The Best Skillet in Every Category

Looking for the best skillet out there? What makes a skillet "the best"?

Skillets (also called frying pans or fry pans) are the true workhorses in your cookware collection. They're the best tool for searing and browning, which means they get the hardest use--hot cooking oil, rapid temperature changes, and constant scraping with utensils. They're used primarily on the stove top, but most can also go in the oven, too. 

The truth is that there is no one best skillet for everything. What makes a skillet "the best skillet" depends on what you're trying to accomplish. What's stellar for one kind of task could be abysmal for another. Although you can technically get by with just one skillet, if you're a semi-serious cook, you need a few different types in your arsenal. 

Here, we rank our favorite skillets based on every category we could think of. If you're skillet shopping, you may be a little dazed by all the options out there. But if you understand the different types of skillets and what they're used for, this should help you pick out the skillet(s) that will work best for you. 

Summary Table: Best Skillets/Skillet-Like Pans

Type of Skillet

Used For

Example
(link to product)

Clad stainless

All purpose: Frying meat, sauteeing vegetables, browning all foods

Nonstick

Sticky foods: Eggs, fish, and other delicate or sticky foods. Not good for browning (can only use medium heat).

Anolon Copper Nouvelle 10- or 12-inch skillet

Cast iron--heat holding

All purpose, but with slow, uneven heating. Best for deep frying, high-heat searing, and baking. Do not use for tomato sauces or other acidic foods.

Copper

Excellent all-purpose skillet but used primarily by experienced chefs because of cost. 2 or more millimeters of copper w/stainless cooking surface provides best performance.

Enameled cast iron

Good all-purpose but with slow, uneven heating. Best for deep frying, high-heat searing, and baking. OK with acidic foods if cooking surface is enameled- or non-stick-coated.

Omelet and/or crepe pan

Making small omelets and/or crepes; an 8-inch nonstick frying pan will also work for crepes and is more versatile.

Saute pan

All purpose pan if in clad stainless (or copper). Use when you need more flat cooking surface or are using a wet heat cooking method.

Deep Saute pan

All purpose pan ideal for many tasks, esp. if stainless. Searing, browning, deep-frying, poaching, soups, stocks, and doubles as large sauce pan.

Wok

Stir frying

Chef's Pan

Deep-sided all-purpose pan ideal for many tasks (similar to deep saute pan). Called "Chef Pan" because of its versatility.

Sauteuse

All-purpose short-handled skillet for ease of using in oven, as well. 

There are probably more pans with skillet-like attributes, but we'll stop there. This is a good introduction to different skillet-type pans and what tasks they're best for.

Skillet Vs. Saute Pan: What's the Difference?

Yes, there is a difference. (For a more detailed analysis, see Should I Buy a Skillet or a Saute Pan (or Both)?)

Skillet

A skillet/frying pan: shallow pan with sloped sides and lots of cooking surface.

Yes, you know what a skillet is--but just so we're on the same page, let's define the term clearly. Because "skillet" can mean different things to different people.

Officially, a skillet (also called a frying pan) is a shallow, flat-bottomed pan with sloped sides used for frying, searing, and browning foods. It typically has a long, heat-resistant handle, a helper handle if it's more than 10-inches in diameter, and no lid.

The skillet is designed to provide: 

  • a lot of flat surface contact with the heat source for browning,
  • shallow, open sides for rapid evaporation--which encourages browning, 
  • sloped sides to easily manipulate food with a turner (to easily brown all sides),
  • no lid (as lids thwart browning).

The long handle helps with maneuverability and is also for doing the "chef toss" you often see professionals use. 

The angle of slope on the sides can vary considerably, from almost straight to almost wok-like. The more sloped, the smaller the flat cooking surface the skillet has. There is no "best" design here; it's all in a cook's preferences and what she's trying to accomplish.

Straight-sided skillet.


Sloped-sided skillet.

Unofficially, you can include all sorts of pans in the "skillet" category: woks, crepe and omelet pans, even Dutch ovens. While they don't quite match the definition of a skillet, they can all be used for browning or searing, so we're including them here.

We're using this wide definition because even though you can use a skillet for many different tasks, it isn't always the best choice. Depending on how you cook, you may want a handful of different skillet-type pans. How many and what type you need is really up to you. 

Saute Pan

Saute pan: straight-sided skillet with a lid.

A saute pan is a skillet with sides perpendicular to the cooking surface (no slope at all) that almost always comes with a lid.

