The Best Nonstick Skillet: Everything You Need to Know Before You Buy

Nonstick skillets are an exception to our standard "buy once, cry once" rule here at TRK. Read on to find out why.

"The best nonstick is a cheap nonstick," says every honest cookware expert everywhere. And we agree: because nonstick skillets don't last like clad stainless and cast iron, you should buy cheap and often: at least every few years, depending on how much use they get.

But there's cheap, and then there's unusable.

Here, we discuss everything about nonstick skillets: what they are and what makes them great--the essential properties that you shouldn't skimp on even when buying on the low end. We guarantee you'll be pleasantly surprised at how little you have to spend to get a really great nonstick skillet!

The Best Nonstick Skillets at a Glance

The Rational Kitchen recommends cast aluminum nonstick skillets with a PTFE nonstick surface. They have excellent heating properties (even better than some clad stainless cookware), they're warp-resistant, and you can get them for amazing prices.

If you don't want to read the whole lengthy article, here's an easy table of our favorite nonstick skillet picks. Click the links to see them on Amazon.

Brand

Features

Buy If:

Anolon Nouvelle Copper Hard Anodized French Skillets

(click to see on Amazon)

AnolonNonStick2Pans_140px

-Cast aluminum w/hard anodized exterior and excellent heating properties

-PTFE nonstick surface

-Heavy copper-clad base won't warp

-Stainless stay-cool handles

-Wok-like shape with long sides and smallish cooking surface

-Induction compatible

-Set of 2 is a fantastic deal

Buy these if you want the best heating properties around and don't mind the pan shape.

All-Clad Hard Anodized Nonstick Frying Pans

(click to see on Amazon)

AllCladNonstickHA1Pans2_140px

-Cast aluminum w/hard anodized exterior and very good heating properties

-PTFE nonstick surface

-Reinforced base won't warp

-Straight sides w/lots of cooking surface

-Stainless stay-cool handles

-Amazing price

-Induction compatible

-Set of 2 is a fantastic deal

Buy if you don't like the shape of the Anolon Nouvelle skillets above.

T-fal Professional Nonstick Fry Pan with Heat Indicator

(click to see on Amazon)

TfalProSkillet_140px

-Reinforced bottom resists warping

-PTFE nonstick surface

-Induction compatible

-Super low price point


Buy if you can't afford the All-Clad or Anolon and need induction compatibility.

Green Pan Lima Skillet

(click to see on Amazon)

GreenPanWTurner_140px

-Thermolon ceramic coating

-Cast aluminum body

-Stainless handle

-Bamboo turner included

-NOT induction compatible (buy this Green Pan if you want induction compatibility in a ceramic pan)

Buy if you hate the idea of PTFE, or if you have people in your home who won't take good care of a PTFE skillet.

About Nonstick Cookware

Nonstick cookware is in a category called "coated cookware." This is cookware that's been modified with a thin coating of some substance that enhances the cookware's performance. Nonstick is probably the most common type of coated cookware. Another type is enamel-coated cookware. Inexpensive aluminum cookware is often enamel coated to make it non-reactive (using raw aluminum can transfer both off flavors and tiny amounts of toxins to food), as is high-end cast iron cookware (le Creuset, for example). Enamel is also used on the exterior surfaces of cookware, primarily to enhance appearance (and to some degree, durability).

Nonstick coatings can be applied to almost any type of cookware, including all types of aluminum (cast, forged, stamped, anodized), clad stainless, even cast iron. For this reason, when buying a nonstick skillet, it's important to take into consideration the type of metal the nonstick coating is applied to; it's going to have the heating properties of that metal (and heating properties are where it's at for cookware). 

Another consideration is that all cookware coatings will eventually wear off. This is why nonstick cookware doesn't have nearly the long life span of, say, clad stainless cookware. Nonstick coatings are extremely fragile compared to the surfaces they're applied to, and will wear out long before the cookware itself--which explains why all honest kitchen experts encourage people to buy cheap nonstick as opposed to high-end nonstick. 

Having said that, know that you can still find stellar performance at the lower end of the market. Cast aluminum is our choice for nonstick cookware, no matter what the price point (but it's usually quite reasonable).

Note: See the section below on Heating Properties to find out why cast aluminum is our top choice.

What Is Nonstick Cookware? (A Brief History)

cast iron steak

Cast iron is considered almost nonstick--and you can use high temps on it, too.

