If looks matter to you, it's one of the few affordable pots with a design that rivals that of heritage brands like Le Crest. What a sauté pan is good for: Unlike a skillet, a sauté pan has tall sides set at a right angle to the base, which makes for a larger surface area for searing, better protection against splattering, and plenty of volume.
A sauté pan also features a tighter-fitting lid, which makes it great for slow-cooked braises or in-the-oven cooking. Sauté pans excel at searing or frying large batches of food, like a whole chicken's worth of parts.
They're also great at reducing sauces and braising enough food to feed four to six hungry adults. They're especially good for dishes like this braised chicken with Hatch chilies and white beans, or these red wine–braised turkey legs, where its wide surface area can accommodate plenty of beans or sauce while still leaving the surface of the meat exposed, allowing it to crisp as it stews.
Better design and construction helps it heat faster and more evenly while still delivering plenty of searing capability. The All-Clad heats faster and cooks a little more evenly, but most folks will be perfectly satisfied with this more economical option.
It's by far the best vessel for deep-frying ; its wide shape and large volume make it easy to fit plenty of food in there, with minimal contact and oil use, and virtually no danger of splattering the stove top with hot oil (or, worse, overflowing). As long as you follow our care and maintenance guide, your wok should, will achieve a deep black, lustrous nonstick sheen within a few uses.
In addition, remember that all-aluminum pans will not work over an induction cook top, so be sure to check the materials before you buy. Save your chicken and meat scraps and whip this big boy out once a month to make a supply of stock (your cooking will thank you).
Need to boil that whole country ham or make enough pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes to last you through the winter? Large enough to cook at least four to five pounds of pasta, it'll also solve all of your crowd-feeding problems, making entertaining a snap.
Unlike an enameled Dutch oven, you're not really going to be searing or sautéing in your stockpot, so heat distribution and retention aren't much of a concern. Just make sure that the metal is thick enough that you won't burn whatever is resting right against the bottom surface.
For slightly smaller (but still large) cooking projects, the Cuisinart Multicar Pro is our 12-quart pick. Its build is rock-solid, with riveted handles, a snug-fitting lid, and triple-ply stainless steel cladding from the base to the top of the pot’s wall.
That thick base layer manages heat well, which means you’re less likely to burn your food. Just be aware: You'll want to keep a separate set of pans and racks for high-temperature roasting and for baking, as the ones used for meats and vegetables tend to get a bit beat up.
A good one should be made with high-quality glazed ceramic, meaning that not only will it heat foods evenly (and, more importantly, store that heat so your food stays hot while you're trying to corral the family around the table), but it's practically nonstick. That makes for a simple clean-up, even with gooey foods like this Summer Vegetable Lasagna.
After more than 70 collective hours of research and testing since 2014, we still think the triply All-Clad Stainless 12 Covered Fry Pan is the best skillet for the money. No other pan gets the kind of raves the All-Clad receives from professionals, enthusiasts, and home cooks alike.
The All-Clad Stainless 12 Covered Fry Pan’s substantial triply construction distributes heat evenly, allowing you to sear foods with less risk of burning. The pan’s sturdy stick handle and lightweight design make it easy to maneuver when you’re sautéing or transferring it from the stove top to oven.
Out of all the skillets we tested, the All-Clad’s stainless steel exterior was among the most resistant to discoloration from heat, even after years of regular use. The generously sloped sides and bent lip allow you to easily whisk and pour pan sauces.
Though the Tramontina Triply Clad 12-Inch Fry Pan has a smaller cooking surface than our main pick, we were still impressed with its performance. It seared a chuck steak as well as pans costing almost twice the price did, and did an adequate job of browning chicken skin, even though a whole cut-up bird was a tight fit.
The Tramontina is a comfortable weight and has a rounded, ergonomically shaped stick handle that’s a pleasure to hold. Cooked-on food released easily in our tests, but the Tramontina developed some discoloration on the surface and underside of the pan that was almost impossible to clean.
Collapse all To learn more about what makes a great skillet, we spoke to experts such as Charlene Matt ox, food and crafts director at Country Living and the author of Cooking with Seeds ; J. Kenji López-Alt, managing culinary director at Serious Eats and the author of The Food Lab ; Germ Porter, test kitchen manager at Martha Stewart Living ; Kellie Evans, then associate food editor at Saver ; and Russ Parsons, author, James Beard Foundation Who’s Who is a Inductee, and former Los Angeles Times food editor. This guide builds on the work of Wire cutter formats editor Michael Zhao, who wrote the first version of this guide, and Wire cutter kitchen staff writer Lesley Stockton, who has been cooking professionally for almost 20 years.
