When you feel like frying, sauteing, or making a quick sandwich, you’ll want your kitchen equipped with the best skillet. Read here to learn about the best skillets available for home chefs of all experience levels, from cast iron to stainless steel cookware.
A skillet or frying pan is one of those must-have cookware items for a working kitchen.
Anyone worth their salt knows the value provided by skillets for frying, browning or searing foods.
Depending on the type of meals you like to cook and your budget, you can find a good skillet that is made from aluminum, stainless steel, copper, cast iron, or coated with a non-stick coating.
Skillet and fry pan may be used interchangeably, but skillets are identifiable by their low sloping sides. The skillet has been in use for millennia, after the invention of household ovens for daily culinary needs.
The average skillet may measure anywhere from eight to twelve inches in diameter — most skillets plenty of room for making pancakes, searing steaks, or browning vegetables. The often confused saute pan, is not as shallow as the skillet and has straight sides that do not slope.
The slanted sides of a skillet are perfect for sloshing ingredients around quickly, such as when making a stir-fry or using a fast cooking technique.
There are plenty of wonderful meals that can be created and even served directly from a skillet. Cooks should know that the average skillet will be outfitted with a handle, but does not come with a lid.
Over time, even the best cookware will need to replaced after enough wear and tear, and harsh cleaning products. When you need the best skillet, you need to assess how much you want to spend and consider the best construction material for your pan’s longevity and heating qualities.
Some Things To Consider Before We Get Started
The frying pan dates back to ancient Mesopotamia and Greece, where earlier civilizations used copper pans. Before kitchen stoves were a common household detail, cast iron cookware often had legs keep it propped in a fire, but keep ashes and embers away from food.
Once stoves became a must-have staple for homes, pans with flat bottoms became widely available, such as the iconic cast iron skillet of the 19th century.
Most economical skillets are made from stainless steel or carbon-steel and may come with a non-stick coating. Some foodies and kitchen snobs may invest in expensive copper cookware, which is considered the best for conducting heat evenly and lasts for a long time.
Cooks who are concerned about health issues regarding non-stick coatings on their skillet may opt for ceramic coated pans. One of the best skillets to choose is a cast iron skillet, which is heavy, durable, and endures for decades if maintained.
Overall, the average skillet is going to be available in the following construction materials.
- Stainless steel or aluminum
- Cast iron
- A blend of stainless steel with an aluminum or copper core
The specific metals used to create a reliable skillet have various pros and cons for cooking.
If a cook has any concerns about health risks associated with specific non-stick coatings, steel, and cast iron skillets can become non-stick over time with seasoning and frequent use.
The best skillet should be comfortable to use, easy to clean, and should cook food evenly.
Types of Skillets
Non-Stick Coating Health Alert
Popular non-stick pans that use Teflon has come under scrutiny for possible connections to developing cancer. Teflon is the official name for the chemical compound polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE.
PTFE coatings, while convenient and in use since the 1940s, can prove questionable over time. PTFE is a concern because it relies on using PFOA, or Perfluorooctanoic acid, which can stay inside human bodies and the environment for a significant amount of time.
PFOA is supposed to burn off when it Teflon is created and treated, but there are still risks.
Tests have shown PFOA’s presence in drinking water, some foods, and even in dust.
Teflon has not been officially linked to causing cancer, but agents used in its construction have been put under the microscope.
Anyone worried about the risk of exposure still has plenty of non-stick skillet options. Chefs should look for pans that state they are PFOA-free, or can opt to use fry pans that use a ceramic coating.
When using a non-stick pan made with Teflon or other coatings, it is important not to scratch the surface, which can compromise the pan’s integrity and risk exposure to undesirable elements.
Teflon coated pans should not be heated to extreme temperatures or placed into an oven, as it may trigger a release of noxious fumes.
Unfortunately, the impact that PFOA and other similar carcinogenic agents are still mostly unknown. If anyone has concerns about being exposed to harmful elements as a result of using a pan coated with questionable agents, it is vital to get a blood test.
When in doubt, there are skillet options available that can reduce exposure and provide an optimal cooking experience and heat distribution.
How We Choose Our Ratings
We chose the following skillets for their value offered for the price point, construction material, brand reputation, and aesthetics. We wanted cooks of all backgrounds to feel they are informed about a range of quality cookware worth having.
Top 7 Best Skillets
The top ten skillets listed include the best non-stick, stainless steel, or cast iron pans for browning, searing, or frying up a delicious meal. Feast your eyes on the following cookware to make your culinary dreams come true.
Lodge 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet
A cast iron skillet is perhaps one of the best types of fry pans to get, as they will last a long time, and can be passed down as a family heirloom. The heavy duty cast iron skillet can withstand being used on the stove top or placed in the oven.
Lodge has created a quality cast iron skillet that already comes pre-seasoned if you don’t want to have to break in your pan.
Take this cast iron skillet camping for cooking on the grill, bake, broil, or braise foods with ease, and add to the flavors of the pan.
Hands are protected from burns or incidents caused by temperatures up to 450-degrees Fahrenheit, complements of the silicone hot handle holder.
Lodge offers this pan in sizes as small as 8 inches, and as large as 13.5 inches. We chose to investigate the 12-inch cast iron skillet, which is right in the middle for versatile chefs.
Cuisinart MCP22-30HN 12-Inch Skillet
Chefs who are looking for a modestly priced pan with high visual appeal may fall in love with this fry pan from Cuisinart.
The sheen on this pan is eye-catching and boosts confidence in the kitchen, and the rims are tapered to reduce drips during transfers and pours. The handle is made, so it stays cool to the touch while your work on the stove, and it is riveted for extra durability.
Longevity and construction were a priority for this pan, as it is constructed from triple-ply stainless steel.
