"The best nonstick is a cheap nonstick," says every honest cookware expert everywhere. Because nonstick frying pans don't last, you should buy cheap and often: most people plan on replacing their nonstick pans every few years.
That's exactly why we recommend buying only frying pans and not entire sets of nonstick cookware: you won't mind replacing a frying pan every few years nearly as much as replacing an entire cookware set.
But there's cheap, and there's unusable (which you want to avoid).
Here, we discuss everything about nonstick frying pans: the essential properties you shouldn't skimp on even when buying on the low end. We think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how little you have to spend to get a really great nonstick skillet.
The Best Nonstick Frying Pans 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.
NOTE: Table may not be visible in mobile view.
Anolon Nouvelle Copper Hard Anodized Skillets
-Cast aluminum w/hard anodized exterior (2mm)
-0.5mm copper/4mm alum. in base
-PTFE nonstick surface
-Heavy base won't warp
-Stainless stay-cool handles
-Set of 2 is a fantastic deal
Buy this frying pan if you want the best heating properties and like the pan shape.
All-Clad Hard Anodized Nonstick Frying Pans
-Cast aluminum w/hard anodized exterior (3mm)
-PTFE nonstick surface
-Reinforced base won't warp
-Large cooking surface
-Stainless stay-cool handles
-Set of 2 is a fantastic deal
Buy if you don't like the shape of the Anolon Nouvelle skillets above (these have more flat cooking surface).
T-fal Professional Nonstick Fry Pan with Heat Indicator
-Reinforced bottom won't warp
-PTFE nonstick surface
-Super low price point
Buy if you can't afford the All-Clad or Anolon and need induction compatibility.
Green Pan Lima Skillet
-Thermolon ceramic coating
-Cast aluminum body
-Bamboo turner included
-NOT induction compatible (buy this Green Pan for induction)
Buy if you hate the idea of PTFE, or live with people who won't take care of a PTFE skillet.
About Nonstick Frying Pans: An Introduction
Nonstick cookware is in a category called "coated cookware." This is cookware that has a thin coating added to the base material (usually aluminum or stainless steel).
Nonstick is the most common type of coated cookware. Another type is enamel-coated cookware (le Creuset, for example). Enamel is also used on the exterior surfaces of cookware, primarily to add color, 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 frying pan, it's important to take into consideration the type of metal the nonstick coating is applied to: it is going to have the heating properties of that metal.
Another consideration is that all cookware coatings eventually wear off. This is why nonstick cookware doesn't have nearly the life span of clad stainless, cast iron, or carbon steel. 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 rather than high-end nonstick.
You can still find great 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.
The Two Types of Nonstick Coating (A Brief History)
You may be surprised to learn that there are only two categories of true nonstick cookware: PTFE and nonstick ceramic.
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 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 1930s. 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, all PTFE coatings are 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.
PFOA: More concerning than the PTFE, however, is the PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) also used in PTFE 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 terrible 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 doesn't contain Teflon or other PTFE, but it probably does. In fact, unless nonstick cookware is specifically labeled as "nonstick ceramic" or as "PTFE- and PFOA-free," it is almost certainly contains PTFE.
Overall, 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 depends on many factors, so it's hard to pinpoint more precisely than that.
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.
Ceramic nonstick is appealing because it is perceived as containing no harmful chemicals and as being more environmentally friendly because it is made from fire-hardened clay rather than hydrocarbons. Ceramic nonstick skillets can get as hot as 800F before they begin to break down.
We 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 Green Pan--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!).
There is also some evidence that ceramic nonstick pans may not be as safe as everyone believes. The coating process uses titanium nanoparticles, which have been associated with cancerous lesions. It's probably not a danger at normal use temperatures, but there isn't a lot of research out on this yet. It's definitely something to be aware of.
As for being more environmentally friendly, that, too, is difficult to say without a full understanding of the manufacturing processes. The truth is that all mass-produced consumer goods are likely to have a pretty large carbon footprint, regardless of the chemicals and components used.
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 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 at least partially made in Germany.
Why Just Frying Pans? Why Not Whole Sets?
Nonstick coatings don't last. No matter how much you spend or how careful you take care of your pans, the nonstick coating is going to wear out.
The average life span of a nonstick pan--both types--is 1-5 years. We hate the idea of having to replace entire cookware sets this often, so we recommend buying nonstick frying pans and not whole sets.
You really only need nonstick in a frying pan, as that's the pan you use for delicate and sticky foods like eggs and fish. You don't get as much benefit from the nonstick coating on sauce pans, stock pots, and other pieces.
Furthermore, you really only need the nonstick coating for those sticky foods--so you should also have another frying pan (or two) you use for everything else.
Using your nonstick frying pan only for tasks where the nonstick coating is needed will also allow you to get the longest possible life out of your nonstick frying pan.
Finally, even if don't mind replacing your entire set of cookware every few years, consider the landfill implications: nonstick cookware can be recyclable, but 95% of curbside recycling programs won't take it--so it frequently ends up in landfills.
