When Martha Stewart burst upon the domestic scene, women didn’t know what to make of her. After generations of fighting to get out of kitchens and into board rooms, suddenly it became fashionable to add to a woman’s credentials the ability to entertain with grace and flair. Some men also jumped on the Martha bandwagon, showing the world that gender has no place when it comes to gracious living.
Who or what was the biggest beneficiary of this lifestyle movement? Surprisingly, manufacturers of household goods like linens and decorator items, but if asked to choose the industry to that benefitted most, we believe it was cookware. Martha’s advice, that cooks approaching a stove top can’t afford to choose just any skillet to churn out those fabulous dishes, wasn’t lost on the cookware industry eager to appeal to contemporary Martha wannabes.
In our opinion, the evolutionary improvement of cookware has been a boon to consumers and businesses alike, and so many choices are available these days, it’s up to you to identify the best skillet for your unique needs–one that performs best and fits your budget. Come with us on a journey to closely examine three best-selling skillets on today’s market to figure out which one is your best bet.
Primitive Cookware Has Been Around Since The Caveman (and Woman)
Every time you pick up a skillet to prepare a meal, you hold a piece of history in your hands, so a little respect, please. According to UK authority The Kitchen’s Cookshop, archaeologists have found containers used to prepare foods over direct fire made of animal hides that were strung up and hung over fires.
These Neolithic cooking vessels were primitive but served a purpose until early man came up with pottery pieces, but because unfired clay can’t withstand heat, ingredients went into the clay pot with water and hot stones rather than being set over a fire.
The first metal cauldrons—sheet copper, bronze and later cast iron–were manufactured during the Bronze age (about 5000 BC), kick-starting a new evolution of pots and pans. By the time the 14th century dawned, cast iron was preferred over all other materials. Along came generations of new cooking aids designed to work with pots and pans: linen bags filled with grains and baskets holding ingredients that were lowered into boiling water. Over the next century, accessories like flat lids and handles were introduced.
The Skillet Arrives On The Cooking Scene
The first skillets of record appear to have been invented in the 13th century, but they looked nothing like the ones nestled in your kitchen cabinet. Metalworkers experimented with shapes, materials and embellishments throughout the 18th century at which point copper lining was replaced by tin due to concerns about poisonous chemicals disbursed by copper as food is prepared. Enamel-clad skillets debuted at the start of the 19th century, by which time the cookware industry had become a highly-competitive and firmly-established niche.
What elements have influenced the evolution of cookware in recent times? You name it! New manufacturing techniques, materials and heat sources changed dramatically as gas or electric ranges diversified the kitchen appliance market over the past 120 years. The demand for dishwasher-safe skillets grew to accommodate that trend and even the adoption of microwaves required a new way of thinking about cooking vessels.
As kitchen “fashion” goes, everything old becomes new again as waves of nostalgia for the way things were have ushered in a new era of skillets designed to emulate some of the high-end cookware of yesteryear. Has this trend reached its peak? Of course not. Gourmet cookware has become big business throughout the world as Martha has taken a backseat to contemporary “celeb” cooks (think Emeril, Giada, Rachael and even the beleaguered Paula Deen) whose cookware brands now influence skillet sales big time.
Today’s Top Skillet Materials
Walk into a department store, head for the domestic goods and ask a sales associate to show you some skillets. Oh, and plan to stick around for a while. Choosing a best skillet in today’s competitive market is no walk in the park. Some cooks find a favorite material and stick to it. Others will happily show you their magnificent collection of skillets that represent every material currently known to man. For your edification, we’ve researched the most popular materials on the 2017 market so you can peruse your options.
Think aluminum is a modern-day metal that’s been around for a matter of decades? Better think again. Aluminum skillets have been around since 1909 when Reynolds Metal first introduced this lightweight material. There’s been much controversy surrounding aluminum cookware in its most primitive form, thus anodized aluminum skillets—the metal is subjected to an electrolyte bathe followed by an electric current—are now preferred because the process renders aluminum cookware safer, harder and less corrosive. Aluminum shortages around the time of WWII were so acute, manufacturers began making skillets out of stainless steel, introducing the public to a new niche out of necessity.
