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Best Skillets

Updated April 2018
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 56 Models Considered
  • 48 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 214 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for Best Skillets

    Last Updated April 2018

    Think of pots and pans, and what you picture is almost certainly a skillet. This kitchen essential is one of the most versatile pieces of stovetop cookware. You can use it to fry hamburgers, sear steak, scramble eggs, or whip up a quick vegetable stir-fry. Indeed, you’ll find that you reach for your skillet more often than any other cooking vessel. When it comes to choosing the right skillet, there are quite a few decisions to be made. Should you choose cast iron, nonstick, or stainless steel? What size skillet should you purchase? What type of handle would work best for you?

    So if you’re looking for a new skillet, check out our five recommendations in the matrix above. All are good products that would serve you well. If you’d like to learn more about skillets in general, including how to choose and use them, read on.

    Wondering about the difference between a skillet and a frying pan? Actually, those are just different terms for the same thing.

    The pots and pans every kitchen needs

    There are a lot of different types of cookware, so if you’re just starting to stock your kitchen, you might wonder which stovetop pieces are most essential. As a general rule, unless you are an avid chef, you can get by just fine with a skillet, a sauce pan, and a stock pot.

    What is a skillet?

    Also referred to as a frying pan or a fry pan, a skillet is the most basic type of stovetop pan. While it’s very handy to have two or three skillets of different sizes, if you have to settle for just one, a 12-inch skillet would be suitable for most cooking needs.

    What is a sauce pan?

    With straight sides, a long handle, a fitted lid, and a range of sizes measured in quarts, a sauce pan is ideal for warming up soup, sauce, beans, vegetables, and other soft dishes. While it’s convenient to have both a small and large sauce pan, if you are only going to choose one, you’ll likely find a four-quart sauce pan to be the most versatile choice.

    What is a stock pot?

    A stock pot is similar to a sauce pan, but it is larger and does not have the same type of handle. For one-pot meals like stew, chili, and soup, a stock pot is your go-to cookware. You can also use it to cook large items like corn on the cob.

    Stock pot capacity is measured in quarts. For most cooks, an eight-quart stock pot is sufficient.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    A skillet is not the same as a sauté pan. A sauté pan has straight sides, whereas a skillet has slightly sloped sides. And a sauté pan typically comes with a lid, whereas a skillet typically does not.

    Choosing the best skillet material

    Skillets and other cookware come in a variety of metals. There’s no reason to stick with just one; each material has its own pros and cons. In fact, it can be beneficial to own a few different skillets of different materials.

    Stainless steel

    One of the most popular skillet materials, stainless steel is very durable, doesn’t react with acidic foods, and is easy to maintain. It’s not a great conductor of heat, however, so many stainless steel pans have copper or aluminum bonded to the bottom to improve conductivity.

    Pros:

    • Attractive appearance

    • Excellent for browning foods

    • Suitable for induction cooktops

    • Usually safe for dishwasher and oven, depending on the handle material
       

    Cons:

    • Food may stick

    • Scrubbing often required

    Cast iron

    Although some cooks find cast iron intimidating, this old-fashioned material is a great addition to any kitchen. It’s durable, retains heat for a long time, and even adds a bit of iron to your food as it cooks. Enameled cast iron is easier to care for, but it is also more expensive.

    Pros:

    • Goes from stovetop to oven

    • Excellent for searing meat

    • Keeps food warm for a long time

    • Develops a naturally nonstick coating

    • Inexpensive
       

    Cons:

    • Very heavy

    • Takes longer to heat up

    • If uncoated, requires periodic seasoning

    • If uncoated, may rust

    • Not dishwasher safe

    Aluminum

    Inexpensive and easy to find, aluminum cookware is a good choice for the kitchen novice. Because the metal can discolor food and is prone to staining, it’s usually anodized as a preventative. Aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat.

    Pros:

    • Lightweight

    • Cooks quickly and evenly

    • Strong and durable if anodized, and has a somewhat nonstick finish
       

    Cons:

    • Some food safety concerns
       

    Although there is some dispute about the safety of aluminum cookware, studies have not shown that it leaches into food excessively during cooking or is dangerous to use.

    Nonstick

    Typically layered over aluminum, a nonstick coating like Teflon releases food easily, making cleanup a breeze. And since you don’t need to add oil, you can reduce your calorie consumption a bit. Nonstick pans heat up quickly and evenly.

    Pros:

    • Often inexpensive

    • Food cooks evenly, quickly

    • Usually oven safe

    • Usually dishwasher safe (hand-washing still recommended)
       

    Cons:

    • Coating prone to scratching and wear

    • Food doesn’t brown well

    Copper

    It’s hard to match the beauty of copper cookware, but you’ll pay a hefty price for this lovely metal. Copper heats up quickly and evenly. It also cools down fast, providing excellent control as you cook. A copper skillet can handle just about every cooking method.

    Pros:

    • Beautiful appearance

    • Excellent heat conductivity
       

    Cons:

    • Can react with acidic foods

    • Not dishwasher safe

    • Dents easily

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Nonstick pans are designed to be used on low to medium heat. If you plan to cook at a high temperature, use your stainless steel, cast iron, or aluminum skillet instead.

    Other considerations when choosing a skillet

    Once you’ve determined which metal you want, there are a few other things to look for in a good skillet.

    Sturdy construction

    A cheap skillet won’t hold up to regular use. A good skillet is solidly built, and the handle is firmly attached.

    Stay-cool handle

    Unless it’s made of cast iron, you should be able to hold your skillet by its handle without burning yourself. A silicone handle or other stay-cool material stays comfortable to the touch throughout the cooking process.

    Comfortable feel

    The right frying pan is easy to handle with a comfortable weight. It’s not too light and not too heavy. (Cast iron is the exception to this rule.)

    Stovetop considerations

    If you cook on a smooth-top electric range, your skillet needs a perfectly flat bottom. Induction stovetops – which create a magnetic field to cook food – are only compatible with materials that have magnetic properties. That means cast iron and most stainless steel skillets are suitable for use on an induction stovetop.

    Lids

    Most skillets do not include lids. If you can buy one separately, we advise you to do so. Many dishes call for a cover while simmering, and a properly fitted lid will keep your dinner from drying out as it cooks.

    While buying a cookware set is convenient, selecting pieces separately enables you to focus on the pots and pans you’ll actually use.

    How much do skillets cost?

    There’s a very wide price range for frying pans. As a general rule, you can expect to pay the following for a good-quality 12-inch skillet.

    • Cast Iron: $20 to $40

    • Stainless Steel: $40 to $80, although high-end brands can cost more than $100

    • Aluminum: $20 to $40

    • Nonstick: $20 to $50

    • Copper: $50+ (Several hundred dollars for solid copper)

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Michelle
      Michelle
      Writer