For most cooking tasks, we like clad stainless steel cookware, which will last forever. Seasoned cast iron and carbon steel are also great choices. For articles on clad stainless steel cookware, cast iron cookware, and other options, check out our Cookware page.
So Which Is the Best Type of Nonstick Frying Pan 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 probably contains no toxic chemicals, and even if you scratch the crap out of it, it's not going to release any unsafe compounds into your food (theoretically).
Despite all of those arguments, PTFE is still the better nonstick product.
Yes, even the newest, "PFOA-free" PTFE 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 has an even shorter lifespan. And this is true no matter how well you take care of your pans.
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.
Ceramic is fabulous--at first. Then its nonstick properties just kind of...die. And according to 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.
To summarize, in most cases, PTFE is usually the better choice, performance-wise. Though there are other issues with the PTFE cookware industry that we don't like, for pure use, it's the best choice.
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 nonstick if:
- There are people in your home who won't respect the rules of PTFE cookware use and care; ceramic will wear out faster, but it can take more abuse than PTFE.
Are Expensive Brands of Nonstick Pan Better?
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 on the market. More expensive cookware makers will claim the PTFE they use is a higher grade, and/or that they use several coats of it to increase durability.
We can't test every brand of nonstick cookware on the market, but you can see just from reading cookware reviews on Amazon and elsewhere that even the high-end nonstick loses its nonstick properties eventually, and by most 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 frying pan--but not the clad stainless nonstick. Their cast aluminum nonstick is very reasonably priced--about the same as a T-fal frying pan, believe it or not--and offers great heating properties.
There may be other reasons to buy an expensive nonstick frying pan, such as environmentally responsible manufacturing: see our ScanPan Review for an interesting discussion about this.
Are Nonstick Frying Pans Safe to Use?
In a nutshell, all nonstick frying pans 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 possibility that ceramic nonstick pans may contain harmful substances (see the section above for more info).
PTFE/Teflon: PTFE nonstick skillets are safe to use as long as they're not scratched, chipped, or overheated to the point of discoloration, which indicates that the PTFE has degraded. If PTFE cookware has any of these signs of damage, you should not use it; it can release toxic fumes when heated. And this is true even if the cookware is PFOA-free, since the PTFE itself breaks down into harmful substances when overheated.
The upshot on nonstick frying pan 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 frying pans and use them properly, you will maximize the possibility that the cookware is safe (and this is true for both types of nonstick coatings).
The next section covers how to use and care for your nonstick skillets.
How to Use and Care for Nonstick Frying Pans
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 treat that reinforced pan like a regular nonstick pan if you want to get the longest possible life out of it.
How to Use a Nonstick Pan
- Do not use a heat setting higher than medium. High heat takes a toll on both types of nonstick. To be absolutely sure you're not heating above 400F, 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 settings.
- 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 set temperature before reaching equilibrium--so it's safest to set the heat to no more than 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--can 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 frying pans is that, because you can't use them over high heat, it's hard to develop a really good fond--the nice, crispy brown bits that add so much flavor to your food. However, if you're using your nonstick skillet exclusively for eggs (let's face it, the only truly good use for nonstick), this isn't an issue.
How to Care for a Nonstick Pan
- 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 cool water + hot pan = warping.
If you want your nonstick pans to last, do not use metal utensils or put them in the dishwasher--no matter what the manufacturer says! And NEVER heat above medium!
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
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 (in fact, it usually is when it has a "PFOA-free" label).
If you're not familiar with a nonstick product, you really have to do your homework. We have an article, Nonstick Cookware Brands: PTFE or Ceramic? A Comprehensive Guide, that can help you decipher the marketing jargon of the most popular brands on Amazon. (You may be surprised at what you find.)
Here are a few tips to help you shop.
- 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. (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 steel coated with Thermolon ceramic.
- "Titanium" is not a type of nonstick coating. Rather it's an enhancement added to the two existing nonstick coatings. (Same goes for other additives, such as diamond dust and granite.) 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.
- Check out our list in Nonstick Cookware Brands: PTFE or Ceramic? A Comprehensive Guide.
- 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. If it doesn't do this well--unevenly, 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 great heating properties from its internal layers of aluminum and/or copper, and it has great durability from its 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 and scratches easily. But when you slap a nonstick coating on it, its main drawbacks vanish, and you're left with a fast- and even-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.
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 better heating properties (because it's thicker) and greater durability.
For more on aluminum cookware, see our article Aluminum Cookware: The Facts You Need to Know.
The next thing to think about is the pan design: shape, size, handles, and bottom construction, to be exact.
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 sauté 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.
Our two recommendations for PTFE here differ quite a bit in shape. The Anolon Nouvelle Copper frying pan has long, sloped sides:
While the All-Clad HA1 frying pans have steeper, straighter sides:
The difference isn't great, and they're both great pans. The Anolon Nouvelle Copper pan is easier to slide a turner into, while the All-Clad HA1 has a little more cooking surface. But we show it to you because it's something to think about before you buy.
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.
Of course nonstick skillets come in several sizes, too, the most common being 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 better 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 make it work by giving it a longer pre-heat time, allowing the heat to distribute evenly throughout the pan.