Skillets and saute pans can be used interchangeably, but a saute pan has the added functionality of wet heat cooking: The straight sides and lid make it more practical--and safer--for poaching, braising, and shallow deep frying than a skillet. 

Because of this added functionality, you might think a saute pan is the way to go. But in truth, because of their squarer shape, saute pans can feel bulkier and harder to maneuver. Their straight sides also make it harder to get a turner in there to flip your food, and also to do the "chef toss."

Furthermore, the sloped sides of a skillet allow you to use the sides as cooking surface (e.g., pushing food up the sides to control the amount of heat), while with a saute pan, you can't do this; you can only use the flat bottom for cooking. 

Finally: most stove top burners work best with bottom diameters of 10 inches or less, which means that larger saute pans may not spread heat as well as their equivalent-sized skillets (which have smaller bottoms because of the sloped sides). 

For these reasons, most people prefer a skillet, and use their saute pans only when they need to (like for wet heat cooking). 

How Are Skillets Measured (And What Size Do I Need)?

Skillets, woks, and crepe pans are measured by diameter, typically across the top rim. The most common skillet size to come with a set is 10-inch (25.4cm). While this is adequate for many needs, a 12-inch (30cm) skillet is much roomier and is easier to work with when cooking for more than one or two people. 

Skillets are measured from inner rim to inner rim in inches or centimeters; the size of the skillet is not equivalent to its flat cooking area.

Saute pans, on the other hand, are measured by volume, usually quart or liter. They usually have their volume etched into the bottom for easy reference:

Most other skillet-type pans--woks, crepe and omelet pans--are measured by diameter, like skillets, while Dutch ovens and sauce pans are measured by volume. 

For comparison shopping, a 3 quart saute pan is roughly equivalent to a 10-inch skillet, and a 5 quart saute pan is roughly equivalent to a 12-inch skillet. 

A 5 or 5.5 quart Dutch oven is an ideal size for many, with a cooking surface about the size of a 10-inch skillet but deep sides to stews, soups, and braises. 

How Many Skillets Do I Need?

You certainly don't need one of every type of skillet out there (there's a lot of overlap), but you probably need more than one if you're doing any kind of meal preparation for more than just yourself. 

For example, you need a good all-purpose skillet large enough to cook for your family, plus a smaller skillet for side dishes and smaller meals, plus a nonstick skillet for eggs and fish.

There you have it: 3 skillets is a good minimum number of skillets to own. (This does not include the Dutch oven or stock pot you'll want for soups and stews.)

Alternatively, you may want a saute pan instead of a second skillet. The nice thing about a saute pan is that its lid will often fit a skillet or two, too--so no need to buy an extra lid (unless you routinely use both pans at the same time). 

There are a lot of options and combinations, any of which can work for you.

So, this is the minimum skillets you might find in an average American kitchen:

  • 12-inch all purpose skillet (clad stainless, cast iron, or copper if you're really serious about it)
  • 10-inch all-purpose skillet or saute pan for sides and smaller dishes (clad stainless, cast iron, or copper)
  • 8- or 10-inch nonstick skillet for eggs and fish (could also be cast iron or carbon steel).

In addition, you might also find (depending on what people like to cook):

  • Extra large skillet or saute pan (for larger families and people who entertain a lot)
  • Mini skillet(s)--4-inch (or so) skillets for tiny jobs and individual servings
  • Crepe pan or 8-inch nonstick skillet
  • Wok
  • Deep saute pan (great for deep frying, small batches of soups and stocks, for use as a large sauce pan, and general all-purpose versatility)
  • Chef's pan (similar to as a deep saute pan or covered wok)
  • Sauteuse (short-handled shallow roasting pan, often with domed lid) 
  • Enameled cast iron skillet for baking, deep frying, braising, and more.

To summarize, the types and sizes of skillets you need depends on what and how you like to cook. If you're a new cook and don't know yet, you'll figure it out as you go. It's best to start with a good all-purpose skillet and go from there. 

The most popular skillet sizes are 10- and 12-inch. If you're in doubt as to which size to get, we recommend you go with the 12-inch: unless you're cooking just for yourself, this is the best skillet size for most cooking tasks.

What Should I Look For in a Skillet?

1: Durability

You can take this to the bank: Since a skillet gets the hardest use out of all the pans in your kitchen, it's the single most important piece to invest in. In fact, with all other pans, you can get by with mediocre quality. Sauce pans, stock pots, Dutch ovens, and even roasting pans will all do just fine even if they're on the cheap side.

But when it comes to skillets-and saute pans--you should buy the best one you can afford.