A 12-inch skillet is perfect for making one-pan meals, searing steaks or other large cuts of meat, stir-frying, and pan-frying. Nonstick pans are best for cooking things like eggs or delicate fish fillets.
Because they’re so versatile, durable, and affordable, we tested only fully clad triply stainless steel skillets for this guide. Aluminum is a very light material that gets hot quickly and does a great job of distributing heat.
You can use most pans with steel exteriors on induction burners, which heat cookware with an electromagnetic field. This isn’t necessarily the case, though, as some five-ply pans we tested exhibited a difference of 100 Fahrenheit degrees between the hottest and coldest points.
In our experience, five-ply pans also take nearly twice as long to heat up compared with regular triply, in some cases 5 minutes or more. Cast aluminum is highly reactive, so acidic dishes that use tomatoes or vinegar tend to pick up a metallic taste.
Pans made from aluminum are pretty malleable, too, and will show dings from drops and other kitchen accidents. But cast iron is very heavy, a poor conductor of heat, liable to react with acidic foods, and potentially a hassle to care for if it isn’t coated with enamel.
Esteemed food writer Russ Parsons put it best in an email interview: “Ideally, everyone should have a cast-iron skillet as well as a stainless steel/aluminum one. Seared chuck roast “steak” in the Clifton Signature Stainless Steel pan.
Seared chuck roast “steak” in the Clifton Signature Stainless Steel pan. Determining what exactly separates a skillet from other frying pans is a bit difficult, but the definition from America’s Test Kitchen (subscription required) is as good as any: “Skillets are simply frying pans with low, flared sides.
We’ve found through our research and testing that a 12-inch skillet is the ideal size for most home kitchens. That’s enough space for you to sear a large steak or to cook an entire broken-down chicken with room to breathe.
Some skillets are sharply angled, like this Viking Contemporary 12 Fry Pan, which makes tossing vegetables while sautéing difficult. Sloped sides also fit the curved wires of a whisk nicely, which makes preparing pan sauces easier.
A flared lip also allows moisture to evaporate quickly, so seared meat and vegetables don’t stew in their own juices. A straight-sided skillet makes tossing food difficult and is better suited for dishes that require long cooking times, such as shallow braises.
If a pan is thin and lightweight, your food will burn in spots due to uneven heat distribution. You want a pan that can hold heat well enough to sear meat but can also cool down quickly enough if your food is browning too fast.
Most of our testers preferred skillets weighing between 2 and 3½ pounds, which was still lightweight enough to comfortably toss ingredients. As mentioned above, fully clad cookware will distribute heat evenly because the aluminum core extends all the way up the sides of the pan.
Bargain pans with only an aluminum disk in the base (also called an encapsulated bottom) tend to have hot spots, which can scorch your food. “I don’t like handles that are big, thick, and round,” Country Living food and crafts director and cookbook author Charlene Matt ox told us.
Because handle preferences will be different for everyone, we recommend going to a kitchen store to hold a few pans to see what you like before you invest. After years of long-term testing, our picks remain unfazed after being repeatedly subjected to high temperatures.
Some pans, however, like the Cuisinart Multicar Pro Stainless 12 Skillet with Helper Handle, warped after the first use. Many of the skillets we tested discolored after six minutes over medium-high heat, with some acquiring a dark gray hue that we couldn’t scrub off.
Although the discoloration won’t affect a pan’s performance, it’s an aesthetic issue to consider before purchasing your skillet. Photo: Michael Hereinafter four years of long-term testing, the All-Clad Stainless 12 Covered Fry Pan remains our pick for the best skillet.
Well-made and sturdy.” Country Living food and crafts director and cookbook author Charlene Matt ox said, “It’s still the one I go to all the time,” adding that, “It cooks evenly, and it’s easy to clean.” All-Clad’s skillet is also beloved by Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required), which rated it first among the six tested. Using a patented sandwiching process back in 1971, All-Clad was the first company to make fully clad pans.
(To learn more about how All-Clad cookware is made, check out David Levitt’s blog post about his factory tour in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.) We’ve been using the All-Clad skillet regularly in our test kitchen for the past four years and it continues to perform well.
