We Put 12 Nonstick Pans To The Test: This Was Our Favorite

We Put 12 Nonstick Pans To The Test: This Was Our Favorite

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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 three winners.

Best nonstick pan overall

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.

Best eco-friendly nonstick pan

The GreenPan’s Ceramic Fry Pan is made from sand, so it won’t release any toxic fumes in the case of overheating. What’s more, 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.

Best restaurant-quality nonstick pan

The HexClad 10-Inch Hybrid Pan feels fancy, 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.

This pan 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 (it was one of the best affordable nonstick pans we tested), 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.

Amazon

GreenPan Levels Stackable Ceramic Frypan

Cookware with ceramic coatings has become popular in the wellness world; it has a reputation of being “healthier” than those made from Teflon or copper. The idea is that ceramic coatings are potentially safer — especially when cooking at high temperatures — because they are derived from sand and thus contain no so-called “forever” chemicals that can leach into foods. GreenPan didn’t, however, win our vote 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 Thermolon ceramic nonstick surface can tolerate up to 400 degrees in the oven, and the pan’s silicone-wrapped handle helps keep it cool to the touch. On its website, GreenPan also claims that 60% less CO2 is emitted during Thermolon’s coating process compared with the CO2 emitted during the process used in applying traditional nonstick coatings, which we suppose is what puts the “green” in its name.

Hexclad

Ooh la la. If anything, displaying this pan atop your stove will make guests believe you know what you’re doing in the kitchen.

While significantly more expensive than the other pans on our list, the HexClad stands out from the rest for its build quality. It has a black hexagon top layer pattern, designed to create a series of “peaks and valleys.” According to the manufacturers, the valleys are what give the pan its nonstick properties, while the stainless steel peaks provide the even heating while protecting the pan from flaking or peeling. To us, the design looks cool and makes for a smooth cleaning and cooking surface. The pan’s unique surface texture does seem to ward off scratches from any foul play — a sharp knife, a menacing fork, and even a metal spatula were no match for the durable pan. (The company CEO even made a very convincing video in which he runs a metal pizza cutter and a motorized hand mixer across the pan without any damage.) Those nooks and crannies also seemed to distribute heat well, as food cooked evenly no matter which side of the pan it was on.

The makers suggest seasoning the pan first, which we did: As directed, we heated up a bit of oil for a couple of minutes and then washed it away. And then, we made a cheesy omelette and devoured every last remnant, since not a single strand of cheese or egg was left behind stuck on the pan. And the same can be said for cooking fish, whipping up pancakes and creating saucy concoctions. Nothing seemed to stick, and cleanup was a breeze.

Another thing this pan has over all the others: It’s the most high heat-durable of our three picks, maxing out at 500 degrees in the oven. That means you can throw it in the oven for hours without worrying about it warping. It’s dubbed a hybrid for its stainless steel and nonstick combination, which provides it with a high-quality appearance and will make the piece last. (HexClad is backed with a lifetime warranty, though, just in case.) Stainless steel on its own isn’t a great heat conductor, but this model is built with an aluminum middle layer that perfectly distributes heat for a uniform cooking temp.

Unlike many of the other stainless pans we tried, the bottom of the HexClad didn’t burn or change colors when it was overheated, thanks to the black nonstick design that appears here, too. This is a really nice feature for cleaning; if any of your food spills or overflows, a simple scrub will do. Even melted plastic came off the bottom with a simple swipe with the sponge.

Over the course of testing four different meals on a dozen different pans, we learned some things about nonstick pans that (perhaps naively) we hadn’t known before. Most quality nonstick frying pans, it turns out, work best on medium-low heat. Make the stovetop too hot and you can burn yourself, overcook your food (rubbery eggs are not good eggs) and wear down the pan’s nonstick properties faster, according to manufacturers.

Another thing? Not all frying pans are dishwasher-safe; even the ones that claim to be will probably last longer if you stick to hand-washing. When you’re ready to scrub a pan in the sink, make sure it has fully cooled. This not only keeps you from getting scorched, but will keep the nonstick coating from breaking down. You’ll want to steer clear of abrasive sponges, which can also deteriorate the coating at a faster

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