A quality nonstick pan is a true kitchen essential; from stir-fries to burgers to omelets, the stovetop staple basically does it all. Not all pans are created equal, however, and with thousands available in every possible price range, it can be tough to cull through marketing jargon to find the very best one.
So, to determine which nonstick pans were truly the best, we sorted through dozens of published reviews and perused user feedback to settle on 12 to put to the test. We cooked four different meals on every single contender, assessing nonstickiness (as in, could an egg really be flipped without oil or butter and leave no trace?), ergonomics, cleaning ease, temperature distribution and tolerance, durability and general aesthetics. After a lot of pancakes and too many eggs to count (yes, we know our job is tough), we were able to narrow our picks down to the three winners below.
If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2½-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.
GreenPan’s Ceramic Fry Pan boasts materials that’ll please any chemical-conscious consumer. Unlike many nonstick pans, this one is free of materials that may pose long-term health risks, including PFAS, PFOA, lead and cadmium. The nonstick coating is, instead, made from sand, so it won’t release any toxic fumes in the case of overheating.
The HexClad 10-Inch Hybrid Pan feels fancy (and yes, it’s pricey as well), but it’s also a sturdy piece of cookware that blew the competition out of the kitchen during every one of our tests: Food slid off easily, it was a breeze to clean, and heat was evenly distributed while cooking. If you’re looking for a pro-level upgrade to your cookware, this is everything you want in a nonstick pan wrapped in a pretty package.
Best Overall Pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan with Lid ($45.47; amazon.com)
T-fal Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
Why we love it in a sentence: Whether you’re looking to steam a mountain of veggies or sear a steak, this affordable option can handle it all with ease.
This pan is a steal. At just under $45 (with lid included), it can cook way more than the average frying pan, with the ability to boil and stew. Its extended side height helps contain voluminous veggies — like kale — that would otherwise overflow before they’re wilted down by heat.
When it comes to pulling off nonstick, the T-fal absolutely delivers. Nothing clings to the pan’s surface, which is made with anodized aluminum, a golden term in the nonstick world but one you might not be familiar with. Anodizing and aluminum go together like peanut butter and jelly; the electrochemical process converts the metal into a more durable, corrosion-resistant material, according to the Aluminum Anodizing Council. Rather than strengthening the pan’s surface layer like a coating would, aluminum that is anodized is integrated, so it can’t peel off or chip.
The T-fal model can withstand up to 400 degrees in the oven (though the lid can handle up to 350 degrees before some of the parts get compromised) and comes with a lifetime warranty. Indeed, the pan came out of a 400-degree oven looking exactly like it went in. And even then, the saucy dish we’d cooked up required no pressure to remove. The center of the pan is marked with a red “thermo spot indicator” that turns solid red when the pan is properly preheated, which does work, but feels a little gimmicky unless you’re particularly passionate about preheating.
The handle is made of silicone and is comfortable, light to grip and, most importantly, stays relatively cool when heated. It’s also punctured with a sizable hole, making it possible to hang vertically — a storage bonus for tiny kitchens.
The pan is marketed as “2x more scratch resistant,” and while that is a pretty vague claim, it boldly stood up to our scratch tests. We gave this thing a real beating with metal utensils, but the pan showed absolutely no evidence of this. (Still, the manufacturers recommend using metal utensils with care.) The material is nontoxic, so even if you were to overheat or scratch the pan, you wouldn’t have to worry about it leaching into your food.
When it comes to cleaning up, T-fal gives no trouble at all. Soap, water and a sponge make the perfect team.
For less than the cost of a quality restaurant meal, this is the nonstick pan that does it all — and then some. A perfect frying pan is hard to come by, and yet the T-fal makes the title seem effortless. We can’t imagine finding anything better. In fact, after our testing, the T-fal tied in terms of overall score with the pro-level HexClad that sells for more than double the price.
Best Eco-Friendly Pan: GreenPan Levels Stackable Ceramic Frypan ($39.95; amazon.com)
GreenPan Levels Stackable Ceramic Frypan
Why we love it in a sentence: True to its name, the GreenPan is a healthier, environmentally friendly nonstick pan that actually works.
Ceramic cookware has become popular in the wellness world; it has a reputation of being “healthier” than those made from Teflon or copper. Ceramic has a benefit — especially when cooking at high temperatures — because there are no possible chemicals that can leach into foods. GreenPan didn’t win our vote just for these reasons (though they are a bonus); it’s simply a really great pan.
Eggs, pancakes and even a sticky peanut sauce glided across the surface like they were Kristi Yamaguchi. After cooking, close to zero residue remained on the pan, which led to a very speedy cleanup consisting of wiping, rinsing and going on with our business.
This pan was a real ergonomic delight. At 2 pounds, it is the lightest of our top three picks, making it easy on the wrist and easy to move, whether you’re transferring food from pan to plate or adding some elbow grease into your sauté. Unlike the other two pans, aesthetically, GreenPan looks basic; without a distinguishing surface pattern, it could be easily mistaken for any ordinary pan, which is part of its charm.
Like the T-fal, this pan boasts an anodized aluminum body, which can be credited for the even cooking and temperature distribution. It’s also incredibly scratch-resistant: Dragging a metal fork across its surface revealed the same marks as running a finger along it — which is to say, none. The pan can tolerate up to 400 degrees in the oven, and its silicone-wrapped handle helps keep it cool to the touch. The Thermolon ceramic nonstick surface, which is derived from sand rather than any kind of toxic materials, thrives at lower heat settings but won’t release chemical fumes if you cook it on high. On its website, GreenPan claims that 60% less CO2 is emitted during Thermolon’s coating process compared with the CO2 emitted during the process of traditional coatings, which we suppose is what puts the “green” in its name.
And Goop fans, you’re in luck. Even Gwyneth Paltrow is on board with this pick; she’s partnered with GreenPan and sells a bevy of ceramic, more Instagrammable offerings through her wellness brand.
Best Restaurant-Quality Pan: HexClad 10-Inch Hybrid Frying Pan ($137; hexclad.com)
We put 12 nonstick pans to the test. Here are our favorites
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