The T-Fal Professional 12.5-Inch Fry Pan combines great nonstick performance with a price that's hard to beat. Also, unlike most nonstick pans, it doesn't get complaints about the nonstick surface flaking off with use (though professionals say all nonstick pans wear out eventually). Its biggest problem is that the pan bottom can warp, bowing up in the middle so that oil runs out to the edges.
Functions splendidly in professional tests. Katherine Cancila of The Wall Street Journal says the T-Fal skillet "cooks food at a slightly faster rate than some of its competitors," and editors at a foodie magazine say its slick nonstick coating releases food with ease. Cancila notes that the coating is also dishwasher-safe and safe to use with metal utensils -- a rarity among nonstick skillets. Most users at Amazon.com say they are thrilled with this skillet's fast, even heating and slick nonstick surface. One owner says it can "sauté to a nice brown with minimal fat," and another notes that omelets slip out with ease. However, we did find a couple of dissenters who say their T-Fal pans have a definite hot spot in the middle. This may be related to the problem some users describe with the middle of the pan bowing upward, as discussed below.
Pan's size, shape and weight steal reviewer's hearts. Cancila calls it "nicely shaped," and the editors of the foodie magazine praise its proportions. Owners at Amazon.com say its large cooking area and deep, slightly sloped sides make it useful for cooking a wide variety of dishes. Reviewers uniformly agree that the "cushioned" silicone handles are very comfortable, although they limit the skillet's suitability for oven use (it's safe to 350 degrees Fahrenheit). Owners find the pan's weight ideal, not too flimsy and not too hefty.
Cleanup is also "a breeze," according to users. Unlike most nonstick pans, the T-Fal is dishwasher-safe, but even users who wash their pans by hand have no difficulty (although one owner notes that the skillet's rim is not nonstick and takes extra care to clean).
We saw only one complaint about ease of use: Cancila says that in her tests, the heat indicator in the center of the pan "never turned dark red as it was supposed to" when the pan came up to temperature. As a result, she found this feature "more confusing than helpful."
Fairly utilitarian. In the 400-plus reviews we found at Amazon.com, we did not see any that singled out its looks, either positive or negative. However, we did see reviews noting that the T-Fal pan's durability keeps it looking like new after months of use. Regarding storage, we did find one comment to the effect that the thick silicone handle makes the pan a little harder to hang from a hook; however, the user says it can still be done with a bit of care.
Exceptional nonstick coating. Cancila notes that the coating stands up to metal utensils and dishwasher use -- both unusual features for a nonstick pan. Moreover, in hundreds of Amazon.com reviews, we did not find a single one complaining that the T-Fal's nonstick coating wore off prematurely. A few reviewers did say their pans wore out after several years, but that's a long lifespan for a nonstick pan. In durability tests at a cooking magazine, the skillet's handle rivets did come loose after being pounded on a concrete surface, but the pan was otherwise unscathed.
The most common complaint users have about this skillet's durability is that the pan bottom tends to bow upward when heated, causing all the oil to run out to the edges. Some users say this problem was clear upon first use, while others say it developed over time. T-Fal offers a lifetime warranty on this skillet, so users who notice this problem should have a means of addressing it.
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1. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Review Credibility: Very Good Editors put seven low-cost nonstick skillets, including the T-Fal Professional 12.5-Inch Fry Pan, through their paces: cooking eggs without oil, stir-frying beef with vegetables and preparing crepes. They also test durability by using metal utensils on the pans, plunging them into ice water and banging them repeatedly on the countertop. Two more expensive pans are put through the same tests to see if higher price adds up to better performance. The result: One modestly priced pan aces most of the tests, beating out its pricier rivals. Three other pans are also recommended, but with reservations.
Review: Nonstick Skillets, Editors of Cook's Illustrated, Sept. 1, 2010
2. The Wall Street Journal
Review Credibility: Very Good Writer Katherine Cancila tries out more than a dozen nonstick pans for The Wall Street Journal (though her testing methods aren't explained). The T-Fal Professional 12.5-Inch Fry Pan is one of her top five picks, thanks to its quick heating and comfortable silicone handle. Cancila also finds the skillet "surprisingly durable," noting that unlike most nonstick pans, it can stand up to dishwasher use and metal utensils. However, she finds the heat indicator in the center of the cooking surface doesn't work properly and is more confusing than helpful.
Review: Nonstick Frying Pans, Katherine Cancila, March 30, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good This T-Fal pan receives more than 430 Amazon.com reviews, earning an overall rating of 4.4 stars out of 5. Owners say this skillet has excellent nonstick properties and cleans up easily. They also like its size and weight. The biggest problem is that the bottom tends to warp in the middle when heated, causing oil to run out toward the edges. This problem did not affect most users, however.
Review: T-fal E9380864 Professional Total Nonstick Oven Safe Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator Fry Pan/Saute Pan Dishwasher Safe Cookware, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2013