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The frying pan—sometimes called a skillet or sauté pan—is one of the most versatile pieces in your kitchen. It can be used to steam and fry gyoza, sear steaks, or serve as a flat top grill for pancakes, burgers, and so much more. Selecting your ideal frying pan depends on a number of factors, from how many people you normally feed to how much maintenance you're willing to take on. Whether you need a nonstick pan for sunny-side-up eggs or a cast iron skillet for camping, look no further.
Here are the best frying pans.
Best Overall: Made In Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan
Excellent heat conduction and retention
Oven safe to 1,200 degrees
Works on any cooking surface
Needs additional maintenance to keep seasoning
Hand wash only
Carbon steel cookware is gaining in popularity because it combines some of the appealing properties of cast iron and stainless steel. Like cast iron, it retains heat well and gets better with more seasoning and continued use, which improves its nonstick qualities. And because it’s thinner than cast iron, it’s more responsive to heat changes, so it’s ready to cook sooner and adjusts quickly when you turn the burner up or down.
This pan arrives pre-seasoned to avoid rusting in transit, but needs further seasoning before the first use. Like stainless or aluminum cookware, it’s lighter than cast iron, so it’s easy to use one-handed for flipping foods in the pan. This pan is oven safe to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much more than a home oven can reach, so there’s never a question that it can handle high heat on the stove or in the oven.
Our tester liked that this Made In pan was deeper than the average frying pan, but not nearly as deep as a saucepan. This made it great for stir-frying vegetables, shallow-frying chicken tenders, and even reheating pre-cooked rice with just a tiny bit of oil and no worry of food sloshing over the edge. They got an even cook every time with no need to scrape the bottom of the pan.
Material: Carbon steel | Oven Safe: 1,200 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No | Sizes Available: 8, 10, and 12 inches
"The food cooked evenly, and the pan did an impressive job when I seared a steak in a smoking-hot pan." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Carbon Steel: Lodge Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet
Similar performance to cast iron, but lighter
Can be used on any cooktop
Requires special care to maintain seasoning
When cast iron is simply too heavy for your taste, the Lodge Seasoned Carbon Skillet is a fantastic alternative. Just like the brand's classic cast iron pieces, this pan is made from an alloy of carbon and steel, but in slightly different ratios. It gives you same the same heat conductivity, but with a much thinner, lighter construction. This model comes pre-seasoned, so it's ready to use right out of the box, but the surface gets even better with time and use.
While our reviewer didn't think the pan's rustic design was conventionally attractive, they liked its responsiveness—it heats and cools quickly, which is useful for when your pan temperature needs to be adjusted while shallow frying or sautéing—and said it's a great alternative for those who dislike nonstick coatings, but want a good alternative for cooking sticky foods, like eggs. Plus, it can withstand super-high temperatures, making way for a beautiful sear on steaks and other proteins.
This 12-inch model provides plenty of surface area to cook for a large family or friends, though there are 8-, 10-, and 15-inch options available, as well. Use it on every cooking surface, including induction burners, a campfire, or grill. Maintenance is fairly easy for carbon steel, too, and just like with cast iron, it is durable enough to last a lifetime with proper care.
Material: Carbon steel | Oven Safe: 500+ degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No | Sizes Available: 8, 10, 12, and 15 inches
"It was surprising how quickly this pan heated up, and it can certainly handle high heat." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Cast Iron: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
Will last a lifetime with proper care
Superior heat retention
Can be used on any cooktop
Relatively lightweight for cast iron
Only moderately nonstick after seasoning
Not good for sticky foods, like eggs
Cast iron frying pans have been much-loved for generations not only for how they cook, but also because they’re nearly indestructible. This pan comes pre-seasoned, so you can use it immediately, but it will become more nonstick with additional seasoning and continued use. Our reviewer noted that even with seasoning, it isn't perfectly nonstick due to its rough surface, so cooking eggs (and other foods that require more surface slip) in this pan may not be ideal—you'll want a true nonstick pan.
This pan can be used on any cooktop, including induction, as well as in the oven, on a grill, or over a campfire. Cast iron has superior heat retention and even heating, but the downside is that the handle can become hot during cooking. Luckily, you can opt for a version that comes with a silicone handle cover, which can be removed to use with other pans. As with most cast iron pans, it should be hand washed only.
