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8-Inch Nonstick Skillets

Published October 2018

How we tested

“They're so cute!” said nearly everyone who walked by me while I was testing these little pans. And my coworkers were right: An 8-inch nonstick skillet does seem positively adorable next to a 10- or 12-inch version. But these petite pans are useful in their own right. They're perfect for making a couple of fried eggs or an omelet, for cooking recipes scaled down for one or two people, and for toasting nuts, spices, seeds, bread crumbs, garlic, and more.

To find the best 8-inch nonstick skillet, we studied the market and chose eight pans, priced from $16.99 to $109.95, including one from OXO, the maker of our winning 12-inch nonstick skillet. Four of the pans were traditional nonstick, and the other four were ceramic nonstick, an alternative coating often marketed as “green” or “environmentally friendly.” All the pans were perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)–free.

We tested the pans extensively, starting with a dry egg test in which we cooked eggs one after another, with no oil or butter, until they started to stick or until we hit 50 eggs. Next we made omelets, scalloped potatoes, and scrambled eggs in each pan, beating them up a bit along the way to simulate long-term use: We washed them repeatedly, subjected them to thermal shock (heating them and then plunging them into an ice bath), and banged them on a concrete ledge to test their construction. Finally, we repeated the dry egg challenge at the end of testing to see how the nonstick surfaces held up over time. So does it matter which little nonstick skillet you buy? If you care about not having flakes of nonstick coating in your food, it does.

Traditional versus Ceramic Nonstick Pans

Hands down the most important factor in determining a good pan was the kind of nonstick coating. There are two types used on cookware: traditional PTFE, or polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon is the most well-known brand name), and ceramic, which has exploded in popularity in recent years as a result of concerns about the safety and environmental impact of PTFE.

We tested four pans in each style, and differences emerged immediately. In the first egg test, seven of the eight pans were able to cleanly release all 50 eggs; the one that couldn't was ceramic. A few days later, the coating started flaking off two of the pans—both ceramic. And at the end of testing, the fourth (and final) ceramic model was the most scratched-up of any pan we tested, which doesn't bode well for durability. Meanwhile, the PTFE pans emerged reasonably unscathed. Clearly the ceramic pans weren't as durable. We delved into the science behind the two kinds of nonstick coating to understand why.

“Ceramic” is a broad term that encompasses many materials, but in the realm of nonstick cookware, it refers to a hard material that's a relative of beach sand. A single layer of a substance called “sol-gel” made with silicon (the element—not silicone, the soft, rubbery material) is typically sprayed onto the pan and secured by a one-step baking process. Traditional nonstick coatings are made from PTFE, which is one of a class of compounds called fluoropolymers; they're sprayed onto the metal pan base or spread on with rollers. Multiple coats are typically applied and there are several oven-curing stages. One of the reasons manufacturers usually tout ceramic pans as “green” is their shorter production process relative to PTFE pans, which, they reason, uses less energy because it takes less time.

But the two coatings are not created equal. Pans with ceramic coatings wore faster during our cooking tests, and the coatings on two of the pans flaked off in pieces as big as â… inch wide after we subjected them to thermal shock, heating and then rapidly cooling them in an ice bath (an abuse test designed to mimic the stress put on the pan when it's placed in the sink or run under water too soon after cooking).

Why Ceramic Pans Don't Last

According to our science editor, the different compositions of the ceramic and PTFE coatings caused this divergence in performance. He compared the ceramic coatings to glass: They're more brittle, so they're more susceptible to stress and develop microscopic surface flaws during normal use. And the more flawed, or rougher, a ceramic nonstick surface gets, the more it clings to foods. This brittle quality explains why the ceramic pans wore down faster and chipped easily. Also, metal expands and contracts slightly as it changes temperature, and because it's so brittle, the ceramic coating isn't as responsive to these temperature changes, making it more prone to shattering or separating from the metal pan under thermal shock. PTFE, on the other hand, is comparatively malleable (it's a type of plastic), so it's better able to flex and move, maintaining its grip through impacts large and small. It also doesn't bond to other materials, even if it's roughed up a bit, so it's more resilient to everyday wear and tear.

