With the weather warming up in our region, I’ve been able to fire up my stove and sink a few more times and tested out a few new pans. This time around I tried two non-stick pans on a few different surfaces to see how well they worked.
Nonstick pans have been around for decades, but in the last few years they’ve become popular in the kitchen thanks to their convenience and ease of cleaning. However, there are a few downsides to nonstick pans—they often do not last as long as conventional pans, and they can be more expensive and harder to clean. That said, there are nonstick pans on the market today that pack a lot of features into an attractive package, and they are a real improvement over older models. We have chosen some of our favourite nonstick pans of 2021.
A high quality non-stick frying pan is a real must in the kitchen, whether you are frying, making burgers or omelets. However, not all pans are created equal and with thousands of models in all kinds of price ranges, it can be hard to cut through the marketing jargon to find the best one.
To find out which non-stick pans really are the best, we analyzed dozens of published reviews and studied user ratings to select 12 pans to test. We cooked four different dishes with each, evaluating non-stick performance (for example, whether you can turn an egg without oil or grease without leaving streaks), ergonomics, ease of cleaning, temperature distribution and tolerance, durability, and overall aesthetics. After many pancakes and too many eggs (yes, we know our job is hard), we were able to narrow down the winners to the three below.
If you are a minimalist and prefer to have only one pan in your kitchen, the T-fal E76597 is for you. The depth of this casserole makes it very versatile: It cooks classic roast pan dishes like eggs and meat, and the 2.5-inch high sides are tall enough to cook dishes normally cooked in slow cookers, like rice and stews. This is an affordable, high-quality pan that performed better than some of the more expensive cookers in our test.
The GreenPan ceramic pan is made from materials that appeal to the chemically conscious consumer. Unlike many non-stick pans, this pan does not contain materials that can pose long-term health risks, such as PFAS, PFOA, lead and cadmium. Instead, the non-stick coating is made of sand, so no toxic fumes are released when overheated.
The 10-inch HexClad Hybrid Skillet looks flashy (and yes, it’s expensive), but it’s also a solid kitchen utensil that beat out the competition in every test we took: Food slides easily, washes easily and heat is distributed evenly during cooking. If you want to take your cookware to a professional level, this is all you want from a non-stick skillet in a nice package.
Best overall pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Frying Pan with Lid ($45.47; amazon.com)
T-fal Ultimate Frying Pan with hard anodized non-stick coating and lid
Why we love it, in one sentence: Whether it’s steaming a mountain of vegetables or grilling a steak, this affordable option can handle it all with ease.
This pot is a real find. It costs just under $45 (including a lid) and cooks much more than a regular pan, with the ability to boil and braise. The greater height of the sides makes it possible to accommodate large vegetables, such as… B. Coal, which would otherwise be piled up before wilting from the heat.
When it comes to non-stick, T-fal is an absolute success. Nothing sticks to the surface of the pan, which is made of anodized aluminum, the gold standard in the world of non-stick coatings that you may have never heard of. Anodizing and aluminum go together like peanut butter and jam; the electrochemical process transforms the metal into a stronger, more corrosion-resistant material, according to the Aluminum Anodizing Council. Instead of strengthening the surface layer of the pan, as a coating does, the anodized aluminum is integrated in such a way that it will not flake or peel off.
The T-fal can withstand up to 400 degrees in the oven (although the lid can withstand up to 350 degrees before some parts fail) and has a lifetime warranty. The sheet came out of the oven at 400 degrees exactly as it had gone in. Then again, we didn’t need pressure to prepare the savory dish. In the middle of the pan is a red heat indicator which lights up continuously in red when the pan is heated up properly. It works, but it’s a little weird if you don’t want to heat the pan.
The silicone handle is comfortable, fits easily in the hand and, most importantly, stays relatively cool when heated. It also has a large opening that allows you to hang it vertically – a plus for storage in small kitchens.
The pan is said to be twice as scratch resistant, and while that’s a rather vague claim, it passed our scratch resistance test with flying colors. It was well whipped with metal utensils, but there was no trace of it left in the pan. (However, manufacturers recommend caution when using metal utensils). The material is non-toxic, so even if you overheat or scratch the pan, you won’t have to worry about contaminating your food.
When it comes to cleaning, the T-fal is effortless. Soap, water and a sponge make a perfect team.
For less than the price of a meal at a top restaurant, this non-stick pan can do it all – and more. The perfect pan is hard to find, but T-fal makes this title easy. We can’t imagine anything better. In fact, after our test, the T-fal received the same overall rating as the professional HexClad, which is more than twice as expensive.
The best ecological frying pan: GreenPan Levels stackable ceramic skillet ($39.95; amazon.com)
GreenPan Levels Stackable Ceramic Frying Pan
Why we love it, in one sentence: As the name suggests, the GreenPan is a healthier, eco-friendly non-stick pan that really works.
Ceramic cookware has become popular in the world of healthy living; it has a reputation for being healthier than Teflon or copper cookware. The advantage of ceramics – especially for high temperature cooking – is that no chemicals can seep into the food. The GreenPan won our vote for more than just these reasons (although they are a bonus); it’s just a great pan.