You may be surprised to learn that there are only two categories of true nonstick cookware: PTFE and ceramic. There are a few other products that are close, such as well-seasoned cast iron or carbon steel, and the stainless, dimple-surfaced pans (like this one from All-Clad) that claim easier release than stainless alone (we don't agree). They aren't truly nonstick.

Also, there are sub-categories of nonstick such as titanium reinforced and diamond reinforced. But these are always either PTFE or ceramic with additional compounds added to them. As far as bona fide, eggs-will-slide-around-in-the-pan-and-slip-onto-the-plate-like-in-the-commercial nonstick skillets, PTFE and ceramic are the only options.

PTFE (Teflon)

TeflonMolecule

The PTFE molecule: see where the name came from??

PTFE is the oldest and best known nonstick cookware coating. It's been in use since the 1950s. PTFE is one of the most slippery substances known to man, and it has many other applications  besides cookware where "slipperiness" is important. 

PTFE was accidentally discovered by a Dupont scientist in the 1950s. Shortly after its discovery, Teflon became Dupont's registered trademark PTFE product. After Dupont's patent expired, many companies entered the PTFE cookware market. Even though a company can't call its product Teflon unless it's made by Dupont, PTFE is essentially the same compound as Teflon.

Not calling a product Teflon isn't really a marketing drawback, though. Since Teflon has gotten a bad reputation in recent years as a dangerous compound, most manufacturers prefer to call it PTFE.

What is PTFE? PTFE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene, an inert and nontoxic type of plastic with a melting point of around 620F. It is a very stable compound and if ingested, it will pass through a human body without causing any damage. However, because PTFE begins to break down around 500F (source: Wikipedia), you shouldn't use heat higher than medium (and know your stove, too: some hobs get hotter than others). When breaking down, it gives off fumes that will kill birds and make other animals, including humans, ill.

More concerning than the PTFE, however, is the PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) also used in cookware manufacturing. PFOA is a glue-like substance used to make the intensely slick PTFE adhere to cookware surfaces during manufacturing. PFOA is said to burn off during manufacturing, but trace amounts may still be present.   

If present, PFOA lies below the PTFE layer, and is normally not exposed to the cooking surface. However, if a nonstick pan is scratched or the PTFE is otherwise degraded, from too high heat for example, food can get contaminated with PFOA. 

As of 2015, PFOA is no longer used in the US because it is a seriously unhealthy chemical if ingested and bad for the environment. This is why you'll frequently see the claim "PFOA-free" on a lot of nonstick cookware these days. You may think this means it isn't Teflon or PTFE, but it is. In fact, unless the cookware specifically says it's ceramic, it is almost certainly some form of PTFE.

TeflonPlumberTape

PTFE has thousands of applications including this one: plumber's tape.

"PFOA-free" is no guarantee that PTFE cookware is "safe" even if scratched or degraded. There's been little information about what's replaced PFOA in the manufacturing process. However, it is most likely a similar chemical (if a cookware manufacturer developed a non-toxic PTFE adhesive, they would be shouting it from the rooftops).

Even so, PTFE cookware is completely safe when used and cared for properly. Don't use PTFE cookware that's scratched or darkened/discolored from high heat. See our guide below on how to properly care for nonstick cookware. Proper care will ensure safe use and result in the longest life span of your nonstick skillet.

How long? Probably somewhere between 2-5 years. It really, really depends on a lot of factors, so it's hard to pinpoint any more precisely than that.

Ceramic

GreenPanEggs

Ceramic pans are fabulous...while they last.

Ceramic cookware was first developed by a Korean company under the brand name Thermolon (the Green Pan was the first ceramic nonstick skillet and is still our recommendation for a ceramic pan). The first nonstick ceramics came on the scene in 2007, so they are much newer technology than PTFE nonstick. 

Ceramic nonstick is appealing because it is less likely to contain harmful chemicals and is also more environmentally friendly because it is made from fire-hardened clay. Ceramic nonstick skillets can get as hot as 800F before they begin to break down (although most manufacturers recommend a max heat much lower than this)--and when they do break down, they probably won't release any nasty fumes or chemicals.

