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Best Nonstick Skillets

By: Kelly Burgess on May 14, 2018

Nonstick skillets are convenient and very affordable

Expert and amateur chefs agree: You need a wide variety of skillets in your kitchen, including a good nonstick skillet for delicate items like fried eggs and fish, and batter-based dishes, like pancakes and crepes, that you don't want sticking and possibly burning. The perceived downside to nonstick frying pans is that they are unsafe to use in cooking, but most experts say that is simply not the case when used properly. In addition, most manufacturers have ceased using PFOA in their products, which is the main chemical that was causing people concern. All of the skillets in this report are PFOA free.

The big problem with nonstick frying pans -- even the very expensive ones -- is that they just don't last all that long. Eventually, even with the best pans, the coating will start to wear off, scratch, and dull, and the skillet will lose its nonstick properties. Better to buy a frying pan that you feel will have given you $25 to $50 worth of service over the 12- to 18-months that you'll own it, rather than a more expensive one that you'll feel bitter about having to replace after such a short time.

The clear standout in this category for performance, durability and price is the T-fal 12.5-inch Fry Pan (Est. $25). It earns top marks in testing at one professional kitchen, heating up faster than its competitors, and evenly cooking a variety of foods. Its nonstick surface releases food with ease; users say eggs just slide right out. Testers also say its silicone-coated handles are comfortable and its nonstick coating is surprisingly durable. It was the only nonstick frying pan in this report that did not earn a lot of gripes from users about the coating wearing off sooner than it seemed that it should. In the same professional test we reference above, the skillet's handle rivets come loose after being pounded on a concrete surface, but the pan was otherwise unscathed. We would recommend NOT pounding the pan on a concrete surface.

We did see a couple of other complaints. Some say the heat indicator in the center of the pan (which is supposed to turn dark red when the pan is up to temperature) either does not work or is confusing -- most just ignore it. Others note that the pan's bottom tends to warp with use, bowing up in the middle so that oil pools near the edges. It seems to be an issue with the logo that's stamped on the bottom, and may be a problem only with certain lots, as the issue is reported in waves. It also seems to be more prevalent with the 12-inch frying pan, rather than the smaller sizes, so it could also be an issue with the larger cooking area warping more easily. It's also not a frequent enough complaint for us to not recommend giving this inexpensive nonstick fry pan a try.

Tramontina is well-known for making durable, inexpensive cookware, and the Tramontina Professional Nonstick Restaurant 12-inch Fry Pan (Est. $40) is no exception. At Wirecutter, where they test the 10-inch version, it's the top pick. They call its nonstick properties superb, and it gets kudos for even heating and heat distribution as well. It's also very comfortable to use, tester Lesley Stockton notes.

The only thing that keeps this Tramontina skillet out of our top spot is its higher price and the fact that it has far fewer reviews than the T-fal -- hundreds compared to thousands. However, those owners who do weigh in like it very much, giving it high ratings across the board for its extreme nonstick properties and good balance, without feeling heavy or awkward. As with all nonstick pans, we saw some complaints of the coating scratching or beginning to wear off after a few months, but not too many. Also, and this is worth noting, a few reviewers say they didn't feel as if this pan seemed that it would hold up to high heat. However, as we noted elsewhere, a nonstick pan should not be used on high heat so we largely discounted such comments.

We also found very good reviews for Circulon Symmetry cookware sets, and came across a pretty sweet deal for two of that line's frying pans, the Circulon Symmetry Chocolate Hard Anodized Nonstick 10-Inch and 12-Inch Skillet Twin Pack Set (Est. $60). Normally priced at $120 (but $60 at the time this report was prepared), this two-piece set includes 12-inch and 10-inch skillets, and they receive some of the highest user ratings of any other pan in this report -- albeit in many fewer reviews. Both pans have gently sloped sides and stainless-steel handles with a silicone wrap on the grip for extra comfort. Owners say these skillets offer even heat distribution and a good nonstick surface. With two skillets for the price you often pay for one, the set is also a terrific value. And the chocolate brown finish is gorgeous.

The main gripe we saw is about these Circulon frying pans is with the coating's durability, there are complaints that it began to scratch or flake after a year or so, but, as many others point out, that is the normal life of a nonstick pan. Unlike many anodized aluminum pans, the Circulon pans are suitable for use on induction cooktops.

