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Best Skillet

Last update: July 2016
If having to choose a most useful piece in the kitchen, a roomy skillet would be firstly picked as a most universal and versatile uses. After hours of reviewing, we picked 3 best skillets by materials---stainless-steel, nonstick and cast iron---as each shows different expertise.



  The Winner Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Best Traditional : All-Clad Stainless Steel 12” Fry Pan

Best Traditional
This pan clearly standout in excellent performance, universal use and sturdiness, as well as will last for lifetime.

A large stainless steel skillet is the real workhorse of any kitchens. Among tons of stainless steel nominees, the All-Clad 12” fry pan is real perfect for skillet. It has sturdy 18/10 tri-ply, US-made, construction for super-fast heat conduction and even spreading, which yields easier perfect searing and browning. Predictably, it has been unarguably praised from both chefs and experts, as the best stainless steel skillet in the market. Full Review ›


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Best Non-Stick Skillet : Calphalon Unison 10” Skillet

Best Non-Stick Skillet
If you prefer nonstick pan, but don’t want to scarify cooking ability, sturdiness and food safety, this fry pan is recommended.

Having a nice nonstick pan helps easily doing perfect omelets, fishes or anything you don’t want being stuck. This Calphalon Unison has great things combined--- it has really nonstick without Teflon coated, impressive cooking performance, well ergonomic design and very sturdy construction as US-made standard, while carries full lifetime warranty. It’s unbeatable for both features and value. Full Review ›


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Best Cast-Iron Skillet : Lodge 10-1/4” Cast-Iron

Best Cast-Iron Skillet
This pre-seasoned cast-iron is slick like a non-toxic nonstick pan, good in heat absorption and extremely sturdy, in very affordable price.

The Lodge cast-iron skillet is just the right tools for everything from baking bread, chicken fried, pan pizza, to searing meat. With proper care, it will last long to your next generation in good condition. This classic pan is superior on heat absorbing and retaining longer. We prefer 10-1/4” to 12” as traditional pan as bigger sizes might be too roomy and heavy for filling food inside. The next best thing, it’s as cheap as a traditional nonstick-coated pan. Full Review ›

Contents




1

Worth it?

Skillets are simply frying pans with low, flared sides, which are good for evaporation. This makes excelling for searing, browning and sauce reduction. That’s why having a nice skillet is a must for every kitchen. In fact, we suggest having 2 sizes for a peace in your kitchen, a 12” traditional and a 10” nonstick one, which should cover all of your possible duties.

Mostly, the bigger skillet is suggested to be stainless steel as it’s frequently used for various recipes daily. The stainless steel pan with fully clad yields beautifully sear, sauté or caramelize ingredients to enrich more flavor as enduring with quick and high temperature change, and doesn’t react to acidic foods. A well-made one will last a lifelong.

While nonstick skillet is unbeatable for fragile foods, especially for egg or fish. However, traditional nonstick-coated pans have less durability and shorter lifetime, even having very gentle care. They easily get scratches or chips, allowing possible toxin or chipped materials into the food, while have fairly low heat resistance. Fortunately, newer nonstick pans have improved to solve these frustrated flaws. Hard-anodized aluminum and non-Teflon coated pans good example.




2

What To Look For

As always, materials play a key role for how good of cooking performance, sturdiness and food safety of any cookware. Most skillet these days are made of these materials:

Stainless Steel Stainless steel itself has poor heat absorption. But, by having fully-clad construction, it becomes superior heat distribution and evenly results.
  • Around 500°F heat resistance.
  • Good for all purposes. Exceling for sautéing, searing and browning.
  • Good in food safety. Non-reactive.
  • Less maintenance.
  • Long lifetime. (some might carry lifetime warranty)
  • Safe for dishwasher, oven and broiler.
  • Medium to high price. (for fully-clad)
Traditional Nonstick Traditional nonstick is made of aluminum or fully-clad stainless steel in some models, and coated by Teflon or plastic polymers.
  • Under 350°F heat resistance*.
  • Good for fragile foods, eggs, fish or crepe recipes.
  • May cause health issues[1] and reactive when the coat comes off.
  • Need delicately proper care.
  • Short lifetime, mostly 6-12 months.
  • Not allow for dishwashing, oven or broiling
  • Low to medium price.
Non-Toxic Nonstick or Green Cookware The newer version of nonstick skillet. It has improved for maintaining nonstick feature but no PFOA, PTFE, lead or cadmium, such as Ceramic (Cuisinart) or Thermolon (GreenPan and J.A.Zwilling).
  • 350-500°F* heat resistance.
  • Good for fragile foods, eggs, fish or crepe recipes.
  • No harmful coat but can reactive when it comes off.
  • Need proper care.
  • Under 3-5 years* in average.
  • Not allows for dishwashing, oven or broiling
  • Medium to extremely high price.
Hard Anodized Aluminum The anodization is made by dipping aluminum into electrolyte tube and getting electrical charge to create the thickness of oxidize layer, which yields harder, more durable and less reactive nonstick material.
  • 350-500°F* heat resistance.
  • Good for fragile foods and regular cooking.
  • Safer than coated cookware.
  • Less maintenance
  • Moderately Long lifetime. (some might carry lifetime warranty)
  • Safe for dishwasher, oven and broiler*
  • Medium to high price.
Cast-Iron Cast iron can withstand high heat, superior heat conduction and retention, which is excellent for roasting and grilling. It’s heavy but extremely durable.
  • More than 500°F (for bare cast-iron) heat resistance.
  • Good for high-heat foods, such as baking and roasting, along with outdoor grilling.
  • React to acidic food.
  • Need proper care.
  • Extremely long lifetime.
  • Safe for oven and broiler. Not recommended for dishwashing.
  • Moderately low price.
*Estimated lifetime of the products, heat resistance and endurance vary by material quality and process.