I use the terms "less likely to contain" and "probably won't release" because any pan made in China--as most of the ceramics are, including the German Green Pan we recommend here--may contain any number of chemicals. For example, cadmium, a known carcinogen, is sometimes used in the manufacturing of ceramics. When you buy products made in China, it's hard to know if they're regulated to U.S. standards. This is true even for many products with U.S. labels (so caveat emptor!). I wish I could provide better guidance about what to buy and what to avoid, but this can be difficult information to track down. 

Today, there are several ceramic nonstick products available, but Thermolon is still considered to be one of the highest quality. You can find Thermolon ceramic in Green Pan and Zwilling J. A. Henckel's Spirit cookware. Spirit cookware is a high quality clad stainless, but the price point is a little high for nonstick (and it is also made in China). 

Another good quality ceramic is Greblon. You can find it in Healthy Legend, a German cookware brand (which is probably made in China) and another decent quality pan, but with its glass lids and plastic handles, not to mention its mediocre user rating, it's not our favorite.

Which Is the Best Type of Nonstick Skillet to Buy?

Ceramic might seem like the obvious choice: it's nonstick 2.0, after all, the latest and greatest nonstick on the market, right? It's tougher than PTFE, it takes a much higher temperature to break it down, it contains no toxic chemicals (theoretically), and even if you scratch the crap out of it, it's not going to release any unsafe compounds into your food (again, theoretically).

Despite all of those arguments, PTFE is still the better nonstick product.

Yes, even the newest, "PFOA-free" PTFE likely is almost certain to contain questionable chemicals (or at least, use questionable chemicals in its production process, some of which may linger in the finished product). And yes, PTFE scratches easily, has to be handled with care, and even then has a short life span. 

But by most accounts, ceramic nonstick skillets have an even shorter lifespan. And this is true no matter how well you take care of them.

The nasty chemicals in PTFE cookware only become an issue if a pan is scratched or overheated to the point of discoloration. If the PTFE is in good shape, it offers an excellent nonstick surface and a safe cooking surface.

So despite its many drawbacks, PTFE is still the best choice of nonstick cookware. By most accounts, it's going to keep its nonstick properties longer and it has a more proven track record. (This may be why most of the major cookware manufacturers use PTFE rather than ceramic.) 

Ceramic is fabulous--at first. Then its nonstick properties just kind of...quit. And according to many, many users, this can happen in a surprisingly short time, even when carefully used and cared for. 

If you want evidence of this, just read the one-star reviews on Amazon for any brand of ceramic nonstick cookware. Some users complain of ceramic pans--at all price points--losing their nonstick properties after just a few uses! 

Having said all that, there are circumstances when you want to buy ceramic nonstick; If there are people in your household incapable of following the basic use and care routines required for PTFE cookware, you should go with the (probably) safer ceramic. For example, if you have kids who cook on their own when you're not around to supervise, or if you have teenagers who roll their eyes at your "stupid" rules, buy ceramic. You'll sleep better at night.

So, to summarize, in most cases, PTFE is usually the lesser of two evils--which is why we recommend going with clad stainless cookware for the majority of your cooking, and keeping a nonstick skillet for eggs and other sticky foods only.

Buy PTFE if:

  • Everyone in your home is responsible enough not to abuse the nonstick pan (no metal utensils, no high heat, etc.)

Buy ceramic if:

  • There are people in your home who won't respect the rules of nonstick cookware use and care; ceramic is going to wear out faster, but it can take a lot more abuse than PTFE and remain safe to use.

Do Well-Known Brands Make Better (More Durable) Nonstick Skillets?

This is a great question, and the honest answer is that it's hard to know for sure. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different types and grades of PTFE, including different Teflons, on the market. More expensive cookware will claim the PTFE they use is of a higher grade, and/or that they use several coats of it on their cookware to increase durability.

It would be almost impossible to test every single brand of nonstick cookware on the market, especially for a small outfit like ours, but you can see just from reading cookware reviews, on Amazon and elsewhere, that even the high-end nonstick loses its nonstick properties, and by all accounts, at about the same rate as the inexpensive stuff.

This is true for both PTFE and ceramic.

Here's another thing: even if the nonstick coating on a high-end brand is more durable than that on a less expensive brand, the coating is still going to wear out long before the skillet itself. Which means you're paying top end prices for cookware that is realistically only going to last a few years.

Which, again, is why we, and most other kitchen experts, chefs, and cookware specialists, recommend buying nonstick on the low end of the market.

