There are a few kitchen essentials that are necessary no matter who you are or how much cooking you actually do. These include, but are not limited to, a sauce pan, a coffee maker, a solid cutting board and a great set of knives. You also might want to invest in a great cast iron or carbon steel skillet, as the heat retention and conduction on those are insane. There’s another absolute must-have for all cooks, even those who only cook eggs on occasion, and that’s a good nonstick frying pan.
We’ve talked a lot about other stove paraphernalia on the site including woks, griddles and tea kettles, but the frying pan is the stove’s ultimate companion. Let’s be real — even the most bare bones AirBnbs you’ve stayed in have had a fry pan in their kitchen for guests to use. It’s essential and can cook almost anything somewhat well. Eggs, grilled cheese, stir frys and other sautées are perfect in a frying pan. The nonstick coating, which we’ll discuss later, also adds to their convenience, as it makes cleanup much easier.
As with all kitchen appliances and gadgets these days, there are many options out there to choose from. Some are made of stainless steel, some are ceramic, some cost $50 and some break the $100 mark. In this piece, we’re going to walk you through the different features, what to consider before buying one, the health and safety questions and a round-up of the best ones available to buy today.
What to Consider Before Buying a Nonstick Pan
Not all pans are made equal. And, truth be told, if you’re using it super often the nonstick will eventually flounder and after a few years it won’t be as seamless of a cleanup as it was when you first bought it. This is somewhat unavoidable, no matter how much money you spend. However, there are pans whose nonstick will last much longer than others, and there are best practices you can follow to lengthen the life of your pan as much as possible. We’ll discuss all of that below.
There are many perks to using a nonstick frying pan. You can use way less butter and oil due to the nonstick coating, as the surface has been pre-treated and food doesn’t bind to it as easily. They make cooking clean-up way easier, since you don’t have to grind, scrape and duke it out with dried-on food every time you wrap up dinner. They also don’t require a lot of cooking skill or prowess to use, and the variety of things you can cook on them makes them a kitchen staple for even the most simplistic of cooks.
Health Concerns and Nonstick Pans
Nonstick pans are an excellent, convenient and effective addition to any household kitchen. They’ve also, in recent decades, been the subject of some rightfully skeptical health concerns surrounding the materials they’re made of and what’s released while cooking with them.
When they were first developed in the 1930’s, nonstick frying pans were revolutionary due to their ability to cook food without creating a huge, stuck-on mess. Back then, the nonstick surface came from a material called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon. It became widely used due to its ability to create a nonreactive, nonstick and nearly frictionless surface that scrambled eggs slid off of seamlessly. Teflon is still used nowadays, in nonstick pans as well as the surface of cable coating, rain coats, etc. However, this nonstick-ness was also made using a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), that’s been linked to a number of health concerns. Thankfully, as of 2013, Teflon pans no longer use this chemical in their production, so there’s little worry about exposure to that chemical.
However, when heated to very high temperatures for long periods of time. Teflon can release toxic chemicals into the air that are dangerous to breathe in. It’s best to avoid heating the pan empty on the stove and cooking with one only on low or medium heat to avoid this.
Tips for Cooking With a Nonstick Pan
- Don’t use nonstick cooking sprays. They’re unnecessary when cooking with a nonstick pan and can develop a film or coating on it over time that’s hard to get off. Use butter or oil instead.
- Don’t put them in the dishwasher, even if the manufacturer says it’s safe to. For the longevity of the product, you’ll want to avoid exposing them to the harsh soaps and high temperatures created in a dishwasher. These things can weaken the nonstick coating, along with scrubbing it while it’s super hot. Wait for the pan to cool down a bit and don’t use iron wool or other harsh abrasives when cleaning it to avoid rubbing off the nonstick coating.
- Avoid high heat! We mentioned this above, but cooking with a nonstick pan over high heat for a long time can be dangerous, and simply isn’t good for the pan. Stick to low and medium.
