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Skillets are an essential piece of cookware in any kitchen. They’re perfect for cooking eggs, burgers, and pancakes. They can be used for sautéing vegetables, pan-frying steaks, or reducing a sauce. They come in a variety of sizes, a variety of materials, and with different coatings—or not. Skillets are so useful that most cooks have more than one. Sometimes that means one nonstick and one uncoated. Or perhaps it means having pans of different sizes. If you have a cookware set, it probably came with a skillet, but the good news is that there are a vast number of skillets sold separately, so it’s a sure bet you’ll find the perfect one to add to your existing set.
Best Overall: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet With Assist Handle
Retains heat very well
Additional care required to maintain seasoning
Hand wash only
This pre-seasoned 10 1/4-inch cast iron skillet is ready to cook with as soon as it arrives, and it gets better with every use. While the pan doesn’t have a nonstick coating, a well-seasoned cast iron pan rivals non-stick and can even be used for cooking eggs that would cling to a stainless steel pan. Even better, this pan is affordable, very durable, and made in the USA. It’s a pan that can be passed down as an heirloom to younger generations.
Cast iron is known for heat retention and even heating, so it keeps its heat during cooking and stays warm for longer than other metal types. It’s oven and broiler safe and can be used for baking, including making skillet cornbread. It can also be used as a roasting pan for small roasts or chickens.
This pan has a helper handle that makes it easier to move, but the handles tend to get hot during cooking so a potholder or handle cover is recommended. This should be washed by hand and dried right away. Occasional re-seasoning might be required, depending on what you cook in it. This can be used on any stovetop, including induction, as well as on a grill or campfire.
Best Stainless Steel: Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 14-Inch Open Skillet
Non-reactive, durable material
Great heat distribution
Oven and broiler-safe
Easy to clean
Difficult to store if you're limited on space
This classic stainless steel skillet is made from 18/10 stainless steel with a mirror finish. It won’t stain, discolor, or react with foods, and you never need to worry about using metal utensils or scraping the pan with a metal spatula to get under foods. The cast aluminum handles are riveted on for security, and they’re designed to stay cool during cooking while providing a sure grip. The aluminum-encapsulated base heats fast and distributes the heat evenly, so you won’t have hot spots. The pan is oven safe to 550 degrees, so you can use it on the stovetop, in the oven, and even under the broiler. It’s also freezer-safe.
The rim of the pan is designed so you can pour liquids from the pan with fewer drips and spills, and the helper handle makes it easier to move the pan or pour, even when the pan is very full. The pan is also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
Best Electric: Presto 06857 Foldaway Electric Skillet
Weighted, sturdy construction
Easy to cook with
Pan is dishwasher safe when power supply is removed
Nonstick surface is susceptible to scratches
For the sturdiest electric skillet money can buy, the Presto 16-inch Electric Foldaway Skillet is a top-rated product that boasts a variety of cutting-edge-yet-dependable features. Crafted from heavy cast aluminum that’s nonstick on both the exterior and interior, this skillet is equally great for preparing big family meals as it is for making quick, one-pot stovetop dishes. You can use it to stir-fry veggies, sear meat, make delicious breakfast food, and more.
The Presto skillet measures 19" x 12" x 8" and has a built-in spout, that also doubles as a spoon and spatula holder, so you can easily pour liquids from it. In addition, the lid is made of tempered glass and, thanks to the skillet’s stay-cool handles, you don’t need oven mitts when handling it.
Best Budget: T-fal Professional Total Nonstick Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator Fry Pan
Great nonstick performance
Thermo-Spot tells you when pan is ready
Easy to clean
Need to be careful not to scratch nonstick coating
T-fal has been making nonstick cookware for generations, innovating along the way. This pan features the proprietary Thermo-Spot in the center of the pan that indicates when the pan is properly preheated and it’s time to start cooking. The pan is safe for use with metal utensils as long as you don’t cut or gouge it, and it’s dishwasher safe for easy cleanup when cooking is done.
This skillet has a stainless steel disk on the bottom for better heat distribution, and that disk also makes it compatible with induction cooktops. The pan is oven safe to 400 degrees, so you can start your frittata on the stove, then finish in the oven. A hole on the end of the soft-grip handle means you can hang it on a nearby hook to keep it handy.
Best Enameled Cast Iron: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Signature Iron Handle Skillet
Very durable construction
Retains heat very well
Stain-resistant enamel coating is also scratch-resistant
Fun selection of finishes
This Le Creuset pan combines the advantages of cast iron while being easy to maintain. It has a black enamel interior that never needs seasoning and a brightly colored exterior, available in multiple colors to match your kitchen or add a pop of color. The interior resists staining and dulling, and it’s very durable.
This pan has a long handle as well as a large loop-shaped helper handle that makes it safer and easier to move the pan, even when it’s full. Because it’s made of cast iron, it retains heat well and it stays hot for longer than stainless or aluminum pans. Like any cast iron pan, this is heavy, so you might not be using it for flipping vegetables or pasta, and it will be even heavier when it’s full.