(Yes, we do recommend an All-Clad nonstick skillet--but not the clad stainless. Their cast aluminum nonstick is very reasonably priced--about the same as a T-fal skillet, believe it or not--and offers excellent heating properties.)

Are Nonstick Skillets Safe to Use?

In a nutshell, all nonstick skillets are safe to use If used and cared for properly.

Ceramic: Most people consider ceramic the better choice for both health and environmental reasons, but in truth, it's hard to know if that's the case. There is a small possibility that ceramic nonstick skillets may contain harmful substances such as cadmium (a known carcinogen), which is sometimes used in ceramics manufacturing. Brands made in Europe or the US are most likely fine, but some brands made in China may not be. Quality control can be iffy over there. 

PTFE/Teflon: PTFE nonstick skillets are safe to use as long as they're not scratched, chipped, or overheated to the point of discoloration. If PTFE cookware has any of these signs of damage, you should not use it; it can release toxic fumes when heated, or release toxic chemicals into your food. And this may be true even if the cookware is PFOA-free. 

The upshot on nonstick safety is as it is with most things beyond our control: you do what you can to make safe, healthy choices and be environmentally conscious. But the chain of events which brings products into our homes is complex (very complex! globally complex!), and it can be difficult to know with certainty what we're getting. It's true with food--including "organic" food, unless you personally know the grower--and it's just as true with all the other products we buy. 

All we can say for sure is that if you take good care of your nonstick skillets and use them properly, you will maximize the possibility that the cookware is safe to use.

The next section covers how to use and care for your nonstick skillets.

How to Use and Care for Nonstick Skillets

WashingDishesII

You may own a nonstick skillet with claims that you can use metal utensils on it, throw it in the dishwasher, and even use it on high heat. If you want your nonstick to last, you will do none of these things, even if the manufacturer says it's okay.

This is true for all types of nonstick, including titanium- and diamond-reinforced nonstick. These uber-tough reinforcement materials are used to create a barrier between the utensil and the nonstick coating. Even so, you should act as if, and treat that reinforced pan like a regular nonstick pan if you want to get the longest possible life out of it.

Proper Use

  • Do not use a heat setting higher than medium-high, and preferably medium. High heat takes a toll on both types of nonstick. To be absolutely sure you're not heating above 450F (or thereabouts), check your cooktop burners with an infrared thermometer. You'd be surprised at how hot a hob can get even on a medium setting (especially a gas hob). You'd also be surprised at how different the heat on different cooktops can be. For best results with your nonstick skillet, you should know how hot your burners get at all the settings, and use accordingly.
  • Do not use metal utensils on a nonstick skillet. Never, ever, ever. You can use wood, plastic, silicone, or bamboo--but not metal. Even if the manufacturer claims you can, don't do it if you want to get the longest life possible out of your nonstick skillet.
  • Avoid putting your nonstick skillet in the oven. But if you must, don't go above 350F. Ovens fluctuate greatly in temperature and can go quite a ways above the setpoint temp before reaching equilibrium--so it's safest to set the heat above 350F. (By the way, this is also a smart rule to follow if your skillet has a plastic or silicone handle: high heat--from both burner and oven--will destroy it.
  • Do not use aerosol cooking sprays (like PAM) on PTFE nonstick. A chemical in the propellant destroys the nonstick surface, making it soft and gummy. Other cooking oils are fine, just not the store bought aerosol stuff.

One of the greatest drawbacks of nonstick skillets is that, because you can't use them over high heat, you can never develop a really good fond--the nice, crispy brown bits that add so much flavor. However, if you're using your nonstick skillet for eggs (let's face it, the only truly good use for nonstick), this isn't an issue.

TeflonBlintzes

Because of the nice browning on these blintzes, I suspect this pan was heated higher than is safe to use with PTFE skillets.

Proper Care

  • Do not put your nonstick skillets in the dishwasher. Dishwashing detergent has tiny-but-abrasive particles that aren't good for any cookware, but especially nonstick cookware. (Also true for knives, by the way.)
  • Do not use abrasive cleansers or scrubbing pads on the nonstick surface, even if the manufacturer claims that it's safe. Scouring pads will ruin the nonstick surface. Use only soft dish rags, sponges, and nylon scouring pads designed for use with nonstick--and use these only if absolutely necessary. (Of course, you can use any type of scouring pad or cleanser on the outside of the pan that you wish. Just be careful not to accidentally scrape it on the nonstick area.)
  • Let pans cool before washing. Because cooler water + hot pan = warping. (Note: This is true for all pans, but particularly true for thin, inexpensive aluminum pans--lookin' at you, T-fal!--which can warp surprisingly easily.)