Last, but not least, it looks like the Red Copper 12-inch Fry Pan (Est. $30) does all that its ubiquitous infomercials says it does. It's the number two pick at Consumer Reports, and is recommended by Good Housekeeping (the only single-skillet included in their cookware testing roundup). At Consumer Reports the 10-inch Red Copper pan earns scores of Excellent for cooking evenness, nonstick food release when new, ease of cleaning and handle temperature; Very Good for nonstick durability, and Good for handle sturdiness. Like all nonstick cookware, editors note, its "stickiness" begins to wear off after a while. Good Housekeeping, which also tests the 10-inch size, says "these pans are the real deal." The only apparent difference between the two sizes of these pans is that the 12-inch frying pan has a helper handle. Both are oven-safe to 500 degrees.

However, users are less impressed, and the 10-inch and 12-inch versions of the Red Copper frying pan earn the lowest scores of any other skillet in this category -- 3.9 stars in over 850 reviews at Amazon. If you've been reading this section from the beginning you can probably guess why: users say its "stickiness" simply doesn't last long. Some say it started sticking in as little as three weeks, even with very careful handling. In addition to the issue of food sticking, we also say complaints that the handle and the pan in general feel flimsy. Still, expert testers like it and it's cheap, so even if it doesn't work for you you're not going to be out much cash. One last caveat: although the Amazon reviews for the Red Copper pan get an "A" when we run them through Fakespot, many of the 5-star reviews are suspiciously brief, while the poorer reviews have quite a bit of detail. We generally see a better balance.

Ceramic skillets are increasingly popular

If you want a nonstick skillet that is free (or mostly free) of chemical coatings, ceramic is the way to go, say reviewers. However, they do not get as good of reviews for their nonstick properties as coated skillets do; one source refers to them as "stick-resistant."

Very few ceramic skillets are tested by experts, and many that do get tested are often lumped in with the "other" category that includes any non-traditional nonstick coating. However, we did see some decent expert feedback for the Scanpan Classic 12.5-Inch Fry Pan (Est. $100). The 10-1/4-inch version is one of only a few pans to earn Recommended status at Consumer Reports; getting scores of Excellent for cooking evenness and handle temperature, Very Good for nonstick release when new as well as nonstick durability.

Users tend to agree, giving the Scanpan high ratings for its nonstick performance and ease of cleaning -- it definitely gets higher ratings than any other ceramic frying pan. Like all ceramic skillets, we see some complaints that it chips easily, of the cooking surface scratching, or that it loses its nonstick capabilities after just a few months. While Scanpan says you can use metal utensils, we always recommend using plastic or acrylic on this type of pan. Speaking to comfort, however, that's a topic on which the experts disagree, as do owners: some say the Scanpan frying pan is heavy and unwieldly, others say it's light and very comfortable to use. One last caveat, and this may be an important point for some people, the Scanpan's oversized 12.5-inch diameter means a standard 12-inch lid won't fit, and it may be difficult to find one that does.

Another ceramic skillet that gets better reviews from users than most is the GreenLife 12 Inch Non-Stick Ceramic Fry Pan (Est. $25). We see no expert reviews for this particular ceramic frying pan, but owners say that it's very nonstick for an uncoated pan, and they need to use little or no oil when cooking. We even read a couple of blog posts where home cooks demonstrated their fried eggs or omelettes just sliding from the pan. Those who are leery of nonstick coated pans feel better about using this pan, especially considering the lower price point compared to other ceramic skillets.

The GreenLife Ceramic Fry Pan is also reported as quite easy to clean, even baked-on foods will loosen with a short soak, owners say. They do note that the ceramic can be a bit delicate and may chip if you use metal utensils, put it in the dishwasher, or if it bangs against other cookware. We also saw some reports of the pan becoming increasingly sticky after a few months of use -- and some of those reviewers post pictures to illustrate. Some also say the ceramic surface stains.

The Scanpan has a dark interior, as opposed to the white ceramic interior of the GreenLife frying pan, and reviewers say the dark ceramic is much easier to keep clean. The Scanpan contains PTFE, but not PFOA (the GreenLife pan is PTFE-free) and it's made from compressed aluminum with a ceramic titanium coating.

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