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12-Inch Nonstick Skillets

Published November 2019

How we tested

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 nine nonstick skillets, priced from about $30 to about $180, 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. 

The Nonstick Coatings Were Really Good

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 again that you should follow manufacturers’ instructions and not use knives in nonstick cookware. We also recommend avoiding metal utensils. 

What Matters: Size, Shape, and Weight 

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 instead of 9 or 10 inches like the other skillets. 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. The best skillets had broad cooking surfaces and walls that weren’t too short 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 out 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 heaviest, which weighed 3.80 pounds, was an absolute bear to lift, especially with one hand as when we were trying to scrape food from it. What’s more, that extra weight wasn’t a guarantee of increased sturdiness. None of the pans warped when we heated it up and plunged it 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. 

The Best 12-Inch Nonstick Skillet: OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro 12" Open Frypan

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. 


Methodology

  • Nine skillets, priced from about $30 to about $180
  • Cook eggs in brand-new skillets with no oil, one after another, until they begin to stick, up to 50 eggs
  • Prepare Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry
  • Cook pepper and onion frittata, starting on the stovetop, finishing in a 350-degree oven, and then sliding it out of the pan in one piece
  • Make pan-fried sole
  • Recruit three additional testers to use each pan to make sautéed peas
  • Make four cuts in the pan, as if slicing a frittata into eight servings, using a paring knife
  • Wash by hand 10 times 
  • Cook eggs in used skillets with no oil, one after another, until they begin to stick, up to 50 eggs, to see if the nonstick coating deteriorates with use
  • Heat each pan to 400 degrees and then plunge it into 32-degree ice water and check for warping
  • Bang each pan three times on a cement block to gauge durability

Rating Criteria

Nonstick Ability: We evaluated the nonstick surface of each pan and noted whether food stuck or was easy to remove. 

Capacity: We compared the size of the pans’ cooking surfaces and the height of their walls. Wider, taller pans could hold more food and were easier to use without spilling. 

Ease of Use: We considered whether it was easy and comfortable to maneuver the pans on the stovetop, lift them into the air, empty them, and wash them clean. 

Durability: We noted whether the pans warped, dented, and/or scratched over the course of testing. 

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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*