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Skillet Reviews

By: Kelly Burgess on May 14, 2018

Editor's note:
All-Clad stainless steel, Lodge cast iron and T-fal nonstick still sizzle in the 12-inch skillet category. All are top performers and the first two are also lifetime investments. We have some interesting new runners up too, including a copper pan that's an infomercial staple.

Lodge 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Helper handle - Yes Oven safe temperature - No upper limit Dishwasher safe - No

Best cast iron skillet

Lodge is a top name in cast iron, and the Lodge 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet is very well reviewed by experts and owners alike for its superior performance -- and it only gets better with age and use. This versatile Lodge cast iron frying pan can go from stovetop to oven or broiler; be used on the grill, in a smoker, or over an open flame. The 12-inch skillet comes pre-seasoned, heats quickly and evenly, and is a great choice for one-pot meals.

Buy for $21.42
Le Creuset Skillet Review
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Helper handle - Yes Oven safe temperature - 500 degrees Dishwasher safe - Yes

Enameled cast iron skillet

The Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Skillet has an enameled interior finish that doesn't require the seasoning that regular cast iron does. Owners say if you follow the manufacturer's instructions for preheating and proper cooking temperatures, it is very nonstick, but don't expect the extreme nonstick properties of coated pans -- those who do are disappointed. Le Creuset pans are among some of the most durable and attractive; this 11-3/4-inch skillet comes in 10 vibrant colors.

Buy for $170.80
All-Clad Stainless Steel 12-inch Fry Pan with Lid Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Helper handle - No Oven safe temperature - 500 degrees Dishwasher safe - Yes

Best stainless steel skillet

Among stainless steel skillets, the All-Clad 12-Inch Fry Pan is the clear standout in both expert and user reviews. Its fully clad construction delivers even heat and great browning, making it a favorite of professional chefs. It's roomy enough to hold a chicken with room to spare and can go from stovetop to oven for one-pot efficiency. Reviewers also say it's durable and comfortable to use. This particular version includes a lid, which adds quite a bit of value.

Buy for $119.95
Cuisinart MCP22-30HN MultiClad Pro Stainless 12-Inch Skillet
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Helper handle - Yes Oven safe temperature - 550 degrees Dishwasher safe - Yes

Cheap stainless steel skillet

The Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Stainless 12-Inch Skillet performs almost as well as its pricier competitors, earning top marks for cooking, ease of handling and durability. However, it's more like a sauté pan than a skillet, so it's not as useful for tossing or flipping foods, but its larger cooking surface is handy if you need to make lots of food. The helper handle is particularly appreciated, and many say they bought this stainless steel skillet just for that feature.

Buy for $37.99
T-fal E93808 12-inch Fry Pan Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Helper handle - No Oven safe temperature - 350 degrees Dishwasher safe - Yes

Best nonstick skillet

Experts say you should have at least one nonstick pan, and you can't do any better than the T-fal 12.5-inch Fry Pan. For such an inexpensive skillet, it gets a lot of love from both experts and owners. The T-fal heats quickly, releases food easily, and is reported as surprisingly heavy and sturdy. It also uses a nonstick coating that's easy to clean and gets very few complaints of chipping or scratching. T-fal offers a lifetime warranty.

Buy for $26.99
Scanpan Professional 12.5-Inch Fry Pan
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Helper handle - No Oven safe temperature - 500 degrees Dishwasher safe - Yes

Ceramic nonstick skillet

While most ceramic cookware is "panned" by expert reviewers, the Scanpan Classic 12.5-Inch Fry Pan performs better in testing than most, and is a big hit with owners. Most users say it's just as nonstick as a traditional coated, nonstick pan. Like all ceramic cookware, it's not as durable as skillets made from other materials, so you'll need to handle it with care, and there are complaints of it becoming less nonstick after a few months of use.

Buy for $89.83

Types of Skillets

Cast Iron Skillets

Versatile and economical, cast iron will serve you well for many years, and maybe your children and grandchildren as well. Although it takes longer to heat than other types of skillets, cast iron retains its heat very well and excels at browning, searing and baking. It goes seamlessly from stovetop to oven, and can be used on the grill or over an open flame -- making it very popular with campers and tailgaters. When broken in and treated properly, cast iron will develop some natural nonstick properties, although it may never be nonstick enough for that perfect over-easy egg.

