The Best Stainless Steel Pans (2024), Tested and Reviewed | Epicurious

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By Allison Robicelli , Kendra Vaculin , and Wilder Davies stainless steel non stick pan set

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Why use stainless steel pans? The best stainless steel pan The best budget stainless steel pan How we tested What we looked for Other pans we tested

Think of a stainless steel pan as the little black dress of your kitchen tool collection: Whether you’re searing chops, caramelizing onions, oven roasting, or stir-frying, there’s almost nothing it can’t do. Just as you wouldn’t invest in a LBD with a flimsy zipper, when it comes time to choose the best frying pan, quality of construction is key, which means you really can’t get away with anything too cheap. The flip side of that is that you’ll end up with a piece of cookware that you can sauté with for years to come.

All-Clad D3 12-Inch Stainless-Steel Skillet with Lid

Ninja EverClad Commercial-Grade Stainless Steel 10.25" Tri-Ply Fry Pan

Read on for our top picks and why you should own a stainless steel frying pan in the first place. For more details on how we tested and what didn’t make the cut scroll on down to the bottom.

Stainless steel is ubiquitous in professional kitchen settings and works well across a broad range of cooking methods. It offers superior heat conduction to heavier materials like cast iron or carbon steel, and unlike nonstick cookware, it can hold up to higher temperatures and metal utensils. When cared for properly, stainless steel cookware can last for decades, another thing a nonstick skillet with a teflon or ceramic nonstick coating can’t promise. While we still appreciate these other cookware materials for certain things like low and slow braises or frying eggs, a stainless steel skillet, sauté pan, and stock pot can serve as the back bone of any well-equipped kitchen and will be the best cookware for daily, long term use. To wit, if you’re ever in the market for a multipiece set of cookware (which we don’t love as a concept but get why someone would be drawn to it) we’d recommend a stainless steel cookware set over a set of nonstick pans set any day.

All-Clad D3 12-Inch Stainless-Steel Skillet with Lid

If you've ever flipped through a food magazine or watched an episode of a cooking show, chances are you're already familiar with All-Clad frying pans. For decades, the company's range of bonded tri-ply cookware has been consistently rated best in class by home cooks and professionals alike. Indeed, All-Clad stainless steel has dominated the stainless steel cookware landscape for so long that we couldn't help but wonder if, after all these years, they still deserved the accolades.

It didn't take much testing to shut that inner skeptic down. Though generously proportioned with a 12-inch diameter and gently sloping sides that taper to a 9.75-inch cooking surface—one of the largest we tested and big enough easily accommodate four chicken thighs or three breasts—the All-Clad skillet was surprisingly comfortable to maneuver. Weighing just under three pounds, it was hefty enough to offer great heating, but not so heavy as to cause wrist strain. While we don't love the brand's signature skinny, concave handle, we appreciated its easy-to-grip angle and the way it stayed reliably cool even after a long session on the stove.

Of all the competitors, the All-Clad pan heated up the quickest, and browned both the flour and sliced onion consistently, without evidence of hotspots. The pan also seared chicken thighs deeply and evenly, and, because it is oven-safe up to 500°F, transferred effortlessly to the oven to roast. When we deglazed the skillet to make a pan sauce, the fond released easily and the sauce reduced silkily and speedily. Best of all, cleanup was a breeze: a light wash with Bar Keepers Friend was all it took to get the skillet looking brand new.

In 2022 All-Clad cookware settled a lawsuit regarding the claims that their pans are dishwasher safe, as repeated dish washing can potentially result in the unsealed edge becoming dangerously sharp. In general, we don’t recommend putting any stainless steel pans in the dishwasher, as strong detergents can degrade and mar the surface over time anyway.

We are still comfortable recommending All-Clad pans as the overall performance and build quality has stood up to years and years of heavy use in our test kitchen, and when cared for properly, they are high-quality pans built to last.