If you do, you will be rewarded with a pan that's a joy to use and will last for decades--so even though you may spend a lot on it, it's cost-per-year of use will be low.

So what do you want in a skillet? Simple: durability

This is why you invest your money in a skillet.

Cheap skillets can warp. (Because they're too thin to withstand rapid temperature changes.)

Cheap skillets can pit, rust, chip, and stain. (Because the stainless, enamel, aluminum alloy, or other materials they're made with aren't top quality.) 

Cheap skillets will not spread heat rapidly or evenly (for both reasons above): you will be constantly working around the hot and cold spots where food either burns or doesn't cook. 

Maybe most importantly, at least to your serenity, cheap skillets are not a joy to use (also for the reasons above.) Thin, poorly made skillets don't feel good in your hand. They aren't well balanced. They don't have that lovely heft and design a pricier skillet will have. They won't be as highly polished, so food will stick to them. 

For all these reasons, durability matters.

You don't have to go out and buy the most expensive skillet on the market to get top quality. But you definitely shouldn't skimp, either. 

2: Heating Properties

Equally important to durability are a pan's heating properties. If you buy a good pan, though, this shouldn't be an issue: durable, high-quality pans are going to have good heating properties (as mentioned above).

If you want the absolute best performance out there, go with copper. If you want the very best clad stainless--kind of the best of all the cookware worlds combined (except nonstick), and nearly as good as thick gauge copper--go with the Demeyere Proline skillet.

If you want inexpensive-yet-heavy-duty, get the Lodge cast iron or a good carbon steel skillet. Cast iron and carbon steel don't heat very evenly, but once hot they hold heat like nothing else, making them great for high-heat searing, deep frying, and baking (think steak, fried chicken, and cornbread).

If you want nonstick, the Anolon Copper Nouvelle is hard to beat, heat-wise--it's got half a millimeter of copper in the base and it's built like a tank!. (Just please don't buy this for your primary pan.)

You get the idea: all the pans we recommend here are going to have good heating properties. So as long as you buy a good brand and know what you're looking for--e.g., heat spreading, heat holding, speed, easy maintenance--you don't have to worry about it too much.

3: Induction Compatibility

This is only important if you have an induction cooktop, portable or otherwise. If you don't, then you can skip this section. However, if you ever want to expand your options with a portable induction cooker or perhaps even switch to a full-sized induction cooktop, you may want to consider making sure your skillet is induction compatible. 

This isn't as hard as it sounds. All cast iron and carbon steel pans are naturally induction compatible. And if you buy any sort of clad stainless, your pans will almost certainly work with induction, too.

It's only if you buy aluminum or copper pans where you run into problems (and glass or ceramic, but we don't recommend any of those because of their horrific heating properties). Many aluminum pans have a magnetic bottom plate to make them induction compatible--so check to make sure. (All the aluminum pans we recommend here are induction compatible with the exception of the All-Clad MC2, which is a heavy gauge aluminum pan with a non-magnetic stainless cooking surface.)

As for copper, you're probably out of luck. The only copper cookware we know of that's induction compatible is All-Clad's Copper Core, and while it's a good performer, it doesn't contain enough copper to compete with Mauviel, Matfer Bourgeat, and other copper heavy-hitters. 

4: Stablility/Reactivity

Stability/reactivity refers to how much cookware reacts with food, water, dishwashing, etc. The best pans have a very low level of reactivity: they don't react with food, giving off flavors or leeching chemicals into your food. 

Reactivity can also refer to the external surface of a pan: clad stainless, anodized aluminum, and enameled exteriors are all very stable, corroding very little over the years. Non-anodized aluminum and copper are more reactive, scratching and discoloring fairly easily. This doesn't mean they're bad products, but they may require more careful handling and/or show wear more easily.

A high quality skillet will always have a stable, non-reactive cooking surface (usually stainless steel), while its exterior may or may not be equally stable. If you go with All-Clad MC2, which is excellent cookware with a somewhat soft brushed aluminum exterior, you may have to live with a used, "lived-in" look to your pan. If you go with copper, you'll have to polish it regularly (1-3 times per year) to keep it beautiful, or live with it turning a dull brown, which won't hurt the pan's performance but certainly isn't as pretty.

Copper requires routine polishing to keep its gorgeous luster.