Throw this pan into the dishwasher for maintenance without worry, or place it in the oven comfortably up to temperatures as high as 550-degrees.
Induction cookers are a perfect match for this attractive skillet, which includes heat surround technology to allow for optimal heat distribution.
All-Clad Stainless Steel 12-Inch Skillet
Most skillets don’t come with a lid, but this stainless steel pan from All-Clad upstages the competition.
A quality cooking experience is ensured, as this skillet is constructed using an aluminum core and triple-ply bonded stainless steel. The surface is highly polished which reduces the chance of food sticking.
Cooks can readily throw this pan in the oven or broiler up to 600-degrees or use it on the stove range.
Induction cookers are also compatible with this fry pan.
The handles of this pan are riveted securely in place for confident handling. Made in the USA, this trusty skillet will provide many years of use in the kitchen.
Tramontina Gourmet Prima 12-inch Fry Pan
Cooking with this aluminum base coupled with stainless steel fry pan makes a noticeable difference, as it evenly distributes heat.
The edges of the pan are flared to prevent drips when pouring out contents, and the ergonomic handle has a mirror polish that offers cooks a comfortable grip. The handle is riveted onto the pan securely, so you get excellent control over the cooking process.
You can throw this pan into the oven, use it on the stove, or place it on an induction cooker. When it is time for cleaning, this fry pan can be placed into the dishwasher.
As an added plus, this fry pan comes with a lifetime warranty.
Happycall 5 Layer Diamond Nonstick Frying Pan
Enjoy cooking with this darling fry pan with a PROA-free non-stick coating so that you can create meals with confidence. Durable and lightweight, this fry pan is constructed with quarter-inch thick aluminum.
The only real downside is that this pan is not compatible with induction cookers.
Overall, this is an attractive fry pan with slightly flared edges to resist drips. The construction details on this pan are resistant to bacterial build-up, as it does not use any rivets.
Throw this pan into the dishwasher or wash it by hand for maintenance, as it is eco-friendly and scratch-resistant.
The smallest size available for this paint is 7.9-inches, but you can grab one that is as large as 12.6-inches.
Cuisinart 622-30G Chef’s Classic 12-inch Skillet
Cooks who clamor for a lid for their fry pan or skillet may find value with this cookware from Cuisinart.
The construction materials are hard anodized steel, which is a bit stronger than stainless steel and has a matte finish. The way this pan is made, it is nonporous and resistant to wear and tear. The interior of the pan is coated with titanium to make clean up easier, and help release foods.
The handle stays cool while the pan is on the stove top and offers a comfortable, firm grip.
Enjoy professional performance with excellent heat distribution, with this well-made skillet.
Cooksmark Copper Pan 10-inch Skillet
Non-stick ceramic pans are all the rage, and this skillet from Cooksmark is a budget-friendly buy.
The non-stick copper colored ceramic coating helps foods slide off of the surface with ease, and it is free of harmful substances like lead or cadmium. Tough jobs for the serious chef are no problem using this pan, which is scratch-resistant, durable, and reduces reliance on oil to coat the pan.
The modern handle has an ergonomic design for comfort and a secure grip. The design of the handle includes a loop for hanging this cookware up when not in use.
Before you choose a skillet, make sure to consider the following qualities.
- The bottom should be thick, flat, and ideally even for distributing and retaining heat
- Ample cooking surface is a must, so ingredients get enough attention
- Construction materials and design should create a sturdy pan that holds up well
Skillets outfitted with a cheap non-stick coating may readily chip and cause health problems, or degrade the taste and texture of food.
Handles on a skillet should be durable and assist with moving a pan safely about the kitchen. Be mindful about the weight and balance of a skillet, as heavier frying pans should come with two handles.
Cast iron skillets are heavy, but offer plenty of versatility for frying, browning, and can even be placed in the oven for baking. Aluminum and steel skillets are the most economical buy, but may have a thin profile which will impact heating and long-term use.
Non-stick pans made using a coating like ceramic are go-to choices for cooking low-fat meals which require minimal oil, or for cooking fragile foods like eggs or fish. Cooks must be aware that using a non-stick pan will require using silicon or wooden utensils, as metal tools can quickly damage a non-stick coating.
After investing in the best skillet, make sure to follow proper maintenance and care to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Skillets made from cast iron and stainless steel can go from the stove to the oven, but non-stick and aluminum pans are not suited for the task.
Using temperatures that are too high for a skillet made with non-stick materials can release harmful chemicals, or may reduce the lifespan of the cookware.
Be cautious about abrasive cleaners or harsh chemical agents. Most skillets will be fine after hand washing with warm water and soap.
Cast iron skillets should never be soaked in water or get cleaned soap, but should be treated with elbow grease and hot water to loosen debris. It is critical to ensure that cast iron skillets are completely dry to prevent rust.
Make sure to apply a thin coat of neutral vegetable oil to a cast iron skillet periodically, and put in in the oven for seasoning. Cast iron skillets are special for their material, as the iron absorbs everything via seasoning and use over time.
Best Time to Buy
If you want to snag a deal on a new skillet, try to buy your cookware in November or May. Retailers look forward to dropping prices on cookware around Black Friday, and right before new inventory rolls around in January. During May, skillets may be less expensive because of anticipation for weddings.
When searching for the perfect skillet for your kitchen arsenal, you don’t have to get a complete set of cookware. There are plenty of options to get a skillet on its lonesome, made from quality materials.
If you missed out on a sale offline or online, don’t forget to check out yard sales or thrift stores to score a good skillet or fry pan. Be on the lookout for scratches and avoid non-stick pans. Cast iron skillets, even if badly rusted can be restored with deep cleaning and seasoning.