- Always put food or oil into it before heating it up. Never heat up an empty pan on the stove, to avoid toxic chemicals releasing and the pan losing its quality quickly.
Our Top Picks for Nonstick Pans
1. Tramontina Professional Aluminum Nonstick Fry Pan
This restaurant-worthy fry pan is available for a super affordable price, and was Wirecutter’s pick for best overall fry pan for the quality of its construction. It’s made of NSF-certified, commercial-grade heavy-gauge aluminum that’s high-performance without being prohibitively expensive. It works with glass, electric and ceramic glass stoves, and is also oven safe up to 400°F. It’s got a PFOA-free nonstick coating as well as a stainless handle with a silicone grip that’s removable and washable. The satin exterior finish looks beautiful, without going over the top. This is a great pan that’s well-made and affordable for beginners just learning to cook.
2. All-Clad Stainless Steel Non-Stick Fry Pan
All-Clad is another trusty brand in the cookware space that makes excellent pans, including this non-stick fry pan. It’s much more expensive than the Tramontina, but has the cred to back up the price. This is about as much as I would spend on a fry pan, especially one I knew was going to last for years like one from All-Clad. It’s got a flat base and flared, mid-rise sides that make it easy to flip, toss and mix ingredients together. It’s got three layers of PFOA-free nonstick, an aluminum core and two layers of stainless steel bonded together for maximum durability. It’s compatible with all cooktops, including induction, and is safe in the oven up to 500°F.
3. HexClad Hybrid 7-Piece Cookware Set
HexClad is another top performer in the nonstick frying pan space, so much so that their stuff is almost always low in stock on Amazon. Thankfully you can stock up on this 7-piece set directly on their website, that comes with every variety of pan you could possibly need. The HexClad cookware is unique in that it features a laser-etched, hexagon design that increases the cooking surface area of the pan, and creates peaks and valleys for even heating. Their pans have an aluminum middle layer for proper heat conduction, and the valleys are nonstick just like the regular cooking surface so cleanup is easy. All of the pans are PFOA-free, dishwasher safe and safe to put in the oven up to 500°F. This set comes with a 12″ pan with a lid for gourmet cooking, a 10″ pan with a lid for everyday recipes, an 8″ pan with a lid for sauces and side dishes, and a 12″ wok for stir frys.
4. Our Place Always Pan
This Always Pan from boutique kitchenware brand Our Place made a splash last year during quarantine for its trendy design and many, many possible uses. It’s meant to replace many different pieces of kitchenware in your cupboard — including your saucepan, non-stick pan, fry pan and steamer. With this pan, and the addition of some attachments, you can steam, braise, sear, saute, boil and more. I’ve got one of these pans and love it. I’ve used it a bunch, so the non-stick has worn off quite a bit over the course of quarantine. But, to be fair, I’ve been using it 2-3 times a day for an entire year, so chances are any piece of cookware would also lose quality. It’s available in a bunch of bright, vibrant unique colors and is a super well-designed product that’s definitely worth the branded hype it gets online.
It’s got a non-stick ceramic coating that’s made without toxic chemicals like PFOAs, PTFEs, lead, toxic metals, nanoparticles and more. It’s got an aluminum body which is excellent for heat conduction and the beechwood spatula that it comes with neatly connects to the spoon rest that’s included on the handle. One note: don’t leave the spatula on the rest while you’re cooking or while the pan is hot, as it will burn.
5. Ozeri 10″ Stone Earth Frying Pan
This frying pan from Ozeri doesn’t just come with a super affordable price tag, the stone-derived nonstick coating comes from Germany and isn’t just free from PFOA but a bunch of other chemicals including PFBS, APEO, GenX, NMP and NEP as well. It’s an eco-friendly pan that’s non-stick without worry about exposure to all sorts of chemicals, not just the ones we’re worried about in the States. The scratch-resistant cooking surface is easy to clean, and the pan’s interior is made out of durable, heavy-gauge aluminum that has a magnetized base for great heat conduction, even on induction stovetops. The silicone-coated handle is also heat-resistant and is attached to the pan using three solid rivets.
