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How to Select the Right Skillet for Cooking at Home

Three images displaying products from the article below including GreenLife and All-Clad Skillets.
GreenLife/All-Clad/All-Clad

Buying a new skillet can be as easy as hitting your nearest big-box store and grabbing one on sale that’ll do the trick for a while. But if you’re tired of cheap cookware that easily warps and scratches, we’ll help you find a skillet that’ll not only last for ages, but that’s also ideal for the kind of cooking you do.

We’ve provided a rundown of the different materials skillets are made of, and which are best for certain kinds of cooking as well as some recommendations.

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A woman cooking up a delicious meal with her new skillet.
StratfordProductions/Shutterstock.com

Before shopping, it can be helpful to ask yourself a few questions about your cooking style and desires for a cookware collection:

  • Do you want a piece of cookware that transitions safely from stovetop to oven?
  • Do you want something inexpensive and low maintenance?
  • Is safe, nontoxic cookware vital for you?

Understanding which skillet material works best with which food is a fantastic first step. In addition to that, you’ll also want to consider the following factors:

  • Size: Skillets are typically measured by the diameter across the top, not the bottom. This is known as the cooking surface. This means if you purchase a 10-inch, you’ll actually have about eight inches of cooking surface. It’s a good idea to have a few different-sized skillets for smaller or larger meals. Your recipes and how many mouths you typically have to feed will also help you choose a size.
  • Weight: This depends on the type of material used to construct the cookware. For example, cast iron is much heavier than stainless steel. The more mass your skillet has, the more heat it will hold and distribute, which is better for many cooking forms. Of course, personal preference comes into play here, as well.
  • The handle: The material used makes a big difference here, too. Wooden and plastic handles are typically unsafe at higher temperatures and definitely shouldn’t be used in the oven. Skillets with metal handles, on the other hand, can go in the oven, but you’ll need handle holders or oven mitts to remove them safely. Consider these factors if you plan to do a lot of stovetop-to-oven cooking.

If you’re still unsure which type of skillet to buy, let’s look at six recommendations, all of which are made of different materials that are best for different types of cooking.

Best Overall: All-Clad Stainless Nonstick

Three All-Clad Nonstick Skillets in different sizes with pork chops and fried potatoes in them on a counter.
All-Clad

The all-Clad brand has really made a name for itself and is well-known for its expertly designed cookware and skillets. The cladding (otherwise known as bonding) of high-quality materials means they hold their heat, essential for cooking.

We’ve selected a nonstick skillet as our best overall because it’s the closest thing to a one-fits-all deal. It’s easy to clean, and food won’t stick due to the coating making it super easy to work with if you are new in the kitchen.

But even a home chef who worked in the kitchen for years will appreciate this pan because of its tri-ply construction made with an aluminum core and two layers of stainless steel. It holds heat exceptionally well and won’t warp easily.

It’s a bit pricey, but will last you many years if properly cared for and worth every penny if you love cooking.

Best Overall

All-Clad Stainless-Steel Nonstick Skillet

A multipurpose skillet you'll love using on the daily.

Best Enameled Cast-Iron: Le Creuset

A bright blue enameled cast iron skillet by Le Creuset with vegetables in teh background.
Le Creuset

Le Creuset was founded in the early 1920s and has been thriving ever since. It’s cast-iron cookware is iconic due to its unique quality, craftsmanship, and bright enameled colors.

We love this skillet for so many reasons, but especially because it offers an easy stove-to-oven transition. It also looks gorgeous on the dining room table, making a perfect centerpiece for any dinner party.

This heavyweight skillet requires little oil for healthier cooking and provides superior heat retention you won’t find in other types of cookware. It’s also fantastic for slow braises that start with a bit of searing on the stove, and then need a little oven session afterward.

Best Enameled Cast-Iron Skillet

Le Creuset Signature Enameled Skillet

A fantastic culinary workhorse.

Best Cast-Iron: Lodge Pre-Seasoned

Various skillets by Lodge cooking up some delicious breakfast.
Lodge

We love Lodge just as much as its competitor, Le Creuset. We especially love its fantastic prices for very comparable results.

While there are differences between enameled and non-enameled cast iron cookware, each plays an essential role in the kitchen. Whether you need a skillet for sautéing, searing, or braising, you’re looking at it.

A cast-iron skillet is the perfect heavy-bottomed pan for frying, or even making a thick, saucy deep dish pizza. The price of this skillet is beyond worth it, and don’t let those old rumors about high maintenance scare you off—cast iron isn’t difficult to clean or maintain.

Best Cast-Iron

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Skillet

A timeless, affordable skillet you'll love using year-round.

Best Stainless-Steel: All-Clad

An All-Clad Skillet filled with various ingredients used too cook up a fruit dessert.
All-Clad

Stainless steel is another popular skillet choice due to its ability to heat up quickly and then maintain the heat. This makes it ideal for browning and sautéing.

Don’t let these timeless beauties fool you, though—they’re known for sticking, which also makes them a bit trickier to clean. They’ll last longer if washed by hand.

Still, the flat cooking surface and flared sides make for easy flipping. They’re also compatible with all cooktops—including induction—and can safely transition to an oven up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.

Best Stainless-Steel

Best Nontoxic: GreenLife Soft Grip

Someone using a GreenLife skillet to cook up some sliced zucchini.
GreenLife

If you love everything clean and green, selecting cookware made of safe, nontoxic materials might be your best option. GreenLife has a fantastic collection of toxin-free cookware that reduces your “carbon cookprint.” The company uses recycled aluminum to make its products.

This will enable you to feel good about your purchase and keep yourself and your loved ones safer.

Best Nontoxic

GreenLife Nontoxic Skillet

Keep it green with this skillet made of recycled aluminum.

Best Budget: Cuisinart Chef’s Nonstick

A nonstick cuisinart skillet placed over a stove top with ingredients on the side.
Cuisinart

If you need a handy skillet that’ll last a while and won’t break the bank, this 10-inch nonstick by Cuisinart is a good option.

It’s a great skillet for basic uses, like frying eggs or grilling sandwiches. However, it’ll also work for searing meat and fish.

There’s no reference to oven-safeness with this pan, but it’s important to note that the nonstick coating is made of QuanTanium, which isn’t recommended for use in high oven temperatures.

Best Budget

Cuisinart 10-Inch Nonstick Skillet

Simple, easy to clean, and priced just right.

Helpful Accessory: Evoio Handle Holders

Someone cooking shrimp and using the Evoio handle holder to keep their fingers safe from burns.
Evoio

The ability to put your skillet in the oven is incredibly handy for any cook. The only problem is you have to remember not to burn yourself when taking it out.

That’s where handle holders come into play. This set from Evoio is just what any home cook needs. Just slip one on that hot skillet handle before you remove your delicious dish from the oven.

Helpful Accessory

Evoio Handle Holder Set

Keep those fingers safe from burns.


Understanding the different varieties of cookware is a learning curve for anyone. Hopefully, though, this list took some of the guesswork out of choosing the right skillet. Need to add some other cookware to your collection? No matter what you’re looking for, we’ve probably got some recommendations for you.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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