5: Design and Value

Most of the other important factors--handles, lids, pouring spouts, overall style and design--are largely personal preference. As long as you get something durable that you also find functional and stylish, you will have a great pan: a pan that won't be reactive with food or corrode easily; a pan with the heating properties you're looking for; and a pan you can love. You will find yourself ecstatic every time you go to make dinner. (Well, maybe not every time. But it helps.) 🙂 

As for value, that is also a personal choice. But we believe that value is best measured in cost-per-year-of-use. That is, if you divide the cost of a skillet by the number of years you'll use it, you'll see that buying a higher quality, more expensive skillet is actually the most economical choice. For example, if you pay $200 for a 12-inch skillet that has a 30 year life span, your cost-per-year is less than $7 a year. 

If you add to that the pleasure that comes from using a high quality tool--versus the frustration that comes from using a poor quality tool--it becomes pretty much a no-brainer to buy the best skillet(s) you can afford. 

Best All-Purpose Clad Stainless Skillets 

So, we recommend primarily skillets here, but you can assume that other pans in the line will be equally high quality. For example, if you already own a 12-inch clad stainless skillet, you can buy a saute pan in the recommended line instead. Or a sauteuse, or chef's pan, or whatever suits your fancy.

Best Overall: Demeyere Proline

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Build Quality: The Demeyere Proline is one of the best skillets on the market in any category. With a wall thickness of 4.8mm, and 3.7mm of aluminum, it has almost twice the heft of All-Clad D3 (and D5) with almost twice as much aluminum inside. This makes for an extremely durable pan with absolutely stellar heating properties. It's almost as good as copper, but with so.much.more. usability.

The heft of these pans also gives them excellent heat holding properties, similar to cast iron (but with faster and more even overall heating). 

Silvinox: The Demeyere Proline (like all Demeyere clad stainless) is finished with a proprietary finish called Silvinox that makes it less sticky and easier to clean than other stainless cookware (including All-Clad). It's not nonstick, but it is less sticky than other stainless products.

Rivetless: To further increase the ease of use, the Proline is rivetless: the handle is welded on, so there are no rivets on the cooking surface to clean around. How great is that!

Induction compatibility: If you want induction compatibility, Demeyere is the premium manufacturer of induction cookware. All of their cookware is induction-compatible, and designed to provide optimal use with induction hobs. Their Inducto-Seal technology puts the less corrosion-resistant magnetic stainless between two layers of surgical stainless to increase durability. Other makers, including All-Clad, puts the magnetic stainless on the exterior. So the Demeyere Proline is the least-reactive clad stainless on the market because it has no exposed magnetic stainless. 

READ DEMEYERE PROLINE REVIEWS ON AMAZON

For more details about Demeyere cookware, see All-Clad Vs. Demeyere: Which Is Better?

Pros: Superior heating properties, heavy and durable. Straight side walls for lots of cooking surface. Rivetless with Silvinox finish for easier cleaning.

Cons: Their weight makes them difficult for some people to use (get the 9.4 inch, not the 11 inch if this is an issue for you). They're also pretty expensive, although their cost-per-year-of-use is low.

Buy if: If you want the very best clad stainless available, this is the pan for you. It's heating properties are as good as pure copper, its durability is unsurpassed, and it's heavy enough to double as a cast iron skillet. It's a little heavy, though, so if that's an issue, we suggest that you don't go bigger than the 9.4 inch, as you may find it cumbersome.

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All-Clad D3 is the tri-ply against which all other tri-ply is measured. These pans are great all-around performers. They're not cheap, but they're less than some of the newer All-Clad lines (D5, D7, Copper Core) and provide similar performance. For this reason, we still recommend the D3 over some of the multi-clad products that All-Clad offers. For more information on the All-Clad cookware lines, see our Ultimate All-Clad Review. For a top quality, general purpose skillet, D3 is hard to beat.

Build Quality: All-Clad D3 is their original clad stainless cookware and in our opinion, still the best. It has a wall thickness of 2.6mm with an aluminum layer of 1.7mm. This is considerably thinner than the Proline above, yet it's enough aluminum to provide 1) very good heating properties, and 2) enough heft to resist warping. Most other tri-ply has a considerably thinner layer of aluminum, making All-Clad one of the best out there. All-Clad's clad cookware is made in the USA and has a reputation for excellence and durability.

Induction Compatibility: All-Clad D3 is induction compatible.

Read All-Clad D3 reviews on amazon now

D3 Vs. Other All-Clad Lines: If you don't need induction compatibility, we recommend the Master Chef (MC2) skillet. It has 3mm of aluminum (close to twice that in the D3!), giving it the best heating properties of all the All-Clad lines and enough heft to resist warping. (LTD2 is equivalent, but more expensive because of the hard-anodized exterior.) MC2 is also the lowest-priced All-Clad line, so there you go.