Guess what’s back in vogue? Cast iron skillets, of course. Entire websites are devoted to the cast iron skillet, including the legendary Wagner Manufacturing Company, a company fabricating these impossible-to-destroy fry pans since 1881. Rugged cast iron skillets can be traced back to 513 BC in China. By the 1700s, cast iron cookware was in such demand, Adam Smith, author of the iconic book “The Wealth of Nations,” declared “the actual wealth of the nation was not its gold but in its manufacture of pots and pans.”
With the introduction of new metals in the 1800s, lowly cast iron was put down as a nostalgic pick that belonged in covered wagons, but today, it’s hotter than ever–both in terms of function and looks. A favorite of cooks who are faithful to cast iron is the Le Creuset brand, a collection of vividly-colored enameled cast iron pots and pans produced in England that made Le Creuset a top bridal registry pick in the 1990s.
Elegant, historical and high end, copper pots and pans date back to around 9000 BC according to vessels unearthed at Middle East archaeology digs. Because copper is an amazing insulation material when molded into vessels for storage and cooking, thus it’s reputation grew–especially when metallurgists announced that copper has superior antibacterial properties. Stylistically, a kitchen filled with copper pots and pans—-whether sandwiched with stainless steel or not–is often the hallmark of serious cooks who know their way around a gourmet recipe. If you’re a sucker for copper, you’ll find it everywhere you look from antique store shelves to high-end kitchen boutiques.
Talk about controversy–we can’t think of a material that has been as controversial as the coating used to make the first non-stick pots and pans. The first brand to hit the market was Teflon, accidentally discovered by a DuPont scientist looking for a non-toxic refrigerant in 1946. While the coating was first used on pots and pans in the 1950s, the material rolled out officially around 1960 and it took no time for rumors of toxicity to impact sales.
Over time, new iterations of non-stick coatings were introduced by a responsive cookware industry that saw the impact non-stick pots and pans had on busy cooks who craved anything that made their kitchen time more tolerable. These safer alternatives include Anolon, Caphalon, Silverstone and Tefal. While some elite chefs say they wouldn’t be caught dead using non-stick cookware, don’t tell that to today’s homemaker who adores the quick cleanup and safety that comes with this best skillet coating.
If you think that the stainless steel skillet you’re eyeing is made of pure stainless steel, think again. These days, shoppers get a “sandwich” of aluminum or copper inlaid between two layers of steel for a wealth of reasons. By layering multiple materials cooks get the benefit of less weight (that’s the aluminum), conductivity (copper) and legendary durability that is the hallmark of steel. The configuration of these layers tends to be brand-specific as determined by engineers who understand the physics of heat conduction. The more sophisticated the layering, the more service you can expect from your skillet, but as you get into high-end pots and pans, those five-to-seven layers of material could make your credit card weep.
Time to dish up the three best skillet reviews we promised…
If you spend more time than you’re willing to admit frying or scrambling eggs, churning out pancakes, preparing pork chops on your stove top or producing the quintessential favourite, grilled cheese sandwiches, owning at least one 12-inch skillet may be critical to yours and your family’s survival.
This All-Clad Stainless Steel, which is the best skillet, is no ordinary kitchen aid priced at almost $200 (look for price cuts when you shop). It’s constructed of 3-ply bonded stainless steel hugging an aluminum core, so every inch of the surface delivers equal heat. This dishwasher-safe fry pan’s wide, flat base offers ample room for your stir fry yet the low-profile shape has an ultra-modern vibe, so if you hang it on a wall or from a ceiling pot rack, it’s not going to embarrass you.
All-Clad describes the cooking surface of this tri-ply bonded skillet as “highly polished,” but we are drawn to the starburst finish because that’s the design element that actually delivers a non-stick surface for easy maintenance and preparation when you need it most. And if your recipe calls for relocating your skillet to an oven or broiler to finish cooking your dish, knock yourself out. You can heat this skillet to extreme temperatures that top off at 600-degrees F.