Material: Cast iron | Oven Safe: 500+ degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No | Sizes Available: 3.5, 5, 6.5, 8, 9, 10.25, 12, 13.25, and 15 inches
"Weighing a pound less than competitors puts this Lodge skillet in a class of its own, and we’re more likely to reach for this pan time and again." — Gayle L. Squires, Product Tester
Best Stainless Steel: All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded Fry Pan
Oven/broiler safe to 600 degrees
When it comes to frying pans, small ones are great for cooking a single egg or maybe two, but when you’re cooking for multiple people, you need a lot more space. This generously sized frying pan gives you enough room to cook burgers, pork chops, or steaks for the whole family, and the stainless steel interior will give you a great sear. The polished starburst pattern inside helps to keep food from sticking, and the flared sides make it easy to toss food like a pro.
This pan is oven- and broiler-safe up to 600 degrees, so you can start cooking on the stove and finish in the oven, and it’s induction compatible. It has an aluminum core on the bottom and up the sides of the pan, which is totally covered with durable stainless steel for fast, even heating and easy cleaning by hand or in the dishwasher. If this size isn't right for you, it is also available in 8-, 10-, and 14-inch versions to suit your needs.
Material: Stainless steel | Oven Safe: Up to 600 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Sizes Available: 8, 10, 12, and 14 inches
Best Enameled Cast Iron: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Signature Iron Handle Skillet
Wide assortment of beautiful finishes
Excellent heat retention
Easier to care for than non-enameled cast iron
Compatible with any cooktop
While cast iron cookware is some of the most popular and durable out there, it does require regular maintenance in order to protect the surface from rust. If you want something that has the same durability, but is easier to care for, consider this enameled cast iron pan by renowned French manufacturer Le Creuset. The heavyweight frypan has a black enameled interior that requires no additional seasoning and can sear, sauté, and fry with very little oil.
Our reviewer couldn't find much to dislike about this pan, aside from its heft, which might be difficult for anyone who has a hard time moving heavy cookware. Like traditional cast iron, the heat retention is outstanding. The large loop helper handle provides easy maneuvering from stove to oven, too (it's oven/broiler safe up to 500 degrees). You'll be able to use this on any cooktop, including induction, and it can be tucked into the dishwasher for easy cleanup.
Material: Enameled cast iron | Oven Safe: Up to 500 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Sizes Available: 6.3, 9, 10.25, and 11.75 inches
"I tried hard to find things this skillet couldn’t do, and I failed spectacularly since it did everything I asked of it." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best for Crepes: Le Creuset Cast Iron Crepe Pan
Holds heat well
Surface doesn’t heat evenly
Slow to warm
Handle gets hot
Crepe pans are a special type of frying pan with very low sides, but you can certainly use them for more than crepes. They’re great for pancakes and eggs or as a griddle pan for cooking foods that won’t release a lot of moisture that could escape the low sides.
This crepe pan from Le Creuset is no exception. It's beautifully designed and durable with a sleek enamel exterior and high-quality nonstick interior. This nonstick surface doesn't need breaking in like raw cast iron, either. This not only ensures that crepes and other foods won’t stick, but it also makes the pan easy to clean either in the dishwasher or by hand with soap and water.
While crepe-making takes practice, our tester had one caveat: You may need to make your crepes a bit smaller than usual so that the edges cook properly. "The areas where the pan overlapped with the burner were much hotter," she says. And be careful of the handle. It gets hot with the rest of the pan, so make sure you use a silicone covering or similar protective tool to avoid burning yourself.
Material: Enameled cast iron | Oven Safe: Up to 500 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Sizes Available: 10.75 inches
"The nonstick surface was very helpful, as was the crepe turner. The pointed edge slid under the crepes without a problem, allowing me to flip them easily without splashing the batter." — Stacey L. Nash, Product Tester
Best Copper: Mauviel M'heritage 250C 2.5-Millimeter Brushed Copper Skillet
Gorgeous finish and rustic aesthetic
Oven safe to 680 degrees
Professional quality built to last a lifetime
Copper needs polishing to maintain shine
Copper cookware is known for its excellent responsiveness to changes in heat, durability, and wonderfully rustic aesthetic. Since 1830, Mauviel's copper pans have been a go-to for many professional French kitchens and are now becoming very popular for avid home cooks. The M250C skillet is made with a 2.5-millimeter-thick copper exterior to provide excellent heat conductivity and control, and it's lined with non-reactive stainless steel to help preserve the taste and nutrients of the food. This skillet is oven safe up to 680 degrees and can be used with all cooktops, including induction.
While this pan comes with a fairly hefty price tag (and the lid sold separately), it is also backed by a lifetime warranty. Take care of this gorgeous pan by hand washing it and occasionally polishing if you prefer a shiny finish. You'll be able to pass this down as a family heirloom one day.