We don't like any of All-Clad's other lines all that much: sure, they're top notch quality, but none of them are so much better than D3 (or MC2) to justify the extra cost. Copper Core is nice stuff (see our full review here), but expensive without a whole lot of added functionality (although it is thinner and lighter, so if weight is an issue for you, Copper Core is a good option). D5 has the same wall thickness as D3, but with more stainless and less aluminum. If you want a heavy, heat-holding pan, D7 is great--but cast iron is a whole lot less expensive. 

Pros: Great heating properties, extremely durable, super high polished stainless exterior.

Cons: Expensive, some people dislike the grooved handle (it "cuts into their hand").

Buy if: If you don't want the heavier Proline (above), D3 provides an almost perfect combination of great performance and lightweight maneuverability. It's an excellent all-purpose skillet that, while not cheap, will have a low cost-per-year-of-use.

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Cast iron skillets are still wildly popular as all-purpose skillets among a certain cooking crowd, but we prefer clad stainless. Cast iron does have its place, though, and that is for tasks that require its stellar heat-holding abilities: primarily, searing steaks, frying chicken (and other foods), and as a baking vessel.

Heating Properties: Why is cast iron not ideal for an all-purpose skillet? Number one, its slow, uneven heating properties. Cast iron will take a lot longer to come to temperature and clad stainless, aluminum, and copper. It also heats unevenly: because of its molecular structure, which is rough and choppy, uneven heating is a given. It is also really heavy, which many people don't like.

However, that heft and molecular structure make cast iron a star at holding heat. That is, once hot, it stays hot for a long time. This makes it an almost perfect vessel for the aforementioned tasks, which need heat-holding properties to get you the results you want (e.g., brownness and crispiness).

The original nonstick: Cast iron is also the original nonstick cookware. A well-seasoned cast iron pan is almost as good as a Teflon pan, with no need for delicate handling. This is another reason people love cast iron. 

So while we don't love cast iron like some folks do, we recommend owning at least one cast iron skillet. You can spend hundreds on boutique cast iron--that's a thing now--but part of the appeal of cast iron is its low, low price. Expensive brands are nice, but no matter how much you spend that cast iron is still going to heat slowly and unevenly. So get the Lodge, which you'll be handing down to your grandkids. Its cost-per-year-of-use will be virtually pennies.

Pros: Heat-holding properties make it perfect for high-heat searing, deep-frying, and baking. It's also inexpensive, so an easy add-on skillet to your kitchen.

Cons: It's heavy, and it heats slowly and unevenly. 

Buy if: Buy a cast iron skillet for superb searing and deep frying. It will leave your D3 in the dust for these purposes. And no matter how inexpensive you go, it will last forever. So it's a good buy, even if you only use it a few times a year.

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Best Enameled Cast Iron Skillet (or Dutch Oven): le Creuset 

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Why are we including a Dutch oven on a list of skillets? If you've ever browned a roast before popping it into an oven to braise, you've probably used your Dutch oven; if you browned it in a fry pan then transferred it to the Dutch oven, you needlessly dirtied an extra pan. 

In short: You can brown food in a Dutch oven, so we included it.

A le Creuset Dutch oven is another investment piece, but it's oh, so worth it. The heft makes it a joy to use for braises, soups, stews, and even baking; the enamel-coated finish makes it completely unreactive with food (unlike the Lodge pan above, which you shouldn't use for anything acidic), so you can use it for every.thing. So if you're making chicken soup, brown your mirepoix right in the pot. Deglaze to maximize all the flavor from the pan fond, then build your soup.

It's the original one-pot meal.

Build quality: le Creuset enameled cast iron is still made in a small factory in France under the strictest quality standards. You can find cheaper enameled cast iron pots (much cheaper), and they'd probably be just fine--for awhile. The beauty of le Creuset is that its enamel surface is extremely durable and chip resistant; you can use any utensils, clean it with a scrubby, heat the crap out of it, and it will still look and perform like new for decades. if you buy a lesser brand, you'll have to be careful with utensils and baby it a little bit to avoid chips and cracks.

You can use other Dutch ovens, like the one that came with your cookware set. They work, but they lack the heft and heat-holding properties of enameled cast iron. The lids are lighter don't fit as well, so braises will evaporate off more liquid.

For a Dutch oven, the heft, weight, and non-reactivity of enameled cast iron is exactly what you want. 

You'll be handing this one down to your grandkids, too--and they will love it as much as you do.

Pros: Extremely durable build quality and the right heft for searing, braising, and baking.

