The All-Clad Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan consistently performs well in both professional tests and user reviews. Although it's expensive, reviewers say it's worth the price because it offers even heating, great browning and plenty of cooking area. Like most stainless pans, though, it has some trouble with food sticking, and it doesn't simmer as steadily as some. Cleanup is harder than with nonstick pans, though owners say the right cleanser helps.
Shines in professional tests. Reviewers consistently say the All-Clad pan delivers even, controlled heat and browns beautifully. Testers at Good Housekeeping, however, note that the skillet does have a weak point: It has trouble maintaining a steady simmer. They also note that the pan heats more evenly on an electric stove than it does over gas.
Users at Amazon.com agree that this skillet is great for browning; as one review puts it, "if you want to sear meat and get a great 'fond' this is the one that will do it." However, we saw many complaints that food sticks to this pan, especially eggs. Some owners explain that this isn't the right pan for preparing eggs or fish; others say you can successfully cook eggs if you follow the right technique -- heat the skillet, add oil or butter and bring up to temperature before adding eggs (which should be at room temperature). Cooked this way, one user says, "The eggs taste MUCH better on stainless steel than Teflon."
Size and shape get love from experts. Reviewers praise its generous cooking surface, which can accommodate eight pieces of chicken (or a whole cut-up fryer) with room to spare. Editors at Good Housekeeping say its "classic omelet shape," with gently sloped sides, is ideal for turning out eggs, yet it's is still deep enough for stir-frying or cooking chili. We also saw praise for this skillet's weight and balance, which make it easy to move around during cooking. However, a couple of users say the pan's stay-cool handle is a bit uncomfortable to use, especially for smaller people who don't have very strong hands. One owner notes that a helper handle on the other end of the skillet would be a big improvement.
As for cleanup, reviewers are divided over this point. Good Housekeeping editors say cleanup can be tricky, especially around the handle rivets where food tends to stick. Some reviewers at Amazon.com agree; one says that the discolorations that appear when the pan is used on high heat require "ten minutes of scrubbing with a gently abrasive pad to remove," even after soaking the pan overnight. However, other users say cleanup is a breeze, especially with the help of Bar Keepers Friend cleanser (*Est. $3 for a 12-ounce can). Although this pan is dishwasher-safe, most owners prefer to wash it by hand to keep the finish looking good.
These pans are beautiful when new. One owner at Amazon.com enthuses, "I like the neat polished exterior. Looks great hanging on a rack glistening in the sunlight." However, the mirror shine may take some extra work to maintain. Good Housekeeping warns, "You will have to use some elbow grease to keep its beautiful finish looking spiffy." Also, one Amazon user cautions that the shiny stainless is vulnerable to scratching.
Built to last. In one professional test, it survived being submerged in ice water and banged against concrete (any resulting dents were barely noticeable). One reviewer at Amazon.com notes that the riveted handles are more secure than welded metal or "those cheap bolted on plastic ones." Several owners say this skillet's durability justifies its high price, since the pan will last longer than a few years. The manufacturer appears to agree with this assessment, as it backs the skillet with a lifetime warranty.
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1. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Review Credibility: Very Good Editors compare six 12-inch stainless-steel skillets. Most, like the All-Clad Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan, have one or more layers of aluminum sandwiched between layers of stainless steel. Two less expensive pans have disk bottoms, with the aluminum plates confined to the bottom of the pan. Each pan is evaluated on several cooking tasks. Testers also melt lead solder in the pans to see how quickly they come up to temperature. To gauge durability, heated skillets are plunged into ice water and banged against concrete. Editors recommend four pans, but three of them are discontinued.
Review: Traditional Skillets, Editors of Cook's Illustrated, Jan. 1, 2009
2. Good Housekeeping
Review Credibility: Very Good In this slideshow, Good Housekeeping presents a roundup of the eight "standout" pans in its tests of nonstick and stainless-steel skillets. There are also links to the full reviews for each skillet, with letter grades and a list of pros and cons. The All-Clad Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan earns a grade of A-minus, with praise for its even heating, superior browning and stay-cool handle. Editors say the pan is roomy and the "classic omelet shape" is convenient. It has trouble maintaining a steady simmer, however, and it requires "some elbow grease" to clean.
Review: Best Skillets, Editors of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, November 2012
Review Credibility: Good The All-Clad Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan receives more than 60 reviews from users at Amazon.com, with an overall rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. Owners agree that food cooks evenly and browns well. Some complain that food sticks to the pan, but others say it's not a problem with the right combination of oil and heat. Users also disagree about the ease of cleanup: some say it's "a breeze," while others gripe that they weren't able to remove food residue and stains when washing by hand. Multiple users say Bar Keepers Friend cleanser (*Est. $3 for a 12-ounce can) is a must.
Review: All-Clad 5112 Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2013