason, some experts say it's not worth investing a lot of money in a nonstick skillet. While it's possible to pay $150 or more for a nonstick pan, we found some good performers that cost as little as $25.

Recently, many consumers have become concerned about some of the chemicals used in Teflon and its equivalents. These are made chiefly of a substance called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). When heated to more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit (which could happen if you leave an empty pan on the stove), PTFE can emit toxic fumes in concentrations high enough to kill birds and cause flu-like symptoms in adults. A second chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is used in producing Teflon, has been linked to birth defects in animals.

Though most scientists say nonstick cookware is perfectly safe when used correctly, a growing number of manufacturers are making nonstick cookware with alternative coatings that avoid the use of PFOA and/or PTFE. These alternative coatings, which are typically silicone- or ceramic-based, are often marketed as eco-friendly. PTFE-free cookware is improving in quality, but we didn't find any eco-friendly skillets in our sources that could match the performance of Teflon. They also cost more, typically between $50 and $100 for a 12-inch skillet.

Cast iron is the best bet for those concerned about harsh chemicals

A more economical option for users concerned about PTFE is cast iron, which has some natural nonstick properties if properly cared for. Cast-iron pans cost around $25 and are virtually indestructible. Their extra heft helps them heat food evenly and hold heat longer, but it can also make them unwieldy. They can withstand high temperatures, but their handles can get very hot. Some cast-iron skillets are pre-seasoned (coated with a small amount of oil that is baked into the surface) by manufacturers. If a cast-iron skillet is not pre-seasoned, it must be seasoned before use to prevent the formation of rust. To prevent rust, cast-iron pans shouldn't be put in a dishwasher or soaked overnight.

The editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine conducted detailed tests of nearly every type of skillet, from stainless to eco-friendly nonstick. Their reports are our most important source of information about performance. We also looked at test results from other cooking and home magazines, including Good Housekeeping, Fine Cooking and Food & Wine.

Since durability can't always be evaluated in the test lab, we also consulted thousands of reviews from users at retail sites, such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Cooking.com. All of our Best Reviewed skillets have at least one strong review from a professional source, backed up by at least a dozen user reviews. Their reviews confirm that these skillets offer the best combination of cooking performance, ease of use and durability.

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