Our flour test revealed that the Tramontina heated very evenly across the surface of the pan, with a slightly darker ring near the center of the skillet. At just over 3 pounds, it’s slightly heavier than our main pick, but it’s still light enough to toss vegetables while sautéing.
When we grasped the handle with a folded dish towel, we were still able to maintain control of the pan without it slipping. Although you can put your stainless steel triply pan in the dishwasher, that won’t keep it looking like new.
She is a pro when it comes to keeping cookware spotless, and some pieces she cares for have been in heavy rotation for over 15 years. Deg laze the pan with a small amount of hot tap water, and loosen the fond with a long-handled dish brush.
If you’re partial to keeping the exterior of your skillet looking bright and shiny, we’d recommend scrubbing it with a softer Scotch-Brite Dogie sponge. When the inside of the pan is coated with a white film, transfer it to the sink and scrub with a green Scotch-Brite pad.
This process will take a lot of effort, and depending on the amount of scorching in your skillet, you might need to repeat the steps once more. Video: Michael HessionThe Cuisinart Multicar Pro Stainless 12 Skillet with Helper Handle was our former runner-up pick in this guide.
The Cuisinart manual says to never use the cookware over high heat, recommending instead, “a low to medium setting for most cooking.” Many cookware manufacturers have the same recommendation, but our picks haven’t warped like the Cuisinart, even after years of cooking over high heat. The IKEA Sensual 13-inch Frying Pan weighs a whopping 5 pounds, which was too heavy to lift while sautéing.
The pan takes a long time to heat up and the silicone grip on the underside of the handle has ridges that trap grit. We didn’t test the Brigade Kitchen stainless steel and aluminum skillet due to its 5-ply construction, which we’ve learned from previous tests typically takes several minutes longer to heat.
Because the affordable Viking Contemporary 12 Fry Pan discolored severely the first time we heated it, we had to disqualify it early on. The Seville Thermal Pro Clad Stainless Steel 12.5 Skillet is a behemoth that weighs almost 5 pounds.
Charlene Matt ox, cookbook author and food and crafts director at Country Living, specifically mentioned the Seville during her interview with us, saying it got too hot for her liking. The exorbitantly priced Heston Nanobot 12.5 Open Skillet (it cost a whopping $400 at the time of our testing) concentrated heat in the center of the pan.
Expertly braising, searing, and roasting meat takes finesse, and the right gear will set you up for success. If the bottom of a pan is warped (which can create hot spots that burn food), or if handles are loose or broken, it’s time to shop.
We buy and test cookware sets ranging from less than $100 to $600 or more, from well-known brands such as All-Clad, Anglo, Clifton, Cuisinart, and Willing J.A. Heckles, as well as sets sold under the names of celebrity cooks like Ayesha Curry, Rachel Ray, and the Pioneer Woman.
CR’s take: The 12-piece Cuisinart Green Gourmet nonstick set aces all our key cooking tests. We were able to easily maintain sauce at a low simmer, and the 6-quart Dutch oven quickly brings water to a near-boil.
With Excellent ratings on both our cooking evenness and speed of heating tests, the Greenspan stands up to the competition. The coating appears pebbly, but that doesn’t affect its nonstick properties, and we effortlessly cooked pancakes and eggs.
Cooking evenness is superb, and this 8-piece set aces our speed of heating test by quickly bringing 4 quarts of water to a near-boil in the 5-quart stockpot. The surface stands up to our durability test, in which we rub steel wool over the coating 2,000 times, earning a Very Good rating.
Simmering a sauce produces impressive results, and this set earns a Very Good rating for cooking evenness. Heckles Motion Grey is made of anodized aluminum and works with any type of range.
Simmering in the saucepan, however, is only so-so, and the eggs needed nudging out of the pan in our food release test. Clifton designed this set so that it stacks and nests, which frees up precious cabinet space.
The Clifton Premier Space Saving 8-piece stainless set earns a Very Good rating in our evenness tests, like our other top performers in this category. The stainless handles are long and sturdy, and you can use these dishwasher-safe pots and pans on any type of range, including induction.
It earns an Excellent rating on our cooking evenness test, and when we brought 4 quarts of water to a near-boil in the 6-quart stockpot, speed of heating was also impressive. Its performance in our food release test, however, was subpar, so if you like to fry eggs, you may want to stick to a nonstick skillet.