Above from material issue, ask yourself these questions for easier narrowing your choice and choosing the right one(s): How good is it craft? How easy to handle when picking? What kind of food do you often cook? How much you concern in food safety? What kind of stove do you cook? Or even, how much are you willing to pay?




3

And The Winner is...

From sous chefs, experts to home cooks, everyone hands down All-Clad stainless steel skillet as the finest performance available.
 

Best Traditional: 
All-Clad Stainless Steel 12” Fry Pan


  The Winner Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back All-Clad Stainless Steel 12” Fry Pan
Performance 10
Quality 10
Ease of Use 9
Appearance 10
Value 9
OVERALL RATING
9.6/10


All-Clad is shiningly superb on skillet. Crafting of 18/10 solid stainless steel with a very thick aluminum layer, this tri-ply skillet presents noticeably excellent for controlling and spreading heat---fast heating up/down and evenly cooking with very less hot spots. This way is excellent for browning, searing or caramelizing. Also, it works beautifully on most stovetops, includes induction and electric stoves, as well as safe for broiler and oven up to 500°F.

This skillet has exceptionally sturdy US-made[2] construction with carrying full lifetime warranty. So, All-Clad pans have hardly heard about warps or distortion. As mentioned in previous review, All-Clad didn’t hit our highest scores for ergonomic design as feel uncomfortable for many people, especially small-hand people or home cooks. However, it’s practical to chef’s habit for having really stay-cool and solid handle, as well as easy to toss or flip food as a chef does.

Like quality stainless steel pans, the less hot spots yields the less sticks or burned foods. This makes easier to clean and much less discoloration.

Overall, this skillet is expensive ($120* for 12” skillet) but undeniably worth the investment to get a superb skillet that will last for long. Unsurprisingly, it was consistently picked by Cook’s Illustrated, Good Housekeeping, Serious Eats and Fine Cooking and many chefs highly recommended skillet.

See more stainless steel cookware review for other remarkable alternatives in our previous report.





4

The Runner’s Up

Concerning to heat performance, durability and non-toxic nonstick skillet, we preferred hard anodized aluminum to traditional nonstick ones, as finest available types now. Also, because sturdy ceramic-coated or non-Teflon skillets are typically more expensive, we decided to skip reviewing them, too.
 

Best Non-Stick Skillet: 
Calphalon Unison 10” Skillet


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Calphalon Unison 10” Skillet
Performance 9
Quality 9
Ease of Use 10
Appearance 10
Value 9
OVERALL RATING
9.4/10


Calphalon Unison skillet is an ideal nonstick skillet that compromises between cooking ability, toughness and food safety. By utilizing all-aluminum structure with anodized process, it allows slickly smooth surface even without oils, as well as impressively heat performance than some stainless steel pans. Unlike traditional nonstick, it can heat up to 500°F that lets beautifully cook many various recipes, from delicate omelets, tortillas, to roasting or making steak.

The big reason to pick it as the winner is that the Unison has superior quality and toughness. This US-made skillet has solid craft, sturdy assembly and elegant look. As the top of the line, it has better higher heat-proof and harder surface than others in the same ranges. It doesn’t scratch easily and even allow for oven and dishwashing[3]. Say, though not as hard as stainless steel pans, it’s one of the sturdiest hard-anodized skillets in the market.

Whole ergonomic design and construction are content. It feels good balance in hand, easy to lift and maneuver. The Y-shaped handle with rivets makes sturdy and stays cool on cooktop. While the noticeable sloped side and curve base makes easier tossing and rolling.

Calphalon Unison does impressive on skillet. It’s truly versatile, high performance and sturdy nonstick skillet. Also, this pan carries full lifetime warranty, by renowned harsh-free service company.
 

Best Cast-Iron Skillet: 
Lodge 10-1/4” Cast-Iron


  Runner’s Up Ribbon Pennant
Ribbon Back Lodge 10-1/4” Cast-Iron
Performance 9
Quality 9
Ease of Use 8
Appearance 9
Value 10
OVERALL RATING
9.0/10


For skillet, we picked bare cast-iron over enameled type as we tends to utilized natural nonstick surface to searing, browning or frying than simmering acid ingredients. It’s a lot more budget, too.