If you want your nonstick skillets to last, do not use metal utensils or put them in the dishwasher--no matter what the manufacturer says!

Buying a Nonstick Skillet: What to Look For

There are just a few simple yet important things to look for when in the market for a nonstick skillet. These are:

  • Type of nonstick (how to know what you're buying)
  • Heating properties
  • Pan construction and durability
  • Pan design
  • Warranty.

Here are the details of each of those considerations.

Type of Nonstick (How to Know What You're Buying)

We've already covered the differences in some detail above, so if you've read that section and made it this far, you probably know whether you want PTFE or ceramic.

But even if you know what you want, the nonstick skillet market can be confusing. Marketing jargon can be hard to decipher, and sometimes you have to read the fine print to discover what you're actually getting. PTFE can be called ceramic, ceramic manufacturers can have lines of PTFE, "titanium" and "diamond" coatings can be applied to both PTFE and ceramic, and sometimes the names and terms used to describe the cookware can be misleading. "PFOA free," for example, doesn't mean the nonstick isn't PTFE.

If you're not  a product you're familiar with (like the ones reviewed here), you really have to do your homework.

Here are a few tips.

  • If a brand claims to be "PFOA-free," it's probably a PTFE product, unless it specifically states that it is ceramic. The term "PFOA-free" can lead people to believe they're buying a non-PTFE pan, when in truth, this claim almost always means that it is PTFE, and that it no longer contains PFOA. (As of 2015, cookware sold in the US can't contain PFOA, so you'll see this claim on pretty much every PTFE pan on the market now.)
  • Most of the major brands--All-Clad, Cuisinart, T-fal, Calphalon, etc.--have PTFE nonstick rather than ceramic. If you're looking at a major brand and it doesn't clearly state what type of nonstick it uses, assume that it's PTFE. The one certain exception to this is the Zwilling Spirit, which is clad stainless coated with Thermolon ceramic.
  • "Titanium" is not a new type of nonstick. Rather it's an enhancement added to existing nonstick compounds, usually PTFE. A "titanium surface" is merely one type of nonstick coating that's had titanium added to it. (Same goes for other additives, such as diamond dust.) Titanium can make the nonstick surface slightly more durable, but not so much that you can treat it like other cookware. It still requires proper use and care. 
  • Go beyond the product description and read user reviews. If you're shopping on Amazon, read through the customer questions, or ask the question yourself. Amazon has great customer resources; use them to your full advantage.
  • If you still can't determine the type of nonstick, assume that it's PTFE.

Heating Properties: Aluminum Is the Way to Go

As with other cookware, the heating properties are the most important characteristics of a nonstick skillet. After all, a pan's purpose is to transfer heat to food, thus cooking it. If it doesn't do this well--unevenly or slowly, for example--then it's not of much use to you, even if it has the best nonstick coating in the world.

In the world of regular, non-nonstick cookware, the best pan choice is probably clad stainless. (There will be those who disagree with this, but it is Rational Kitchen's favorite cookware option. We explain why, in detail, in this article.) It has the great heating properties from its internal layers of aluminum and/or copper, and it has great durability from it's external layer of stainless steel.

In the world of nonstick cookware, however, we prefer aluminum, and preferably cast aluminum. Aluminum isn't good cookware by itself because it's soft, scratches easily, and can transfer (toxic) aluminum particles to your food. But when you slap a nonstick coating on it, its main drawbacks vanish, and you're left with a fast-, even-, and safe-heating pan. 

There are several types of aluminum cookware out there. We like the cast aluminum because it's thicker, which gives it great heating properties and also makes it less prone to warping. If the cast aluminum also has an induction-compatible, stainless-reinforced base, all the better, because even if you don't care about induction, that stainless disc is going to make the pan extremely warp resistant.

Here's another little tidbit you can take to the bank: because cast aluminum has a thicker aluminum layer than most tri-ply with aluminum interiors, it's actually going to transfer heat better--faster and more evenly--than those more expensive pans. (So true is this, in fact, that even though the All-Clad tri-ply is its most popular line, it's cheaper, 2-ply Master Chef line actually has better heating properties because of its thicker aluminum layer. If you're looking for a cookware set and don't need induction, All-Clad Master Chef is an excellent option. See All-Clad Vs. Demeyer: Which Is Better? for a more detailed discussion.) 