Made in the U.S. and featuring contoured stainless-steel handles held in place by industrial-strength stainless steel rivets, you get a lifetime warranty with this product, so if you’re the sentimental sort and plan to leave your skillet to your kids (don’t laugh, but George Washington’s mom did just that: stipulated in her last will and testament who got her pots and pans) be sure to stow that warranty paperwork somewhere safe.
All-Clad prides itself on its American workmanship, admits to obsessing about every detail that goes into their cookware and to make sure every skillet does what it’s supposed to, All-Clad’s Canonsburg, Pennsylvania product developers and test kitchen personnel get paid to push the limits of each skillet before it goes into mass production, so if pedigrees impress you, take this into account.
- This All-Clad 41126 Stainless Steel skillet charms skeptics who insist they’ve sworn off stainless steel for any number of reasons.
- This skillet is worth the retail price, say fans, particularly if you comparison shop to get a good deal.
- Comes with a handy lid to keep the contents of your cookery in the pan, not the surfaces surrounding it.
- No sharp edges that require you to keep Band-Aids in your kitchen just in case.
- Solid construction and heavily weighted, this pan won’t tip over, no matter how frenzied things get around your stove.
- We were distressed to find complaints about skillet wobble from cooks preparing food on glass top stoves. This is no isolated incident according to the research we’ve undertaken, so keep that receipt if you choose this skillet.
- In our opinion, this is somewhat pricey in light of the fact that instability complaints are out there.
- This is one long pan featuring a 9-inch handle (the entire unit is 21-inches) so if you have trouble stowing your essentials in small cabinets or your dishwasher discriminates against large pans, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
- Some purchasers have called the concave, narrow handle unwieldy and problematic in the grip department.
- Despite the claim of a non-stick surface, this doesn’t always meet the non-stick test so you’ll be pouring more oil into your pan than you might prefer to avoid burning dishes.
Would you be willing to part with a few hundred bucks if you could get your hands on a non-stick skillet that offers continental flair while keeping everything you prepare from sticking to the surface? We see lots of hands raised out there, so may we give you a short Danish language lesson that starts with the exclamation, “Du er fantastisk!”? Bet you can figure out the translation and if you’re of the opinion that anything made by Scandinavians is impeccable, this 12.5-inch Scanpan PRO IQ Nonstick Fry Pan has your name written all over it.
In the interest of transparency, allow us to say that when a large number of product rating sites give an item the maximum number of stars available, our inner skeptics surface, and the urge to find something wrong kicks in. We went in search of the truth (on two continents) and share everything we’ve unearthed here–including appealing to the side of you concerned about sustainability, because Scanpan’s corporate ethos is “sustainability without compromise,” a commitment the company has stood by since 1956.
Danish craftsmanship gets high marks and when traditional style and manufacture meet contemporary taste, it’s worth taking note of a company that artfully combines the two. Best skillet Scanpan uses 100-percent recycled aluminum to make all of its products, so if you fall for this sleek Scanpan PRO IQ Nonstick Fry Pan, you may have to remind yourself that it was once beer cans, bicycle frames or any number of recycled items.
Functional and preferred by professional chefs around the world who are as concerned with carbon footprints as a good soufflé, this PRO IQ Nonstick best skillet features a thick base engineered for even heat distribution, so it won’t disappoint whether you cook with gas or electricity. Further, the pan’s PFOA-free non-stick coating is a patented process tested on myriad heating surfaces, so sauté, fry, brown, sear and de-glaze effortlessly while preserving all of that flavor. Since this coating is 10-times harder than stainless steel, you’d have to attack the surface with weapons to produce a scratch. Unlike many competitors, you can use this Scanpan skillet to prepare foods in an induction oven.
- Scanpan is the first producer of this proprietary nonstick cookware process that’s created by firing a ceramic-titanium compound into skillets at 36,000 degrees (that’s twice the speed of sound).