Unlike standard cast iron pans, this is dishwasher safe for very easy cleaning.
Best Carbon Steel: Made In Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan
As strong as cast iron but lighter weight
Excellent heat conduction and retention
Oven safe to 1200 degrees
Needs additional maintenance to keep seasoning
Hand wash only
Carbon steel is becoming much more popular in cookware. It combines some of the properties of cast iron and stainless steel. Like cast iron, it retains heat well and it gets better with more seasoning and more use that improves its nonstick qualities. Because it’s thinner than cast iron, it’s more responsive to heat changes, so it’s ready to cook sooner and responds faster when you turn the heat down.
The pan arrives with pre-seasoning 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 1200 degrees, 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.
Best Nonstick: Anolon Advanced Hard-Anodized Nonstick Frying Pan
Excellent nonstick quality
Safe to use with metal tools
Easy to clean
Affordable price point
A little on the lightweight side
Anolon’s nonstick cookware has earned a reputation for durability. It’s metal utensil safe—but don’t gouge it with knives or other sharp utensils—and it’s sturdy enough to sear a steak or brown a burger. This 8-inch frying pan (also available in other sizes) will last longer than the budget brands, yet it’s still affordable. Not only is this nonstick on the inside but it’s also nonstick on the outside, so cleaning is easy even when food splashes or burns on the exterior.
The handle is attached with two rivets, so it’s sturdy, while the coated handle and gently curved shape make it comfortable to hold, even when you’re flipping vegetables regularly. The flared rim adds an attractive design element while it also provides dripless pouring. A hole on the end of the handle lets you hang it on a pot rack or pegboard for convenient storage. This pan is oven safe to 400 degrees, so you can sear your steak, then finish it in the oven.
Best Copper Pan: All-Clad Copper Core 6108 SS 8-Inch Fry Pan
Copper core provides excellent heat conduction
Oven safe to 600 degrees
Easy to clean
While you can’t actually see much of the copper in this pan, it’s there where it counts, as one of the layers that make this pan perform better than most. This has stainless steel inside and out, followed by aluminum surrounding the copper core—therefore taking advantage of the heating properties of all those metals. You can see a small ring of copper near the bottom of the pan, which adds an attractive design element, but it also minimizes the special care that copper requires.
The handle is riveted on for security while the stainless steel handle is curved for a comfortable hold. This pan can really handle the heat, since it’s ovens safe to 600 degrees, and is great for getting a hard sear on steaks. The interior is polished with a starburst pattern that gives it an edge on keeping food from sticking, and when cooking is done, this has no trouble getting washed in the dishwasher.
Best High End: All-Clad d5 Brushed Stainless-Steel Fry Pan
Solid 5-layer construction
Compatible with all cooktops, including induction
Oven-safe up to 600 degrees
Easy to clean and maintain
Thicker construction means heavier to handle
All-Clad is a revered brand among both professional and home cooks, known best for their high quality, cladded stainless steel cookware. This pan from the brand's d5 series features five-layer construction, alternating layers of 18/10 stainless steel with two aluminum layers for conducting and maintaining heat. The high-polish surface also features a starburst pattern in the pan's interior, which prevents foods from sticking and makes it easier to clean.
The brushed magnetic stainless-steel exterior makes this compatible with induction stoves in addition to gas, electric, and halogen cooktops. You can also use this in the oven, as it is oven safe up to 600 degrees, perfect for finishing dishes under the broiler. Clean this fry pan with a nylon scrubber and mild dish soap, or place into the dishwasher—your choice. This pan is covered by All-Clad's limited lifetime warranty against defects in workmanship or materials.
The Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Assist Handle is our top choice when it comes to durability, value, and performance. If you're looking to splurge a little for an equally fantastic skillet that doesn't require you to maintain its seasoning, opt for the All-Clad Copper Core Fry Pan (available here) instead.
Type: When it comes to skillets, there are options galore. From stainless steel to cast iron to copper, skillets are made from a variety of different materials and have various cooking capabilities. How frequently you cook—plus the types of food you make—will help you narrow your choices. If you cook a lot, you’ll likely want several different types of skillets.
Size: Do you typically cook for a crowd, or are solo dinners more your thing? Skillets come in a variety of sizes, from those designed to fry a single egg to ones that can cook up grub for the whole family.
Ease of use: How much effort you want to put into cooking (and cleaning up!) should also be a factor you consider when choosing a skillet. Some are ready to go out of the box, while others require seasoning and other special treatment. Some allow you to use any utensil, while others, like ones with non-stick surfaces, require the use of special utensils so they don't get scratched. Also, note the type of handle a skillet has and if you’ll need hot pads or other protection while cooking.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a cookbook author who reviews products and writes kitchenware roundups for The Spruce Eats. She has a passion for quality cookware and has personally reviewed a number of cookware sets for The Spruce Eats as well as used individual pieces from all the top brands.