And sure, $130 is pretty steep, but you really do get what you pay for—and each pan is protected by a limited lifetime warranty. Plus, when you consider that it comes with a matching lid, unlike most of the other pans we tried, it really is quite a decent value.

Ninja EverClad Commercial-Grade Stainless Steel 10.25" Tri-Ply Fry Pan

The Ninja skillet heated from cold to scorching hot in less than a minute, though our flour test showed the middle heats up considerably faster than the areas at the edge of the pan. Once the heat had evenly dispersed, the Ninja skillet sauteed our chopped onions practically perfectly. Our chicken thighs browned a bit unevenly, but the difference between the skin cooked at the center of the pan versus the edges wasn’t as extreme as many of this stainless steel skillet’s competitors.

It did a fabulous job retaining heat in the oven and cooked our chicken thighs to near perfection. The pan sauce came together in seconds, with nearly all the fond instantly releasing when we added wine to deglaze. A quick wash with soapy water was all we needed to get the Ninja stainless steel skillet completely clean — no scrubbing required.

At almost 3.5 pounds for a 10.25” skillet, Ninja’s stainless pan is on the heavier side. You may need two hands to transfer it from the stove to the oven, although an ergonomic handle and balanced design make it a fairly comfortable two handed transfer.

Before we did any actual testing, we researched how stainless steel skillets are constructed. Lightweight skillets don't retain or distribute heat as well as their weightier counterparts, which can lead to uneven cooking and troublesome hotspots; meanwhile, pans that are too heavy won't be comfortable to move around the stove or from the stove to the oven, making them impractical for everyday use. Beyond the pan's weight and material, the other important factor to consider is whether it's "fully-clad" or "disc-bottom."

Disc-bottom pans have, as their name suggests, an aluminum-core disc welded to the bottom—a design that prevents heat from distributing evenly up the walls of the skillet (as such, these pans are usually cheap). These pans are also not compatible with induction cooktops. Fully-clad pans, on the other hand, have both a cooking surface and walls made from full sheets of bonded, or clad, metal—usually a core of highly-conductive aluminum sandwiched between two or more layers of stainless steel, and a sturdy riveted handle. This ply construction is durable and nimble one that experts widely agree is the gold standard for everyday, functional cookware.

With that in mind, we chose to primarily test fully-clad skillets, though we did include one disc-bottomed model for comparison's sake. When narrowing down our list of contenders, we decided to stick to skillets that were 10 inches or larger as they're the most practical when cooking for more than two people. With budget consumers in mind, we also tried to represent a range of price points.

We subjected the skillets to five tests. First, to uncover any hotspots, we sprinkled the interior of each pan with flour, placed it over medium-high heat, and watched to see how evenly the flour browned. Then we sautéed an onion in each pan, checking to see how quickly and consistently it caramelized. Next, we pan-roasted four skin-on chicken thighs in each pan, watching to see how evenly the skin browned when seared on the stovetop and how the pan fared after we transferred it to the oven to roast. After removing the chicken, we used the fond to make a quick lemon, butter, and caper pan sauce, observing how well the skillets deglazed and the sauces reduced. Finally, we washed each pan, checking for any staining or wear and tear and noting how easy they were to hand wash.

Before turning on the stove, we looked at each skillet's design and got a sense for how it felt in our hands. Was the silhouette attractive? Did the materials feel solid? Was the handle comfortable? Did the weight feel evenly balanced? Does the pan have a helper handle for safe stove top to oven transport?

We looked for skillets with versatility—that could fit enough food for a small family, conducted heat evenly, demonstrated appropriate heat retention, withstood high temperatures without staining or warping, and transitioned easily from stove to oven.

A quality stainless steel skillet should last decades (in both function and appearance) so we paid attention to how easy the pans were to clean, and what sort of warranty they came with.

Our favorite pan in the DTC category was the Made In 12-Inch Stainless Steel Frying Pan. It was pleasant to use and worked reliably, with good browning and only a few hotspots. However, at $119 with no lid included, it wasn't enough of a value to warrant a top spot.