Even cheap aluminum pans with thinner walls, like the T-fal we review here as our bargain choice (not cast aluminum), are going to offer approximately the same heating properties as All-Clad tri-ply, and maybe even slightly better, believe it or not. 

Aluminum is also the cheapest cookware on the market. So although you don't want cheap non-coated aluminum, for nonstick skillets, it's excellent--particularly when cast and hard anodized to provide greater durability (and excellent heating properties).

Pan Design

The next thing to think about is the pan design: shape, size, handles, and bottom construction, to be exact.

Shape

Believe it or not, skillets come in a huge range of shapes. They can have long, sloping sides almost like woks, and they can have steep, straight sides like saute pans. There's no "best" design; it's all about what you prefer. 

Long, sloping sides are great for stir fries, while short sides are great for pan frying burgers, chicken, and fish. Sloped sides make it easier to reach in and flip food with a turner, while steep sides offer more cooking surface. 

Ideally, a pan should be a happy medium that you can use for multiple cooking tasks. 

In any case, think about how you'll use the pan to help you decide the shape you want.

Size

Of course nonstick skillets come in several sizes, too, the most common are 8-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, and 13- or 14-inch, measured across the top of the skillet. Some manufacturers use metric measurements, but they are all approximately these same sizes.

A good general purpose size is 10-inches. All of the skillets we tested and reviewed here were 10-inch. If you routinely cook for a larger crowd, a 12-inch skillet is a good choice; if you're buying a nonstick skillet to make eggs for yourself, an 8-inch will do. 

Anything larger than 12-inches and you start to have heat distribution issues on most burners. But hey, if you need one that big, you can probably make it work.

Handle Design 

A lot of nonstick skillets have silicone or plastic handles. This may sound like a good idea (they'll stay cooler than steel, right? and be easier to grip?), but it really isn't. Non-steel handles can't take as much heat. They can't go in the oven (or they shouldn't, even if the manufacturer says it's okay). And they wear out faster than stainless handles. How frustrating to have a perfectly good nonstick skillet, but the silicone handle has worn or melted off of it! 

Yes, it's true that nonstick skillets are probably only going to last a few years, anyway. So it's not as bad as getting regular cookware with non-steel handles. But steel is just better. It feels better, it lasts longer, and it looks nicer.

For all of these reasons, we much prefer nonstick skillets with steel handles over plastic or silicone ones.

Handle Attachment: Another consideration is how the handle is attached to the skillet. While this in no way is a deal breaker, the hierarchy of great handle attachment is: welded (i.e., rivetless) > riveted > screwed. And since there aren't any nonstick skillets with welded handles in a good price range, then riveted is what you want.

(The Woll Nowo Titanium PTFE skillet has a welded handle and is one of our picks for titanium nonstick. It's a great pan, but its high price makes it not the best choice: you can get the 2-pack Anolon Copper Nouvelle OR the 2-pack All-Clad HA1 for less than the cost of one Woll 10-inch skillet!)

All of our recommendations offer riveted handles. A few even have nonstick-coated rivets, which is a nice touch. 

Bottom Construction

Here, we're talking about reinforcement: many aluminum skillets have bottoms reinforced with stainless steel. This reinforcement does two things: 1) It adds thickness to prevent warping, and 2) It makes a pan induction compatible.

A cast aluminum pan without a reinforced bottom probably won't warp if you take good care of it (in particular: don't overheat it, especially without food in the pan, and don't immerse a hot pan in cooler water). But a non-cast aluminum pan benefits greatly from having a steel plate. This is why we recommend the T-fal Pro Grade skillet over other bargain-priced options: it costs slightly more than the bottom rung pans, but you get a lot more pan for those few extra dollars.

Warranty

Many manufacturers offer "limited lifetime warranties," including all the brands reviewed and recommended here.

However, don't put a lot of stock into that, or at least, don't expect a full refund or replacement if your pan loses its nonstick. Even if that happens in a really short time, it's doubtful that any of these companies will replace your nonstick skillet when it starts to stick. If you read through user reviews on Amazon, you'll soon see that very few people have had a good experience with customer service.