Nonstick Surface Materials Matter

These differences bore out in our testing. The ceramic pans wore down, but all four PTFE pans emerged intact and operational; although they had some minor scratches, all were able to release 50 eggs in a row, without the use of fat, at the end of testing. So while the process of making a ceramic pan may save energy, the pans don't last as long and need to be replaced sooner, rendering the “green” claim suspect. We'll stick with PTFE for now. As for the safety question, PTFE pans can be safe—if you use them properly (see Everything You Need to Know About Nonstick Pans for information on how to safely use traditional PTFE nonstick in your kitchen).

The Nitty-Gritty: Shape, Capacity, Rivets, and Handles

Nonstick coatings aside, there were small differences that made some of the pans more pleasant to use. Pan shape didn't matter so much (some were slightly flared, others gently cupped), but capacity did: One skillet, from T-Fal, held just 3.2 cups (compared to 3.8 to 4.4 cups for the other models). Scalloped potatoes bubbled over in the oven, and testers reported feeling nervous that they were going to accidentally scoot eggs over the side when scrambling them. One plus to this pan: The rivets that secured the handle were covered with nonstick coating, so they were easier to clean; six of the pans had uncoated rivets that eggs clung to, requiring an extra swipe or two with a sponge. One pan didn't have any rivets inside; its handle was secured externally. Though testers loved swooping around the interior without stumbling over rivets, by the end of testing, the handle was a bit wiggly—not a good sign for longevity.

Handle shape was the final factor: Testers universally preferred rounded edges (two handles had sharp tips that dug into our hands). A brushed steel finish or a grippy silicone sleeve was a nice bonus, too.

In the end, our winner was from the same manufacturer as our favorite 12-inch model. The OXO Good Grips Hard Anodized Pro Nonstick 8-Inch Fry Pan has a durable PTFE nonstick surface and a comfortable, secure handle. And while it doesn't come with a lid, the one for our winning large saucepan by All-Clad fits it perfectly. It's also a steal at $29.95, and it beat out pans that cost more than three times as much. This little skillet would be a small but mighty addition to any kitchen.

Methodology

We tested eight widely available 8-inch nonstick skillets, priced from $16.99 to $109.95. Four of the pans had traditional PTFE nonstick coatings, and four had ceramic nonstick coatings. To evaluate nonstick ability, we made eggs over-easy with no fat in each new pan, cooking the eggs one after another, stopping either when they began to stick (a sign that the coating was starting to fail) or when we reached 50 eggs; we repeated this at the end of testing to assess the durability of each pan's nonstick coating. In between, we cooked scalloped potatoes and omelets and had a series of users scramble eggs in each pan and provide feedback. We also conducted a series of abuse tests: scraping a metal spatula across each pan 50 times, heating the pans to 400 degrees and shocking them in an ice bath, and banging each one three times on a concrete ledge. Manufacturers told us the style of nonstick and number of layers; we took the measurements. All the pans were purchased online. Products appear below in order of preference.

Rating Criteria

Nonstick Ability: We monitored how many eggs the pans cleanly released at the beginning and end of testing, as well as how well they released other foods between egg tests. Pans that arrived and stayed nonstick rated highest.

Ease of Use: We rated each pan on how easy it was to load and unload with food, cook in, and clean, as well as how comfortable it was to move and hold. Lightweight pans with comfortable, grippy handles rated highest.

Capacity: We evaluated each pan on how well it held recipes designed for 8-inch skillets. Pans with enough room to fit the food as the recipes stated, without overcrowding or overflowing, rated highest.

Durability: We rated each pan on how intact its body remained throughout testing. Pans that remained solid and dented minimally rated highest.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*