Eggs, pancakes, and even sticky peanut sauce glide across the surface like it’s Christy Yamaguchi. After cooking, virtually no residue was left on the pan, so it could be cleaned very quickly by wiping, rinsing and continuing to work.
This pan is a real ergonomic pleasure. At 2 pounds, it’s the lightest of the first three, making it easy to handle and move around, whether you’re putting food from a pan onto a plate or adding a little fat to sauté. Unlike the other two pans, the GreenPan is aesthetically simple; with no distinctive pattern on the surface, it can easily be mistaken for a regular pan, which is part of its charm.
Like the T-fal, this skillet also has an anodized aluminum body, which ensures even cooking and temperature distribution. It is also incredibly scratch resistant: When you go over the surface with a metal fork, you see the same marks as when you go over it with your finger – namely none. The pan can withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees in the oven, and the silicone-lined handle keeps it cool to the touch. Thermolon’s ceramic non-stick coating, which is obtained from sand and not from toxic substances, works well at low temperatures but does not emit chemical fumes when cooking at high temperatures. On its website, GreenPan claims that the Thermolon coating process emits 60% less CO2 than conventional coatings, which we believe explains the presence of the word green in the company’s name.
And GOP fans, you’re in luck. Even Gwyneth Paltrow supports this choice; she’s partnered with GreenPan to sell many Instagram-worthy ceramic products through her wellness brand.
The best frying pan in restaurant quality: HexClad 10-inch hybrid heater ($137; hexclad.com)
HexClad 10 Hybrid Frying Pan
Why we love it, in one sentence: Although you pay a high price, you get an insane pan that can be found in professional kitchens: Nothing burns, it protects against scratches, withstands the highest oven temperature we’ve tested, and looks great.
Ooh la la. When you put this pan on the stove, your guests will be sure that you know what you are doing in the kitchen.
Although the HexClad skillet is considerably more expensive than the other pans on our list, it stands out for its build quality. The top layer has a black hexagonal pattern that creates a series of peaks and valleys. According to the manufacturer, it’s the dimples that give the pan its non-stick properties, while the stainless steel surfaces ensure even heating and protect the pan from crumbling. In our opinion, the design is cool and provides a smooth surface for cleaning and cooking. The pan’s unique surface texture really protects it from scratches – a sharp knife, dreaded fork or even a metal spatula won’t damage the sturdy pan. (The company’s CEO even made a very convincing video in which he goes over the pan with a metal pizza cutter and a motorized hand mixer without doing any damage.) These nooks and crannies also help to distribute heat evenly, so food cooks evenly no matter which side of the pan it’s on.
The manufacturer recommends seasoning the pan first, which we did: Following the instructions, we heated the oil for a few minutes and then rinsed it off. Then we made a cheese omelet and ate it all because there wasn’t a piece of cheese or egg left in the pan. The same goes for cooking fish, whipping up pancakes and making fluffy pastries. Nothing seemed to stick and cleaning went smoothly.
Another feature of this skillet compared to others: This is the most heat-resistant of our three options, with a maximum oven temperature of 500 degrees. So you can put it in the oven for several hours without fear of it deforming. The name hybrid refers to the combination of stainless steel and non-stick coating, which gives the product a high-end look and makes it durable. (HexClad offers a lifetime warranty, just in case). Stainless steel is not a good conductor of heat by itself, but this model has a central aluminum layer that distributes the heat perfectly and ensures even cooking temperatures.
Unlike many other stainless steel pans we’ve tried, the HexClad’s bottom won’t burn or discolor when overheated, thanks to the black non-stick coating that’s also present here. This is a very convenient feature for cleaning: If food spills or overflows, just rinse the dishes. Even melted plastic can be removed from the floor with a simple movement of the sponge.
By testing four different dishes on a dozen different pans, we learned a few things about non-stick pans that we (perhaps naively) didn’t already know. Most high-quality non-stick pans work best over medium-low heat. Overheating the burner can lead to burns, overcooking of food (rubbery eggs are not tasty eggs) and faster wear of the pan’s non-stick coating, manufacturers say.
The other thing? Not all pots and pans are dishwasher safe; even those that should be dishwasher safe will last longer if you wash them by hand. When you are ready to scrub the pan in the sink, make sure it has cooled completely. This not only prevents you from burning yourself, but also from damaging the non-stick coating. Scouring pads should be avoided as they can damage the coating more quickly. Use soft scrapers; if the food still sticks to the pan, you can add ¼ cup of baking soda and about 15 inches of water to the pan and let the mixture boil for about 10 minutes. This should relieve the most persistent burns.
The utensils you use for your pots and pans can be the deciding factor: Some pan instructions warn that metal spatulas can immediately damage the pan, and our tests have shown that even light scraping with a fork can do this. While you can resolve to use only wooden or plastic cookware, it can be difficult to enforce this rule when other people are using your pots and pans. In that case, scratch resistant pans can help you.
It’s best to give most non-stick pans a little seasoning. It sounds more complicated than it is: Wash and dry the pan after removing it from the packaging. Rub the surface with a little oil and heat it for a few minutes. One more rinse and it’s done.