- Safer than other nonstick surfaces, this PFOA-free coating benefits the health of family and the environment.
- For those trying to trim down, no cooking oils or fats are necessary so your meals are healthier.
- No blistering or peeling surfaces reported by brand fans and the polished handles are secured with industrial-strength hardware.
- Receive a lifetime guarantee on this Danish-made, dishwasher-safe skillet.
- May not be easy to find at the retail level because this Danish company’s distribution network is limited.
- Could be a pricey purchase if your budget won’t stretch to a few hundred dollars.
- The skillet’s user manual states “dishwasher not recommended” but the hang tag reads “dishwasher safe.” If you use a dishwasher exclusively for your cookware, keep this in mind.
- If you like to buy goods made in the U.S.A., performance may take a backseat to patriotism.
- Infrequent complaints about low skillet sides have been registered, so if you prefer a fry pan with tall sides, take this one off your list.
3. T-fal E918S2 Ultimate Hard Anodized Scratch Resistant Titanium Nonstick Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator Anti-Warp Base PFOA Free Cookware; 2-piece set
If you’ve avoided buying a good non-stick skillet because prices are daunting, it’s time to do a happy dance: This T-fal E918S2 Ultimate Hard Anodized Scratch Resistant best skillet set runs less than $50, so you can think of this purchase as a BOGO: buy one, get one free!
The biggest selling point of T-fal cookware has been its reputation for introducing a non-toxic surface around the time the original Teflon brand began to suffer a reputation slip, so no worries with this affordable product. Crafted of hard-anodized aluminum with a titanium nonstick interior, it features what we like to call a “sweet spot”; a thermo-indicator that allows even a novice cook to tell whether proper preheating of the skillet has taken place.
The riveted silicone handles are both comfortable and neatly secured to the sides of the fry pan and if you swore off nonstick cookware because the base of your non-stick skillet warped, relax–this best skillet is manufactured with a TechnoResist Anti-warp base. You’ll have to supply the culinary skills, but you can count on this pair of skillets to prepare everything from veggies to T-bones courtesy of that Thermo-Spot indicator.
In terms of safety, these 10- and 12-inch skillets are the bomb. You get the durability and stability without the PFOA, Lead and Cadmium that can sometimes be found in cheaper cookware. The interior base is wide and the vented tempered-glass lid seals in flavors yet the handles stay cool so your burn risk is dramatically reduced.
Though oven-safe only up to 400 degrees F, this is the trade-off we frequently observe when evaluating less-expensive products, so as long as you remember not to put either T-fal pan into an oven heated to more than 400-degrees+ (the lid will only sustain 350-degrees before its integrity is compromised), you’ll have a hard time coming up with too many things to whine about while evaluating this value-packed set.
- American made by a brand that’s become a leader in non-stick cookware, this T-fal pair is reliable and sturdy.
- Silicone handles won’t deliver any surprises to cooks who absent-mindedly grab them when the rice boils over.
- Fabricated without harmful agents that could wind up in other nonstick skillets.
- Rejoice in this skillet’s tall sides if you’ve been complaining about shallow ones surrounding your skillets.
- Easy to find everywhere you shop because the T-fal brand is a perennial domestic favorite of cooks.
- These pans come with only a “Limited Lifetime Warranty.” Sounds like a contradiction to us, but we’re not in the business of rating company sales language.
- Unlike competitor skillets that can be heated to 600 degrees F, this T-fal only guarantees performance up to 400 degrees F before the pan can be damaged by high temperatures.
- Falls short of meeting “professional-use” standards, according to some owners whose expectations, in our opinion, may be a bit overblown given this cookware’s price range.
- Due to the design of the smaller pan, you may wish to stick to the big one if you fry eggs, because the high sides don’t jive with the interior surface, so you’ll need a really small spatula to wrangle your egg dishes.
- Competitor skillets are available in myriad colors; you’ll have to be content with grey if you pick this T-fal set.
Those were the 3 best skillets according to us. We have done all we can to help you decide, the rest is down to you. Happy cooking!