Made In 12-Inch Stainless Steel Frying Pan

We had high hopes for this newly-released stainless steel skillet from Quince, a DTC brand that offers high-quality goods at lower-than-expected prices. And in most of our tests, this skillet performed well — the flour toasted evenly, the onions cooked up quickly, and the skin on our chicken thighs was nearly uniform when we flipped it over. It’s lightweight enough that moving it to the oven wasn’t a difficult task, and our pan-roasted chicken thighs came out flawlessly cooked. However, we did have issues getting the fond to release for our pan sauce, and after two rounds of aggressive scrubbing, our Quince stainless steel skillet still looks dirty. Still, it’s a solid pan, even if it looks like it’s been through the wringer after only a few uses.

Quince 5-Ply Stainless Steel Pan

The Zwilling stainless steel skillet is formidably hefty; its ergonomic handle makes the 8-inch and 10-inch models easy to handle, but for most people, the 12-inch model will be a two-handed operation. Flour toasted unevenly in our first test; oddly, instead of burning in the center before the heat radiated outwards, the flour on one side of the pan toasted considerably faster than the other. We took this into account when sauteing onions, being sure to stir them regularly — a good call considering that this pan goes from cold to rocket-fuel hot in less than 30 seconds.

We needed to rotate the chicken thighs needed in order to crisp evenly on the stovetop, and the Zwilling’s well-balanced design made transferring it to the oven easy. It didn’t take much to get the fond to release from the bottom of the skillet once we deglazed it, letting us pull together a flavorful pan sauce in under a minute. Cleanup was easy, too, as the deglazing process left nothing behind for us to scrub.

Zwilling Spirit 3-Ply Stainless Steel Pan

The Misen 12-Inch Skillet has a chic minimalist design and impressive, even heat control, but we didn't love the user experience: the extra-long handle felt like it was always in the way and the angle was a little awkward.

The Anolon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Fry Pan is a good-looking pan with decent performance, but it showed some unevenness during the flour test and ultimately didn't rise out of the middle of the pack.

Anolon Triply Clad Stainless Steel Fry Pan

Predictably, the only disc-bottomed skillet we tested, Cuisinart Chef's Classic 12-Inch Skillet, trailed behind in nearly every test. The construction felt noticeably cheap, while the angle of the long handle was unwieldy. During tests, the cooking surface heated up fast and unpredictably in a way that required constant babysitting. It comes with a nice see-through lid, but many reviewers on Amazon report incidents of the glass shattering.

Cuisinart 722-30G Chef's Classic 12-Inch Skillet with Glass Cover

At under $50 for a set of two, we were highly unsure as to how well Amazon Basics’

stainless steel skillets would fare against the pricier, weightier competition. Color us surprised when they performed better than a lot of them. These pans are almost suspiciously light, to the point where we worry they might not stand up to years of use. However, this also means they’re outstandingly easy to handle, which is a big plus for anyone who struggles with heavy pots and pans.

Unlike most of the pans we tested, Amazon’s skillets have an aluminum core pan bottom, rather than being fully-clad stainless steel. But still, they conducted and distributed heat well, with flour toasting evenly from center-to-edge without interference, and onions quickly caramelizing to a uniform color.

When we flipped the chicken thighs, we were delighted to find the skin cooked towards the pan’s edges was just as brown and crispy as the skin towards the center. We were slightly worried that the thin stainless steel wouldn’t fare as well as it did on the stovetop, but 20 minutes in a 450℉ oven didn’t alter its integrity at all — and the chicken came out perfectly cooked to boot. The only hiccup we had with this skillet was during the deglazing, as it took some aggressive scraping with a wooden spoon to get the fond to release. Though there was a little left stuck to the pan after we made our sauce, it came off in seconds in the sink; sprinkling a bit of baking soda across the bottom of the pan before washing it with a soapy sponge left us with a sparking skillet that took less than 30 seconds to clean.