Finally, the word non-stick implies that you don’t need oil or butter to cook. While most pans don’t use grease (we find this quality deteriorates over time), we believe there is nothing wrong with greasing a pan with a little grease – plus every meal tastes so much better. However, aerosols and non-stick pans do not go well together. The spray can leave a residue that builds up over time and reduces the non-stick properties of the pan.
Four different dishes were prepared in each pan: Pancakes, scrambled eggs, fish and sticky sauce. We did not use any cooking oil or butter to test the non-stick factor. Other criteria we evaluated :
- Lifespan: To study the durability of the pans, we conducted scratch tests with metal utensils, evaluated the heating of the handles, examined the appearance of the pan after cleaning, and tested warping at maximum cooking temperatures.
- Functionality: We enjoyed the simplicity of preparing scrambled eggs, pancakes, sticky sauce and a fish dish. We also tested the evenness of the pan’s heat distribution by cooking on different surfaces. We paid attention to all the features and ease of cleaning.
- Aesthetics: In a slightly more subjective review, we evaluated the style of the pans, the comfort of the handles and their ability to stay cool to the touch, and the quality of the materials used.
Using the test criteria described above, we calculated the scores for each pot in each subcategory. The total score for each panel was the sum of the scores for the subcategories. Here is the breakdown of our rating systems:
- Sustainability was assessed on 25 points: Scratch test (10 points), treatment temperature (5 points), appearance after cleaning (5 points) and maximum oven temperature (5 points).
- Functionality was scored with up to 55 points: easy preparation of omelette (10 points), easy preparation of sticky sauce (10 points), easy preparation of pancakes (10 points), easy preparation of fish (10 points), heat distribution (5 points), special functions to increase efficiency (5 points) and easy cleaning (5 points).
- For style there was a maximum of 15 points: Quality of materials (5 points), general appearance (5 points) and ergonomics of the handle (5 points).
- The guarantee gave a maximum of 5 points: Lifetime (5 points), 2 to 4 years (2 points), and less than 2 years (0 points).
Everything else we tested
All-Clad 4110 NS R2 Stainless Steel Frying Pan with Three-Layer Nonstick Coat ($169.99 for a set of two; bedbathandbeyond.com)
This pan got dangerously hot, and maybe we set the temperature too high, but the first time we used it, the bottom of the pan had charred spots.
All-Clad B1 pan with hard anodized nonstick coating ($59.99 for a set of two; bedbathandbeyond.com)
To our surprise, this cheaper All-Clad model held up better in the heat than its more expensive counterpart. However, the handle was awkward and uncomfortable for transferring food from the pan to the plate.
Anolon Advanced Home casserole ($59.99; bedbathandbeyond.com or $59.99; anolon.com)
This Anolon frying pan has an excellent non-stick coating. The handle is almost completely covered in silicone to protect it from heat, but it’s too easy to get near the unprotected part and burn yourself.
Everything else we tested
Calphalon Contemporary anodized aluminum nonstick cookware, 10- and 12-inch sets ($59.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)
This skillet has also won in terms of non-stick. Points are awarded for the small bulges that connect the handle to the pan; these are inside the pan and can trap food, causing irritation when cleaning.
Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Nonstick Stainless Steel Frying Pan ($39.99 for 8; bedbathandbeyond.com)
The second time I used this pan, it left a burn mark on the bottom. This doesn’t affect the ability of the pan to cook anything without burning, but for people who care about looks, this isn’t an option.
Oxo Good Grips Frying Pan, 12 inches ($49.99; amazon.com)
Lightweight but sturdy, this skillet is a reasonable option for the price without all the bells and whistles. As far as scratches go, it doesn’t hold up well to metal utensils, but if you follow the rules (don’t use metal utensils), it seems to last a long time.
Everything else we tested
Tramontina Professional Aluminum Nonstick Frying Pan for Restaurants ($43.88; amazon.com)
This pan came in second; it received high marks for its good grip and scratch resistance. The only downside: The small rivets where the handle comes into contact with the pan create a vulnerable spot where food can get stuck, which is a bit tricky when cleaning. However, you can remove the red silicone handle and clean it separately.
T-fal Professional Total Nonstick Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator Frying Pan ($30.97; amazon.com)
This T-fal was equivalent to its counterpart, but the latter won out in the end with its high sides and lid. For a shallow pan, this option is optimal.
Zwilling Madura Plus 10-inch non-stick skillet ($49; food52.com)
The metal fork overloaded the non-stick surface of the binoculars and left scratches, and the handle was not sufficiently padded. Yet the smooth surface of this pan ensures even cooking of the food and it is easy to clean.
Message: The above prices are those quoted by the dealer at the time of publication.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the very best nonstick pans?
The best nonstick pans are made of ceramic, which is a very durable material. Ceramic is also non-porous, meaning that it doesn’t absorb food or liquid. This makes it easy to clean and maintain.
What is the best non-stick cookware that is non toxic?
The best non-stick cookware that is non toxic is ceramic.
Which non-stick pans last longest?
The non-stick pans that last the longest are those made of ceramic.
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