Stainless-Steel Skillets

Also often referred to as "clad," stainless steel frying pans 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. Stainless steel skillets with oven-safe handles can typically withstand temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven or go under the broiler. These pans are not inherently nonstick, and it may take some trial and error to figure out the correct sequence of heat + oil + added ingredients, but foodies say it's worth going through the learning curve.

Nonstick Skillets

Every kitchen should have at least one nonstick frying pan. They excel at cooking delicate foods like fish, runny-yoked eggs, pancakes and crepes. The best nonstick skillets heat quickly and evenly, and they tend to be lighter and easier to maneuver than either cast iron or stainless. They should be used at lower temperatures than stainless steel or cast iron, and even the most expensive have a limited lifespan -- toss them as soon as they begin to lose their nonstick properties or you see any chipping, flaking or scratching to avoid potential safety hazards (see below).

Ceramic Skillets

Ceramic skillets are also nonstick, but ceramic is thought to be safer than other types of nonstick pans. However, there are tradeoffs -- ceramic is more expensive, doesn't have the extreme nonstick qualities of some other materials, and the interiors tend to be more delicate. Still, if you take good care of your ceramic frying pan, use it at the appropriate heat settings (no higher than medium), and don't use metal utensils, it should have a decent lifespan.

Every kitchen needs a great skillet

Skillets, also known as frying pans, are useful for many kitchen tasks, from frying a single egg to putting a sear on a large roast before finishing it off in the oven. Stovetop-to-oven skillets are also a great choice for one-pot meals, which are becoming increasingly popular with today's busy lifestyles.

We focus primarily on 12-inch skillets in this report, although some are a bit smaller or larger. This size is perfect for a larger family meal and is typically are not included in cookware sets. However, most of the skillets we recommend also come in smaller or larger sizes. If you're fine with a smaller skillet or two, and would like matching pots as well, cookware sets, which we cover in a separate report, offer the best value. Cookware sets also include lids, which you often have to purchase separately when buying a skillet by itself.

Are nonstick skillets safe?

In a word: yes. Nonstick skillets have a reputation as being inherently unsafe due to volatile chemicals that might leach into food and the environment and cause all kinds of havoc. In fact, while there were some concerns about the coatings used in older products, research shows that even most of that was overstated. In addition, nonstick cookware has become increasingly safe in recent years, and virtually all are now free of PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and other chemicals that used to be the source of most of the worry.

When used properly, nonstick frying pans -- even older ones -- are extremely safe. However, you should discard and replace any pan that shows signs of wear, including scratching, peeling, or a loss of its nonstick properties. Also, even very expensive nonstick skillets have a limited life span, which is why most experts recommend buying cheap pans and just replacing them frequently.

Learning to use your skillet is key

One of the most important things to know about using a skillet is that there is a learning curve, just as there is with any new cookware. Cast iron and stainless steel are not nonstick, so it's worth taking the time to learn how to properly use them and what kinds of foods are best to cook in that type of pan. Even a nonstick frying pan won't be suitable for everything; for example, it's not the best choice for putting a sear on a steak or preparing more complex dishes that can benefit from the browned bits (called "fond") that stick to a pan and flavor gravies and sauces. Nonstick skillets also usually have a lower oven-safe temperature and often aren't recommended for use under a broiler. That's why experts suggest keeping a couple of different types of skillets around, so you always have the right pan for the job.

Finding The Best Skillets
Our Sources
"Frying pans"
"Traditional Skillets"
"Inexpensive 12-Inch Skillets"

There are a good number of professional organizations that test skillets, including Cook's Illustrated, Consumer Reports, and Wirecutter. Also helpful are articles and reviews from individuals who are knowledgeable about cookware and cooking, and we found several articles at Reviewed, Serious Eats and Epicurious that helped us narrow down our selections.

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, Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond. This gives us a lot of insight into determining how skillets perform in real cooking tasks, helping us to make recommendations for the best skillets for your home kitchen.

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Skillets buying guide

What every best Skillets has:

  • Good cooking performance.
  • A large cooking surface.
  • A thick, evenly flat bottom.

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