6. Caraway Fry Pan
In terms of materials for a fry pan, there’s stainless steel and aluminum, which both do a fine job at conducting heat and cooking evenly. Then there’s ceramic — a new, trendy material that can create a nonstick surface without the use of gross, toxic chemicals. This fry pan from Caraway, another boutique cookware brand, has a ceramic-coated interior and a durable design that comes in a variety of fun colors. The non-stick coating is mineral-based so it avoids chemicals, and releases up to 60% less CO2 than other coatings.
7. Misen Nonstick Pan
Misen is known for their knives, which they make superbly well, but they’ve also got a great nonstick pan available at an affordable price point. It’s got a long-lasting cooking surface and a spacious cooking surface inside. The nonstick surface is made using a plasma primer that improves performance and safety at the same time. The cooking surface also includes three layers of Dupont platinum coating that’s PFOA-free. The ergonomic handle also has a silicone grip that’s easy to grab onto and stays cool under all sorts of pressure.
8. Le Creuset Toughened Nonstick PRO Fry Pan
Le Creuset is known for their dutch ovens that’s built tough to survive years and years in the kitchen, and this frying pan is no different. It’s got a triple-reinforced, PFOA-free surface that’s 4x stronger than previous models. It’s got a textured interior that promotes even browning and satisfying searing — like a cast iron pan, for great flavor. It’s designed to wipe clean easily after and is safe to use in the dishwasher and with metal utensils. It’s also compatible with all cooktops and is oven-safe up to 500°F.
9. Made In Non Stick Frying Pan
I’ve tested this pan out personally and can speak to its superb non-stick surface and how easy it is to clean. Made In’s pan is designed safe and healthy to use with a PFOA-free cooking surface that’s designed to be slippery. It’s got multiple non-stick coats on it that add durability and make the pan resistant to degradation. Their larger pans are sold out but their 8″ pan is available and perfect for making your morning fried egg or dinner for one.
10. GreenPan Paris 10″ Aluminum Open Fry Pan
BEST ECO-FRIENDLY OPTION
This non-stick frying pan from GreenPan is made with a Thermolon Minerals ceramic non-stick surface that’s metal utensil safe and dishwasher safe as well. The Paris Pro has a durable, anodized aluminum interior for even heat conduction throughout the cooking surface, and has a matte dishwasher-safe coating. It’s got a riveted stainless steel handle for a strong, dependable hold on the stove or while transferring into or out of the oven. It’s also made without PFAS and PFOA, so there’s no concern about harmful chemicals leaching into your food.
11. T-fal Anodized Titanium Non-Stick Fry Pan
This high-quality non-stick frying pan from T-fal has an anodized aluminum interior that retains heat and is corrosion and scratch-resistant, and less likely to react to acidic foods. T-fal has also created and executed a three-step process for great cooking results — a long-lasting non-stick coating, anti-warping technology and an even-heat base with thermo spot technology. This pan has a thermo spot indicator in the middle that turns red when the pan is preheated and ready for ingredients to be placed inside. It’s also got a riveted handle and lid for easy maneuverability, and it’s suitable for all stovetops.
How to Clean a Non-Stick Frying Pan
No matter what, you’ll want to wash your pan by hand after using it with a mild soap and soft sponge. Avoid dishwashers, harsh cleaners and abrasive sponges to preserve the non-stick coating.
If there’s a thick coating of food or some stubborn stains you can leave it to soak in the sink rather than scrubbing it super aggressively, as this might help loosen up debris without damaging the coating.
If there are more stubborn food stains you can’t get rid of, make a baking soda paste and let it sit in the pan for about 15 minutes. Don’t scrub it, as baking soda is abrasive, but the formula alone should help lift away food.
Lastly, if all else fails you can head oil and salt on the stove in your non-stick pan to help remove stubborn food stains. Immediately rinse and dry by hand afterwards for best results.