Cons: Expensive. (But oh, so worth it.)

Buy if: Everyone should have at least one Dutch oven, and enameled cast iron is the most versatile. Buy a le Creuset Dutch oven if you need a braising, roasting, and soup pot. If you can't afford it, get a Lodge or Amazon Basics for a fraction of the price--but you will notice the quality difference, and you will have to baby it if you want it to last (no metal utensils or scrubby pads). 

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Best Carbon Steel Skillet: Matfer-Bourgeat

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Why buy a carbon steel pan? If you don't like the weight of cast iron or the possible health issues of nonstick cookware (not to mention its short life span), you might want to consider a carbon steel skillet. Structurally, carbon steel is very close to cast iron, with similar heating properties (that is, slow and uneven) and similar heat-holding properties (that is, superb). It's like a lighter version of cast iron, with all the same pluses and minuses.

You can go a little cheaper and get the Lodge carbon steel pan, which is probably just as good, but we like the M-B because of the welded handle--no rivets to clean. However, the Lodge is pre-seasoned, which is a really nice feature, as seasoning properly requires several repeated applications of oil/heating, oil/heating. (It's a bit of a pain.)

Some people love this pan for all-purpose use, but we see it as an auxiliary pan, just like cast iron. 

Nonstick qualities: There are certain things this pan will be great for, and that includes nonstick purposes. (In fact, many, if not most, professional chefs use well-seasoned carbon steel instead of nonstick for crepes and omelets.) It's heavy enough to use like a cast iron pan, but the sides are a little too shallow for deep frying; you will find this is the case with most carbon steel pans.

Be forewarned, though: if you're accustomed to lightweight aluminum nonstick pans, this pan is going to feel like a ton of bricks. The heft is part of its appeal, though, so if you can get used to it, it's the better option for a nonstick skillet; it will provide a comparable nonstick surface with none of the headaches--and you can heat it as hot as you want to.

Pros: Lighter than cast iron with similar properties; when well-seasoned, it's an almost nonstick surface. Inexpensive.

Cons: Seasoning is a pain, although a very nice pan when seasoned. Buy the pre-seasoned Lodge if you don't want to do it yourself. Also, not really an all-purpose pan, but excellent for many tasks nevertheless. Also: even though it's lighter than cast iron, it's still a dense, heavy, and somewhat unwieldy pan. The long, flat handle is hard to grip and not great for maneuverability.

Buy if: Buy a carbon steel skillet if you want the performance of cast iron without the heft, or if you want a nonstick pan without the concerns of PTFE or ceramic coating. A little too heavy for a general-purpose pan, with a flat, uncomfortable handle, but a great add-on. 

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Best Nonstick Skillets

There are a few nonstick skillets that stand out from the crowd without costing a lot more. Here are our favorites.

Best Overall: Anolon Copper Nouvelle Cast Aluminum Skillet

See the Anolon Copper Nouvelle skillet at Amazon

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analon skillet

Build quality: The Anolon Copper Nouvelle is, in our opinion, the best skillet in the nonstick category. It is actually an unbelievable deal. Its cast aluminum side walls conduct heat really well, but it also has a disc on the bottom made of aluminum, copper and stainless. It has a half millimeter of copper, which is enough to make a significant difference in performance vs. similarly priced skillets. (All-Clad Copper Core has just under a millimeter at about 0.9, but for a significantly higher cost.)

The heavy disk along with the cast aluminum will also help the pan resist warping (unlike many thin, inexpensive nonstick pans).

Look at those impressive layers on the bottom of this pan: magnetic stainless, aluminum, copper, aluminum--for some of the best heating properties you'll find at this price point.

Nonstick Properties: This skillet is PTFE (the generic term for Teflon). As such, it's not going to last you more than a few years, and it should be used carefully: no high heat, no metal utensils, no scrubby pads, no aerosol cooking spray, and no using the dishwasher. 

We aren't huge fans of nonstick pans--they should never be your primary pan--but for eggs and other delicate and sticky foods, this is a really, really great performing pan; again, probably the best skillet at its price--or really, in the world of nonstick, one of the best skillets at any price.

Induction compatible: The bottom disc not only adds to the heft and heating properties, it also makes this cast aluminum skillet induction-compatible.

Pros: Great heating properties and build quality at any price point, but especially at this price point.

Cons: The pan has very sloped sides with a small flat cooking surface--so you may prefer the All-Clad HA1 (see it below). Also, the nonstick coating won't last very long (true for all nonstick coatings). But you will certainly get your money's worth out of this pan--especially if you buy the 8-in./10-in package, which is a fabulous deal (2 pans for the price of one).