A good cast iron skillet is a real heavy-duty gear in your kitchens. It allows natural slick surface, while excels for intense heat for long periods, as well as lasts to your next generations. As like that, the Lodge skillet combines great things together: sturdiness, smooth seasoned finish, pleasant cooking ability and wide-sized selections, with very reasonably low price.

According to expert tests, includes Cook’s Illustrated and ChowHow, this skillet performed superior on heat retention from US-made sturdy construction, which yields admirable browning, searing, frying and baking, as well as provides very slick (almost like traditional nonstick) surface than some other pricier contenders. Also, it’s good on any heat surfaces, from a campfire, oven to induction burner.

As made of cast iron, this skillet needs proper care but not much as baby. It also allow for metal utensils and high heat. Anyway, as made of cast iron and has flat and straight sidewalls, we prefer 10-1/4” size as not too weighty and roomy as normal 12”.

Overall, the Lodge Logic cast-iron skillet comes with excellent features---non-toxic nonstick, good performance and extremely sturdy, at an unbeatable price.




5

Market Reviews

Update: July 2016
The prices mentioned are estimated retail prices at exact period and are subject to change. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers.


(1) Traditional Skillets

For traditional skillet, our alternative nominees focus on only fully-clad skillet. The Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro ($69 for 12” skillet) is outstanding for being not-to-bad chaser in heat performance, in more reasonable price and better grip.

The Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel ($99 for 12” skillet) performed remarkably well as a tri-ply should be, but can still not reach Cuisinart’s in a test, but more expensive. This is the same as Calphalon Contemporary, the same structure as Tri-Ply but dresses more attractive design with 30% pricier.

While the Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad ($59 for 12” skillet) did impressive results as a cheaper alternative to All-Clad in Cook’s Illustrated and some experiments. However, it has slightly smaller surface. While the neck-to-neck rival, Cook’s Standard Multi-Ply Clad ($49 for 12” skillet with cover), performed nicely as Tramontina while offering more comfortable design, with 15% cheaper and a lid.

Browse for more stainless steel cookware review for other remarkable alternatives in our previous report.


(2) Hard-Anodized Aluminum Skillet

The Calphalon, Circulon and Anolon are big players in hard-anodize aluminum markets. Comparing to our picks, Calphalon Unison ($49 for 10” skillet), the other top-of-the-line products. The Anolon Nouvelle Copper ($65 for 10” skillets) is a close-by candidate for finest quality. The selling-point is a layer copper encapsulates base that help boosting faster and more even heat, especially for induction with 500°F. Still, it can’t be dishwashered and more expensive than our winner.

Another nearby rival, Circulon Symmetry ($59.99 for 10” and 12” skillets) has pleasing performance and durability. It allows for heating up to 400°F and dishwasher-safe, as well as metal utensils. Though found some complaints about losing nonstick surface in the long run, it’s an all-around nice nonstick skillet in competitive price, however.

If you trust in Calphalon quality but want to spend less, the Calphalon Contemporary ($59 for 10” and 12” skillets) offers satisfied toughness and performance. It has less lifetime and weight than Unison line, but much cheaper price.

(3) Cast-Iron Skillet

Apart from Lodge, our American-made winner, Calphalon Pre-Seasoned ($30 for 12” skillet) performed interestingly well as Highly Recommended product of Cook’s Illustrated test, but it had less slick surface and a bit pricy than Lodge. In the same test, T-fal Pre-Seasoned ($29 for 12” skillet) and Camp Chef Pre-Seasoned ($29 for 12” skillet) were both listed as recommended skillets, but didn’t do as well as Lodge in Sticking and Ease of use scores.

Anyway, if your family have old-fashioned cast iron skillets, like Griswold or Wagners, this would be your luck from getting high-quality products. Still, you have to know how to resurrect them correctly.

As said, we skipped reviewing enameled cast-iron skillet as we opts to use bare skillets in very high heat conditions, such as campfire, oven or any possible burners. While coated types will be limited temperature up to 400°F or else the enamel coat will be crazing or damaging. At any rate, if you don’t mind for cooking extremely heat and spending $50-200 for these beautiful vibrant pans, these skillets are also nice for your kitchen.

If to choose an enamel cast iron skillet as our best pick, Le Creuset Signature ($199 for 11-3/4” skillet) is that one. This French-made skillet presents durability, finest quality, good ergonomic and beautiful craft that can really last decades. It’s expensive but worth the price. Lodge Color Enameled ($39 for 11” skillet) is a good cheaper alternative, in much less durable and slick, though.





Footnotes
(1) The Teflon coats can develop Flu-like symptoms. When Teflon, PTFE or perfluorinated chemical, get high temperatures, it will release toxic fumes that may kill pets, birds and causes people to develop flu-like symptoms. Lean more from Ewg.org
(2) Not every pieces is USA-made. The body of pot and pans are made in the US with material from the US, while some handles, lids and some small pieces may come from China in some series. While Emeril’s by All-Clad series are totally made in China, from materials from China.
(3) We don’t recommend any cookware, except stainless steel materials, get dishwashing for longer uses. (Even stainless steel cookware can be less shinny and develops minor scratches after regularly dishwashered.) Moreover, this prevent defectives in which some manufacturers refuse to get claimed.