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 clad stainless 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 Anolon Nouvelle Copper frying pan has flat rivets, so they collect way less gunk than other rivet designs.
All of our recommendations offer riveted handles. A few even have nonstick-coated rivets, which is a nice touch.
Here, we're talking about reinforcement: many aluminum skillets have bottoms reinforced with stainless steel. This reinforcement does three things: 1) Adds thickness to prevent warping, 2) Adds mass to help the pan retain heat longer, and 3) Makes the 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.
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 departments of any nonstick cookware manufacturer.
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. If companies replaced pans that lost their nonstick properties for free, they'd go out of business. 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.
We like GreenPan's warranty, which is a lifetime on the construction and 2 years on the nonstick surface. This is more honest than what many manufacturers promise and rarely live up to.
If your experience proves us wrong, that's great. But our research shows that it's the other way a lot of the time.
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 Frying Pans
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 frying pans around. These pans are as good as higher-priced nonstick cookware; in many cases, the heating properties are actually better because of the thick cast aluminum and reinforced bases.
You can shop until you get dizzy with all the available options 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 at truly excellent prices.
Here they are.
Anolon Nouvelle Copper Frying Pan: Hands Down the Best Bang for Your Buck
When you think aluminum nonstick frying pans, 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 heat-spreading abilities of this pan.
No other nonstick skillet, at any price point, offers better construction, durability, and heating properties than the Anolon Nouvelle Copper skillet.
Anolon makes several other lines of nonstick cookware, even some that cost more. But the Nouvelle Copper is the best choice by far.
See our Anolon Cookware Review for more information.
Check out those layers:
- Cast aluminum construction with hard anodized outer layer
- Four-layers (aluminum-copper-aluminum-stainless) of bottom cladding (in addition to the cast aluminum)
- Stainless handle with nonstick rivets
- Induction compatible
- The 8- and 10-inch set is the best purchase option
- Made in China.
- The sides are fairly sloped, creating a smallish cooking surface
- No lid.
Buy this pan if you want superior heating properties at a fantastic price and don't mind the slightly-wokish skillet shape.
Buy anolon nouvelle copper nonstick skillets:
All-Clad HA1 Nonstick Frying Pan: More Affordable Than You Think
For a more detailed review, see our Ultimate All-Clad Review.
These pans aren't as good as the Anolon Nouvelle pans because they don't have the amazing copper/aluminum double whammy reinforced base. 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 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.
- 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.
- The sides are very sloped, creating a smallish cooking surface
- No lid (though this is standard for skillets)
Buy if you want a superb nonstick skillet at a reasonable price but don't like the shape of the Anolon Copper Nouvelle.
BUY THE ALL-CLAD HA1 NONSTICK FRYING PANS ON AMAZON:
T-fal Pro Grade Frying Pan: Reinforced Bottom at a Steal of a Price (and Yes, Induction Compatible)
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.
Its thin walls are going to make it prone to warping, but the steel-reinforced bottom will counteract that, 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 please 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 one we recommend. The cheaper skillets aren't reinforced, aren't induction compatible, and are going to warp easily.
- Hard anodized outer layer
- Stainless-reinforced bottom
- Induction compatible
- Made in China.
- Thin-walled sides offer less-than-stellar heating properties and may be prone to warping
- Plastic handle will wear out more quickly than a stainless handle
- No lid (though this is standard for skillets).
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:
GreenPan Lima Frying Pan: The Best Ceramic Option
Note: If you want induction compatibility, see this pan on Amazon
Green Pan is a German company, but their pans are manufactured in China. It was one of the original ceramic nonstick products on the market 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). Even though this Green Pan is 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.
You can go cheaper, and a lot of people do. Check out our Gotham Steel Review for more information on a super-affordable, budget brand of nonstick ceramic frying pans.
If you do decide to go with Green Pan, we like this model, or else the induction compatible model (which costs more but comes with a lid). Green Pan has a huge array of product lines. 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 more information, see our Ultimate Green Pan Review; we provide descriptions of the GreenPan cookware lines.
For the price, the Green Pan Lima is a really nice pan. It has great little extras like the nonstick rivets, stainless handle, and bamboo turner included in the price. Or, if you go with the 12-inch Lima for a little more, you get a lid, which is a great deal.
- 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.
- 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 this GreenPan Lima skillet if you want decent quality for the lowest price.
BUY THE GREENPAN LIMA SKILLET ON AMAZON NOW:
Final Thoughts on the Best Nonstick Frying Pans
If you want a great nonstick frying pan, you don't have to spend a fortune. In fact, you can get excellent quality and heating properties for around $30. There's a lot to know about smart buying in this market, but you should have an excellent idea of what you want and what you're getting for your money now.
Thanks for reading!
Help other people buy wisely, too! Please share this article:
Very informative, helpful post! Thank you!
Just a small update but I believe most of the Anolon Nouvelle Copper line is made in Thailand and not China, including the Stainless versions. Idk if earlier sets were from China, but the last few I've gotten as gifts in the past 2 years or so all said Thailand.
Thanks, Robert! We will update accordingly. 🙂