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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 and 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—you'll find The One on this list of the best frying pans for your kitchen.
Best Overall: Cuisinart Chef's Classic Nonstick Hard-Anodized 12-Inch Skillet
Long-lasting nonstick interior resists scratches
Oven safe to 500 degrees
Securely riveted handles
Hand wash only
Exterior appearance will deteriorate over time
This slope-sided pan has a hard-anodized exterior and a proprietary Quantanium nonstick interior, and is built to last much longer than the nonstick pans you can pick up at the grocery store. The glass cover is useful for steaming foods while the drip-free rim makes it easy to pour liquids from the pan without creating a mess.
The handles are designed to stay cool during cooking and are riveted on for security. The pan is oven-safe to 500 degrees and is approved to use with metal utensils.
Material: Hard-anodized aluminum | Oven Safe: Up to 500 degrees | Induction-Ready: No
Best Carbon Steel: Lodge Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet
Lighter weight but similar performance to cast iron
Can be used on any cooktop
Requires special care to maintain seasoning
When cast iron is simply too heavy for your taste, the Lodge carbon steel pan is a fantastic alternative. Just like Lodge'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.
Our reviewer liked the responsiveness of this pan—it heats and cools quickly, useful for when your pan temperature needs to be adjusted while shallow frying or sauteing. Plus, it can withstand super high temperatures, giving you a beautiful sear on steaks and other proteins.
This 12-inch model provides plenty of surface area to cook for a crowd. You can use this pan on every cooking surface, including induction burners and straight on a campfire or BBQ grill. Maintenance is fairly easy for carbon steel, 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
"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 for a lifetime
Superior heat retention
Can be used on any cooktop
Requires additional maintenance to keep up seasoning
Cast iron frying pans have been much-loved for generations not only for how they cook, but also since 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.
The 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. This pan comes with a silicone handle cover that solves that problem and can be removed to use with other pans. As with most cast iron pans, it should be hand washed.
Material: Cast iron | Oven Safe: 500+ degrees | Induction-Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No
"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 Deep Skillet: Anolon 12-Inch Hard Anodized Nonstick Deep Skillet
Great for shallow frying, braising, and making sauces
Oven safe to 400 degrees
Nonstick interior stands up to metal utensils
Hand wash only
High sides make it difficult to flip foods
A deep skillet is handy for shallow-frying chicken, for making or reducing sauces, and for braising, while still being very capable of frying burgers, bacon, or chops.
The exterior of this pan is an attractive bronze color and the comfortable grip on the riveted handle is color-coordinated. The heavy aluminum construction provides even heating and the pan is oven-safe to 400 degrees, so you can finish your food in the oven or use the pan for oven-braising. It’s also designed to withstand the heat needed to sear your steaks. The nonstick interior will not damage from the use of metal utensils, so you don’t need to worry about choosing the right spatula.
The glass lid holds in steam and heat and lets you check the food while it cooks. Sloped sides make it easy to slide pancakes or omelets out of the pan, while also making it easy to flip foods. This pan should be hand washed.
Material: Heavy gauge aluminum | Oven Safe: Up to 400 degrees | Induction-Ready: No | Dishwasher Safe: No
Best Stainless Steel: All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded Fry Pan
Professional quality performance
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 the whole family you need a lot more space. This generously sized frying pan gives you enough room to cook burgers or pork chops or steaks for the family, while the stainless steel interior will give you a great sear. The polished starburst pattern inside helps keep food from sticking, and the flared sides make it easy to toss foods 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 whatever your needs are.
Material: Stainless steel | Oven Safe: Up to 600 degrees | Induction-Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
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, they do 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. This heavyweight frypan has a black enameled interior that requires no additional seasoning and can sear, saute, 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 on this pan is outstanding. The large loop helper handle provides easy maneuvering, from the stove to the oven (it's oven/broiler safe 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 clean-up.
Material: Enameled cast iron | Oven Safe: Up to 500 degrees | Induction-Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"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
Entire pan gets hot, including the handle
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 or eggs, and as a griddle pan for cooking any 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 both beautifully designed and durable, with a sleek enamel exterior and a high-quality nonstick interior. This nonstick surface doesn't need breaking in like raw cast iron; this not only ensures that crepes and other foods won’t stick, but it also makes the pan easy to clean either with the dishwasher or by handwashing with soap and water.
While crepe-making takes practice, our tester has 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.
Material: Enameled cast iron | Oven Safe: Up to 500 degrees | Induction-Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"Because the non-stick surface doesn’t need to be seasoned, you can throw it in the dishwasher or hand-wash it." — Stacey L. Nash, Product Tester
Best Copper: Mauviel M'heritage 250C 2.5mm Brushed Copper Skillet
Gorgeous finish and rustic aesthetic
Oven safe to 680 degrees
Professional quality built to last a lifetime
Copper needs to be polished 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 the go-to for many professional French kitchens, and are now becoming very popular for avid home cooks. The M250C skillet is made with a 2.5mm thick copper exterior to provide excellent heat conductivity and control, and 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 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
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 a 9.25-inch and an 11-inch skillet, so you’ll always have the right pan for the job, whether you’re cooking an egg or two for your own breakfast, or you’re 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’s perfect for 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 they are riveted on for safety.
The pans are oven-safe to 400 degrees but are not induction compatible.
Material: Aluminum | Oven Safe: Up to 400 degrees | Induction-Ready: No | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Our top pick for the best fry pan is the Cuisinart Chef's Classic Nonstick Hard-Anodized 12-Inch Skillet (view at Amazon) because of its durable construction, included glass cover, and easy-to-clean nonstick interior. 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 a great price point.
What to Look For When Buying a Frying Pan
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, sauteing vegetables, and turning out fluffy scrambled eggs.
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 high-stick 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.
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, 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, then 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—find specific cleaning instructions 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. Often times 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 (where the food is completely submerged in oil). Pan-frying is often done at a lower temperature than sauteing, 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/saute 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.