Buy if: If you're set on nonstick, this is probably the best skillet on the market, outperforming pretty much every other PTFE pan around. Or if you want to round out your skillet collection with a true nonstick pan (instead of cast iron or carbon steel), this is an excellent choice. Anolon uses some of the most durable nonstick on the market, so you should get a number of years of use out of this skillet. You'll pay a little more for this pan, but it's worth every penny compared to thinner, cheaper nonstick pans.

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If the Anolon Copper Nouvelle skillet (above) isn't what you want--its long, wok-like walls make for a rather small flat cooking area--then we recommend the All-Clad HA1/NS1 cast aluminum skillet.

HA1/NS1: From what we can tell these are the same pans, other than small differences in the shape of some of them. Both are cast aluminum with induction compatibility, both are the same price. If you buy from Williams-Sonoma, your options are NS1; if you buy from Amazon, HA1. We don't know why these differences. (W-S carries some All-Clad lines exclusive to them, so maybe that's what's going on.)

Build Quality: These pans are heavy gauge cast aluminum with a stainless plate on the bottom. If you look at the image above, you can see how thick these pans are. This gives them really excellent heating properties--similar to the more expensive MC2 line, but with PTFE coating rather than stainless.

The external surface is anodized aluminum, which is similar to stainless in strength, adding to the durability of these skillets.

We wish the rivets on the cooking surface were PTFE rather than stainless, but that is really the one drawback of this skillet. 

Some reviewers have complained that these pans don't work with induction, but in all of our tests they worked just fine; excellent, in fact.

Overall, the build quality makes this one of the best skillet options for nonstick.

Affordability: You might think that because these skillets are made by All-Clad that they're going to be expensive. Au contraire, mon ami: these pans cost only slightly more than thin, stamped aluminum skillets. If you get the 10-inch/8-inch combo pack, you'll pay about $30 per pan--not bad, is it?

Compared to other All-Clad nonstick: You can pay clad stainless prices for All-Clad nonstick skillets: D3, D5, and Copper Core all have nonstick options. Don't do it. It's a bad investment to pay clad-stainless prices for a pan that's going to have a PTFE lifespan. And you may think All-Clad will honor their lifetime warranty and replace it, but they, like most purveyors of nonstick cookware, are tough to pry money out of: nonstick coatings have a finite life span, and that's all there is to it. So don't think you're going to get a new D3 nonstick skillet from All-Clad every few years. Not gonna happen.

Made Where? Because the HA1/NS1 pans aren't clad stainless (they're cast aluminum), they're not made in the US like All-Clad's other cookware lines. These pans are made in China. But don't hold that against them, because they're a great, inexpensive option for nonstick pans.

Ease of Care: These skillets are technically dishwasher safe, but we recommend hand-washing for the longest possible life. The nonstick surface washes up so easily, you won't mind doing it.

Pros: Great heating properties, great price, induction compatible.

Cons: Has all the drawbacks of nonstick cookware: short life span, fragile, scratches easily, can't use high heat, etc.

Buy if: Buy the All-Clad HA1/NS1 skillets if you want nonstick and don't like the shape of the Anolon Copper Nouvelle (above). The heating properties aren't quite as good, but with approximately 3mm of cast aluminum, they're still going to be pretty darn good.

BUY ALL-CLAD HA1 NONSTICK SKILLETS on Amazon:

Buy All-Clad NS1 Nonstick Skillets at Williams-Sonoma:

Best Ceramic Nonstick: Green Pan Lima

See the Green Pan Lima on Amazon

Ceramic nonstick: If you love nonstick but are concerned about the PTFE coatings being unsafe to cook with (it's not, as long as it's used properly), ceramic is your answer. You can find uber-cheap ceramic cookware like the stuff sold on the late night infomercials. However, your best bet is to buy a reputable brand. Ceramic nonstick has a limited life span--typically even more limited than PTFE--so you don't want to spend a lot. But the super cheap pans are going to be terrible to cook with. Just as importantly, the ceramic coating on cheaper pans is almost certainly made in China, and could contain dubious materials such as lead and cadmium. 

GreenPan uses Thermolon ceramic coating, one of the first ceramics in the marketplace. It's a German technology (though the pans are made in China) and one of the highest-rated ceramic nonsticks available.

Green Pan makes several lines of ceramic nonstick cookware, but the Lima is our favorite. If you buy the 10-inch skillet, it comes with a bamboo spatula--all for about the same price as the All-Clad HA1/NS1 (above). If you buy the 12-inch, it comes with a lid--nice, but unfortunately, it's glass (we much prefer stainless for durability). 