Material: Thick copper | Oven Safe: Up to 680 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No | Sizes Available: 10.2 inches
Best Set: Rachael Ray Cucina Hard Porcelain Enamel Nonstick Skillet Set
Great quality for the price
Included sizes are very versatile
Aluminum construction offers even heating
Not suitable for induction
This skillet set includes both 9.25- and 11-inch skillets, so you’ll always have the right pan for the job, whether you’re cooking an egg or two for your own breakfast or frying a pound of bacon for the family.
The modern, yet rustic design will look at home in any kitchen. The nonstick interior is a warm espresso color, while the choice of exterior colors ensures you’ll find the one that matches your décor. These pans are made from aluminum for even heating and have a porcelain enamel exterior that can withstand heavy use. The handles have rubberized grips for a firm hold and are riveted on for safety. These pans are oven safe up to 400 degrees, but are not induction compatible.
Material: Aluminum | Oven Safe: Up to 400 degrees | Induction Ready: No | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Sizes Included: 9.25 and 11 inches
Our top pick for the best fry pan is the Made In Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan because of its durable construction and superior heat responsiveness, and the ability to use it with every cooktop. If you're on a budget, the Rachael Ray Cucina Nonstick Frying Pan Set (view at Amazon) gives you great performance and two sizes of pans at an attractive price point.
What to Look For in a Frying Pan
The type of metal that makes up your frying pan will determine its weight, heat retention, stovetop compatibility, and maximum heat capacity. If you're looking for a pan that will hold very high heat—useful for creating a high-quality sear on a steak—you'll want either cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel. Pans made from aluminum will generally be lighter in weight but won't retain heat as well. Nonstick pans (a fantastic choice for eggs and other sticky items) make for easy cleanup, but are typically not recommended for high-heat cooking due to their nonstick coatings. If you need induction-ready cookware, be sure to check the manufacturer's specifications to ensure your new frying pan will work with your cooktop.
Frying pans come in a wide range of sizes, from 4.75-inch pans (great for frying a single egg) to generous 14-inch skillets (ideal for preparing family-sized portions). If you're buying a single pan to start out with, pick one between 8 to 10 inches, perfect for cooking a chicken breast or two, sautéing vegetables, and turning out fluffy scrambled eggs.
How do you season a cast iron or carbon steel frying pan?
Cast iron and carbon steel require similar care: You will want to remove any protective coating, and then coat the pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil. Place it into a 300-degree oven for one hour, remove from the oven, and wipe away any excess oil. For detailed instructions on seasoning your new cast iron or carbon steel pan, check out this guide.
How do you clean a frying pan?
Cleaning a frying pan will largely depend on what it's made of, but as a general guideline for most cookware, you want to try to clean off any debris right away and either hand wash it or place it into the dishwasher. If you have some stuck-on or burnt food that doesn't wipe away easily, add a little liquid to the pan and use a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to scrape it away over a medium to low burner. Carbon steel and cast iron pans require a little special handling, which you can find in this handy tutorial.
Can frying pans go in the oven?
Before placing your frying pan in the oven, be sure that it is indeed oven-proof. Cast iron and carbon steel pans are almost always guaranteed to be oven- and broiler-safe, but other materials may have lower heat thresholds. Oftentimes the pan itself is oven safe, but its lid is not, so double-check the manufacturer's specifications to be sure.
What is pan frying?
"Pan frying" is the term used for cooking food using dry heat with a minimal amount of fat, sometimes used as an alternative cooking method to deep frying, during which the food is completely submerged in oil. Pan frying is often done at a lower temperature than sautéing since pan-fried foods tend to be larger pieces, like crab cakes, fish fillets, steak, and dumplings.
Can you deep fry in a frying pan?
Since deep frying requires that your food be fully or mostly submerged in oil, your frying pan will need to have higher sides than a typical open skillet/sauté pan. This is in order to decrease the likelihood of any grease overflow, which can be extremely dangerous and flammable. Many cooks like to use a cast iron skillet for deep frying because it has excellent heat retention, but for a safer option, we'd recommend a Dutch oven or similar deep pot instead.
Which oil is best for pan frying?
It will depend on what you're cooking and at what temperature, but we like canola oil as a great all-purpose choice. It has a smoke point of 450 degrees, which makes it ideal for most types of cooking. For more on cooking oils, we suggest reading this article to help you choose.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
The author of this piece, Donna Currie, is a food writer and product tester for The Spruce Eats. A self-professed "kitchen geek," she's written about a wide range of essential kitchen items, from the best Thanksgiving gadgets to the top seafood kitchen tools of the year.
This piece was edited by Bernadette Machard de Gramont, a Los Angeles-based writer who specializes in global food and wine content. After a two-year stint at Williams-Sonoma Headquarters in San Francisco, she now researches and tests a variety of cookware, bakeware, and wine tools, and interviews field experts for their insight.