There’s nothing like a good nonstick skillet. You can crack an egg into it and count on a perfect fried egg sliding out a few minutes later, even if you get distracted for a minute or are a little clumsy with your spatula. Sautéed vegetables and stir-fries move around the pan with ease and don’t stick or leave behind cooked-on bits that can burn. It’s our go-to for all sorts of other delicate and fast-cooking foods, from omelets and pancakes to pan-seared salmon and quesadillas.
We’ve spent hundreds of hours evaluating nonstick skillets over the years. We know what we like: a slick and durable coating, a wide cooking surface, and a comfortable handle. Several intriguing new models have hit the market recently. Two direct-to-consumer companies, Misen and Made In, launched to much fanfare. Meanwhile, OXO, the manufacturer of our favorite nonstick skillet, launched a new model with a metal handle that can go in hotter ovens than its original model. We gathered a total of 10 nonstick skillets, priced from about $30 to about $200, and put them through the wringer. We made Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry, Pepper and Onion Frittata, and pan-fried sole—recipes selected to test the pans’ capacity, browning ability, and maneuverability—and recruited three additional testers to use the pans. To zero in on the pans’ nonstick coatings, we conducted a test that’s standard in the cookware industry: cooking eggs in a dry skillet back-to-back, stopping either when they began to stick or when we had made 50 consecutive eggs. We did this at the beginning and end of testing so we could see if the coatings deteriorated with use.
All of the pans’ nonstick coatings were made with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a compound best known by the brand name Teflon. The exact names and formulations of the coatings varied, and manufacturers told us that they applied between two and five layers of those coatings. Despite these differences, most performed similarly. Every skillet was ovensafe to at least 400 degrees. None of the coatings flaked or wore off. All of the skillets aced our egg tests, both when the pans were brand-new and when we repeated the test at the end of user testing. We also used a paring knife to see if making cuts in the skillets’ cooking surfaces would result in scratching. All of the pans were marred by scratches, proving that you should follow manufacturers’ instructions and not use knives in nonstick cookware. We also recommend avoiding metal utensils.
We also considered how easy the pans were to use. When we cook in a nonstick skillet, we often move food around quickly—sliding it around the pan with a spatula or tossing it up in the air in a rolling motion. The walls of one skillet were too short, and we had to be careful when using it, or else food went overboard. Another model was shaped more like a wok; it had high, dramatically curved walls and a smaller cooking surface—just 8.75 inches in diameter. We were able to get good browning on the beef in our stir-fry, but fish fillets ran up the walls of that pan instead of lying flat and therefore didn’t cook as evenly. Another pan was actually a little too broad. Its cooking surface was 10.75 inches across, which was great for stir-fry and fish, but made for a very wide, thin frittata.The best skillets had broad 9- or 10-inch cooking surfaces and walls that were tall enough to keep the food contained while cooking.
Testers also struggled to use a skillet with tall, straight sides that were set at almost a 90-degree angle to the cooking surface. When we joggled the frittata over the walls and out of the pan, it wobbled and nearly belly-flopped onto the plate. Frittatas slid easily out of every other skillet (after we loosened their edges with a nonstick spatula).
The weight of each skillet was another major factor in our considerations. In general, lighter was better. Our favorites, which weighed 2.40 to 2.75 pounds, were easy to lift and maneuver. We didn’t mind heavier pans as long as their weight was evenly balanced between the handle and the pan. A few models were very pan-heavy; it felt like someone was pressing down on the skillets when we lifted them. The two heaviest, which weighed 3.80 and 4.05 pounds, respectively, were absolute bears to lift, especially with one hand as when we were trying to scrape food from them. What’s more, that extra weight wasn’t a guarantee of increased sturdiness. None of the pans warped when we heated them up and plunged them into ice water, even the lightest one. Most only dented a small amount when we whacked them against a cement block to test their durability.
After spending dozens of hours with each skillet, we had cooked enough food to feed each of our 200-plus colleagues and reached a clear conclusion: Two pans surpassed the rest. Both arrived impressively nonstick and remained that way. They were light and maneuverable. They were also shaped just right, with broad cooking surfaces and walls just high enough and curved enough for us to stir food quickly and easily without spilling. We especially like the wide, comfortable stainless-steel handle on the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro 12" Open Frypan, and we love that it can go in hotter ovens than the previous model. This new and improved skillet is our overall winner. All nonstick skillets will eventually wear out, so the OXO model’s affordable price is an added bonus. But if you require an induction-compatible skillet, the All-Clad Stainless 12" Nonstick Fry Pan is an excellent, though considerably more expensive, choice.