It's certainly possible to pay a lot of money for a nonstick skillet. The Swiss Diamond 11-inch Fry Pan, for instance, costs an estimated $160, and it does indeed perform very well in professional tests. However, the editors of Cook's Illustrated warn that even the best nonstick skillet will eventually become scratched and roughened from use, voiding its nonstick properties. Treating your skillets gently can delay this day but not prevent it. For this reason, they recommend choosing a lower-priced nonstick skillet, provided you can find one that performs well.
One nonstick pan that meets this requirement is the T-Fal Professional 12.5-Inch Fry Pan (*Est. $25) . In two separate professional tests, it earns top marks. It heats up faster than many competitors, and its nonstick surface releases food with ease. Testers also say its silicone-coated handles are comfortable and its nonstick coating is surprisingly durable. Amazon.com reviewers generally agree. In more than 430 reviews, the pan earns an overall 4.4-star rating (out of 5) from users, who say the nonstick surface is amazing and cleans up beautifully.
Moreover, this was the only nonstick skillet in our tests that did not earn a lot of gripes from users about the coating wearing off. However, one complaint that did pop up fairly often was that the pan's bottom tends to warp with use, bowing up in the middle so that oil pools near the edges. This problem did not affect most users, so it is most likely a quality control issue.
The Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick Omelette Pan Set (*Est. $80) also earns good reviews. This two-piece set includes 12-inch and 10-inch skillets, both with gently sloped sides and stay-cool stainless-steel handles. Although these pans are not covered in any professional tests, they receive thousands of reviews from owners at Cooking.com, Amazon.com and Macys.com. Like the T-Fal pan, these skillets offer even heat distribution and a good nonstick surface, according to users.
However, owners are somewhat divided over the coating's durability. Some say it began to flake within a few months, while others say it held up well for a few years before food began to stick. Also, like the T-Fal, these pans are vulnerable to warping. The Calphalon pans do have a limited lifetime warranty.
If you want a nonstick skillet, but prefer to avoid controversial chemicals, there are quite a few options. However, most eco-friendly nonstick pans don't perform as well as their traditional Teflon-based counterparts. One exception is the Beka Chef Eco-Logic 100% Fry Pan (*Est. $100) . It's considerably more expensive than a traditional Teflon pan, but testers at Good Housekeeping say it measures up in terms of performance. In their tests, it did a great job of holding sauce at a steady simmer, and it could sear steak, which is usually a problem for nonstick pans. Testers also liked the pan's sloped sides (which they call "perfect for turning out omelets") and comfortable silicone handle.
The Beka pan isn't sold at many retail sites, so we had trouble finding a good sample of user reviews to support professionals' findings. However, the pan does get about 20 Amazon.com reviews, most of them positive. Users agree that the skillet is easy to clean and the handles are very comfortable. Owners also say the nonstick surface is very smooth when the skillet is new, but they are divided about how well it holds up. A couple of them say that their pans lost slickness within two to 10 months, but others report no signs of deterioration after four to 12 months. Unlike most nonstick pans, this one is equipped with a three-year warranty on the nonstick coating (provided it is handled according to the instructions). This may mitigate the risk of shelling out big bucks for a pan that may not last.
The Cuisinart GreenGourmet Hard Anodized 12-Inch Skillet (*Est. $45) earns mixed reviews. This pan is a top performer in tests conducted by Fine Cooking and The Wall Street Journal. Maryellen Driscoll, writing for Fine Cooking, says the pan delivers even heat with no sticking, and its shape is balanced and comfortable to use. However, in another test conducted by a foodie magazine, the GreenGourmet falls flat in both design and performance. Eggs stick to the sides, and steaks burn before they're fully cooked.
While many users say the pan cooks and cleans up beautifully, others complain that it loses its nonstick properties within a few months, even with scrupulous care. The product sold at Amazon.com is the Cuisinart GreenGourmet GG22-30, rather than the GG22-30H that was reviewed in professional sources, which is no longer available. However, the only difference between the two is that the GG22-30H has a helper handle, which did not play a major role in test results.