Build quality and heating properties: We like the Green Pan Lima for its cast aluminum construction, meaning thick enough to provide durability and good heating properties. The stainless handle is also a plus (a lot of nonstick pans, including other GreenPans, have plastic handles). It's oven safe up to 600F (about 150F higher than most PTFE pans). 

We love that the rivets are unobtrusive, high in the pan, and covered with nonstick coating. This is the kind of attention to detail that makes this a really nice skillet. 

Induction: The Lima is not induction compatible. If you need induction compatibility, you can buy the GreenPan Valencia, but it's quite a bit more expensive. Essentially, they're a Lima with a stainless disc on the bottom, which shouldn't add much to the cost.

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Affordable: You can get the 10-inch skillet--probably the best skillet size in nonstick--for about $30. That's the same as the All-Clad nonstick pan above. 

Why Only Amazon? You can find similar Green Pan products at Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma, but not the Lima--and the prices are a lot higher. We have found Amazon consistently has the best prices and selection for GreenPan skillets.

Pros: Trusted Thermolon coating, good price, good build quality.

Cons: Short life span (like all nonstick). 

Buy if: This is the best skillet for someone who wants nonstick but wants to avoid PTFE (AKA Teflon). You can get less expensive ceramic nonstick skillets, but you won't get the build quality or reputation of the Lima. You can go more expensive (Zwilling Spirit, for example), but you're paying for a pan that will outlive its nonstick coating.

BUY the green Pan lima NONSTICK ceramic SKILLET ON AMAZON:

Copper cookware is a whole different ballgame than everything else. It's the professional's cookware of choice, and for good reason: copper conducts heat about twice as fast as aluminum and even more evenly. It is hands down the best skillet out there.

In fact, Julia Child reportedly said that you need pans with at least 3 millimeters of copper to get the desired performance. Well, today, it's almost impossible to find pans of that thickness (we couldn't, anyway). But the M'Heritage 250S is close, with a copper layer about 2.3mm thick.

Mauviel also makes a few lines of 150 cookware that's--you guessed it--1.5mm thick (actually about 1.3mm). While this is going to be a good performer (All-Clad Copper Core, in comparison, has just under 1mm of copper), if you're going to get a copper skillet, go big or go back to the store. You're spending the money, you want the best--so go with the 250. 

Build Quality: This stuff is the best of the best. 2.3mm of copper with a thin layer of stainless for the cooking surface--the best combination available. Old school copper skillets had tin cooking surfaces, which you can still find, but stainless is the better choice. Tin surfaces require re-tinning every few years because the tin wears out rather quickly--so go with stainless. (You can find pure copper cookware, too, but that is more for specialty cooking, such as candy-making. Copper is fairly reactive with food, so you want a stainless--or tin--cooking surface if you're buying a general-purpose skillet.)

The handles on the 250C are cast stainless (that's what the "C" stands for). Mauviel also makes a 250S line with stainless handles and a 250B line with bronze handles. They're all stellar performers. We picked the cast stainless handles only because this line is the most widely available. The handles are very long, which provides balance to the pan. However, they may make both storage and oven use more difficult (but if you're buying a top-of-the-line copper skillet, you probably don't care about either of those things). 

These skillets are a little bit shallow, with wide, low sides, but they have a lot of flat cooking surface. They're truly designed for serious cooks--so whether you want to get a spatula in there or do the chef toss, these pans are ideal for most purposes.

Induction: Copper pans are rarely induction compatible, and these are no exception. If you want copper performance with induction, All-Clad Copper Core is an option--but with only about a millimeter of copper, you won't be getting anywhere near the performance of the Mauviel. (Although the Copper Core is nice cookware, though probably overpriced for what you get.)

Pros: 2.3mm of copper, stainless cooking surface, top-of-the-line construction and performance.

Cons: Expensive.

Buy if: If you want the best skillet in every sense of the word, this is the skillet for you. The performance is unsurpassed, the build quality is stellar, and it's beautiful, to boot. 

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Final Thoughts

Skillets are the most-used, most-abused pan in your kitchen, so it makes sense that they are the best pan in which to invest your cookware budget. Even semi-serious chefs should have 2 or 3 skillets, in different sizes and materials, to choose from. 

We've shared our dream list of what we think are the best skillets in every category (and a few that go beyond skillets, like the Dutch oven). Thoughts, questions, or opinions? Please share in the comments below.

And thanks for reading!

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