Nonstick cookware comes with a multitude of care and use instructions. If it appears as though you may not have followed them, companies will void your warranty. 

Warranties aren't always as good as they sound, especially with a product like nonstick cookware. On the other hand, if companies replaced pans that lost their nonstick properties for free, they'd go out of business toot sweet. So you probably shouldn't expect too much from what seems like an excellent warranty. Even top brands are not likely to hand over brand new nonstick pans unless there's an obvious manufacturing defect. Normal wear and tear doesn't count--usually even if "normal" is only a few months.

Once again, this is an argument to buy on the cheap end. And we guarantee you can get a nonstick skillet you can love without spending a lot.

Now that you know a lot about nonstick cookware and you know what to look for in a nonstick skillet--type, heating properties, pan construction, design, and warranty--it's time to shop!

Recommendations: The Best Nonstick Skillets

We could give you a slew of recommendations because at the low end, many brands are going to provide about the same performance and durability. Instead, we recommend just a few of the most stellar nonstick skillets around. These pans are as good higher-priced nonstick cookware; in many cases, the heating properties are actually better because of the cast aluminum and reinforced bottoms.

You can shop until you get dizzy with all the available options that are out there. You can read top ten lists till you're more confused than ever. Or you can just pick from one of a select few truly excellent pans you can find even near the bottom end of the market. 

Here they are.

Anolon Nouvelle Copper: Hands Down the Best Bang for Your Buck

See it on Amazon

AnolonNonStick2Pans_500px

When you think aluminum nonstick skillets, you don't think copper. After all, copper is on the other end of the cookware spectrum, being some of the most costly cookware on the market. 

Even so, the Anolon Nouvelle Copper skillet is hard-anodized, cast aluminum with a bottom reinforcement of not one layer, but four! It has two layers of aluminum surrounding a layer of copper, topped (or more accurately bottomed) off with a layer of induction-compatible stainless steel. When you add this to the already excellent heating properties and durability of the cast aluminum, the result is a pan with superior thermal properties.

And it's not just a micro-thin layer of copper, either, like some manufacturers will do: the copper layer is about 0.6 mm thick. To compare, All-Clad Copper Core's copper layer is about 0.9mm thick, and Mauviel copper skillets start at about 1.5mm.

So this is impressive--and It's enough copper to have a significant effect on the heating spreading abilities of this pan.

No other nonstick skillet, at any price point, offers better construction, durability, and heat properties than the Anolon Nouvelle Copper skillet.

Check out those layers:

AnolonSkilletExplodedView_500px

Features

  • Cast aluminum construction with hard anodized outer layer
  • Four-layers (aluminum-copper-aluminum-stainless) of bottom cladding
  • Stainless handle with nonstick rivets
  • Induction compatible
  • The 8- and 10-inch set is the best purchase option
  • Made in China.

Cons

  • The sides are very sloped, creating a smallish cooking surface
  • No lid

Buy If:

Buy this pan if you want superior heating properties at a fantastic price and don't mind the skillet shape.

Buy the anolon nouvelle copper nonstick skillets on amazon now:

AnolonNonStick2Pans_140px

All-Clad HA1 Cast Aluminum: More Affordable Than You Think

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AllCladNonstickHA1Pans

These pans aren't as good as the Anolon Nouvelle pans because they don't have the amazing copper/aluminum double whammy reinforced bottom. The thing is, cast aluminum has pretty impressive heat-spreading capabilities on its own, even without those extra layers (another fact that makes the Anolon Copper Nouvelle a truly extraordinary skillet). This pan has nice, thick walls, providing really good heating properties, plus a stainless bottom to make it induction compatible and resist warping. The anodized outer layer adds to its durability.

These skillets have a really usable shape, with straight sides straight enough to provide a lot of cooking surface, yet curved enough to allow for getting a turner in there under your food. If you're buying the pan primarily for eggs, this is an excellent feature.

You may be surprised to learn that these pans are made in China--but all of All-Clad's non-clad products are now made overseas. No matter; it's still a great, great pan.

And here's another surprising fact that might knock you off your feet: check the price of this skillet on Amazon. Just do it! You'll be amazed to see that it costs little more than much inferior brands!

You can buy All-Clad tri-ply skillets with nonstick coating, as well as other expensive All-Clad lines, but you're so much better off with these. They cost a lot less, you won't be left with an expensive-but-worthless clad skillet once the nonstick wears off--and the heating properties are just as good, if not better.

Features

  • Cast aluminum construction with hard anodized outer layer
  • Stainless-reinforced bottom
  • Induction compatible
  • The 8- and 10-inch set is the best purchase option
  • Made in China.

Cons

  • The sides are very sloped, creating a smallish cooking surface
  • No lid (though this is standard for skillets)

Buy If:

Buy if you want a superb nonstick skillet at a reasonable price but don't like the shape of the Anolon Copper Nouvelle.

AllCladCastAluminumBottom

BUY THE ALL-CLAD HA1 NONSTICK SKILLETS ON AMAZON NOW:

AllCladNonstickHA1Pans2_140px

T-fal Pro Grade: Reinforced Bottom at a Steal of a Price (and Yes, Induction Compatible)

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TfalProSkillet

T-fal isn't our first pick for nonstick skillet because it's thin-walled (which you can see in the photo), it has a plastic handle, and it's not going to provide the stellar performance of the Anolon Copper Nouvelle or the almost-as-good performance of the All-Clad Hard Anodized skillet. But if you're on a really tight budget and need to buy at the lowest possible price point, this is the one to get. 

It's thin walls are going to make it prone to warping, but the steel-reinforced bottom will counteract that somewhat, and also provide induction compatibility, which is rare at this price point. It's much better than some of the other pans of a comparable price. 

So if you need to go low end, this is the pan to get-- but don't go any lower. T-fal has literally dozens of cookware lines and you can spend less. But the Professional Grade is the only line we recommend. The cheaper skillets aren't reinforced, aren't induction compatible, and are going to warp very easily.

Features

  • Hard anodized outer layer
  • Stainless-reinforced bottom
  • Induction compatible
  • Made in China.

Cons

  • Thin-walled sides offer less-than-stellar heating properties and are prone to warping
  • Plastic handle will wear out more quickly than a stainless handle
  • No lid (though this is standard for skillets).

Buy If:

Buy this T-fal skillet if you want decent quality for the lowest price.

BUY THE T-FAL PRO GRADE NONSTICK SKILLET ON AMAZON NOW:

TfalProSkillet_140px

Green Pan Lima Skillet: The Best Budget Ceramic Option

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Note: If you want induction compatibility, see this pan on Amazon

GreenPanWTurner

Green Pan is a German company, but this skillet is probably manufactured in China. It was one of the original ceramic nonstick skillets and is still probably one of the best you can buy without spending a lot (although all ceramic is notorious for losing its nonstick properties pretty quickly). You can go cheaper, but that means uncertainty about the quality of the ceramic and the possibility of toxic chemicals being used in manufacturing. Even though this Green Pan is probably made in China, it's made with Thermolon, a well-established ceramic nonstick coating brand. If you go cheaper, well, you just can't know for sure.

If you do decide to go with Green Pan, be sure to buy this model, or else the induction compatible model (which goes for a bit more, but comes with a lid). Green Pan has a huge array of product lines, some of which are even PTFE--and they also have that confusing marketing jargon that can make you unsure what you're getting. So if you don't buy one of these two recommended pans, read the descriptions carefully to make sure you get what you want.

For the price, this is a really nice pan. It has great little extras like the nonstick rivets, stainless handle, and bamboo turner included in the price.

If you want to spend more, go with the Zwilling Spirit, also a quality ceramic, which you'll love, at least as long as the ceramic coating lasts.

Features

  • Hard anodized outer layer
  • Cadmium-free, PFOA-free Thermolon (ceramic) nonstick coating
  • Thermolon-coated pan rivets (a really nice touch at this price point)
  • Stainless handle (also a really nice touch)
  • Comes with a bamboo turner
  • German product made in China.

Cons

  • Not sure what the construction is (may or may not be cast aluminum)
  • Thermolon is great while it lasts, but will probably wear out faster than PTFE
  • No lid (though this is standard for skillets).

Buy If:

Buy this T-fal skillet if you want decent quality for the lowest price.

BUY THE GREEN PAN LIMA SKILLET ON AMAZON NOW:

GreenPanWTurner_140px

Final Thoughts

If you want a great nonstick skillet, you don't have to spend a fortune. In fact, you can get stellar quality and heating properties for around $30. There's a lot to know about buying well in this market, but if you've read the article, you should have an excellent idea of what you want and what you're getting for your money.

Thanks for reading!


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