Amazon Basics 2-Piece Oven Safe Pans

Sardel is a decent mid market option which performed similarly to the Calphalon and Tramontina, but our testers did not care for the bulbous and bulky handle, which may be preferable to people with larger hands.

The Oxo was very thick and heavy, which meant that it heated slower than the others, and wasn’t as easy to handle.

Stainless Steel Pro 12-Inch Open Frypan

Kitchenaid’s 12-Inch skillet is an affordable choice, and the handle was more comfortable than we expected it to be, but the cook surface was the most inconsistent of the pans we tested in 2023.

KitchenAid 12-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet

Hestan is an Italian luxury appliance brand that has been carving a space in the high-end cookware market over the past few years. We tested two 12-Inch skillets from two different lines, both of which performed exceptionally well. Their ProBond line is their professional, 3-ply, fully bonded stainless steel line and a direct competitor to All-Clad D3. The pan had flush rivets—a luxury touch—that don’t collect gunk, and a slim, ergonomic handle that’s easy to manipulate with one hand. It also has sealed edges, which don’t risk the potential corrosion issue that less cared for All-Clad pans demonstrate. Performance-wise, the pan fell short to All-Clad’s even heat distribution, with a flour test burn pattern with heat concentrated in the center of the cooking surface. It is a worthy competitor to All-Clad, but we don’t feel that it’s design finishes performed well enough to justify spending $50 more than the D3, unless you find the aesthetics are worth it.

Hestan ProBond Stainless Steel Frying Pan

The NanoBond is a different story. This pan has a proprietary titanium cooking surface that is stronger, more scratch resistant, and heat-resistant. It has superior heat conduction to stainless steel pans, developing a gorgeous sear on chicken thighs a full 2 minutes before its stainless steel counterpart. Most noticeably however is how gorgeous the pan is. It has a a mirror-like luster that remains after repeated uses. You might be asking then, why this pan isn’t the winner? While it may be excellent, the whopping $450 price tag puts it into a category of its own that makes it unreasonable for a majority of home cooks. Plus, we also feel that it’s almost unfair to compare it to stainless steel pans, as it is not exactly a stainless-steel pan. However, it is a work of art, and the sort of thing we’d only recommend to a professional chef or a true, culinary gear head.

Hestan NanoBond Stainless Steel Titanium Frying Pan

For a budget-priced pan the Tramontina performed very well in our flour and onion tests. However, because of steeply sloped sides the Tramontina had one of the smallest interiors of all the pans we tested, which resulted in more inconsistent chicken browning.

Tramontina 12-Inch Stainless-Steel Tri-Ply Fry Pan

The Calphalon is a solid budget choice that will serve any cooking need you have for a stainless steel pan. Not only did it sear and roast well, but its spacious cooking area easily accommodated four chicken thighs. The one downside of this pan is its weight. At six pounds it was one of the heaviest pans we tested, which made hard to maneuver with one hand.

Calphalon Triply Stainless Steel 10-Inch Frying Pan

With steeply angled sides, the Babish pan’s design is somewhat of a cross between a classic stainless steel skillet and a perpendicularly-sided saute pan. This has advantages and disadvantages: While you get 11 inches of cooking area in this 12-inch skillet, it’s difficult to flip food with the flick of the wrist.

We were hopeful the increased amount of cooking area would be a boon, but alas, it doesn’t seem to be the case. It failed our flour test, with the flour in the center of the pan burning to black before the edges even began to toast; the onions also cooked unevenly, stubbornly sticking in spots and needing regular stirring to turn a uniform shade of gold.

We had the same issues when cooking chicken thighs — when it came time to flip, the skin towards the center was ultra-crispy and deeply browned, while the skin at the outer edge remained soft and pale. The Babish pan transferred easily to the oven, and did ultimately deliver pan-roasted thighs that were succulent and juicy. However, much of the fond stubbornly stuck to the bottom when we deglazed the pan, and it took two rounds of vigorous scrubbing with baking soda and an abrasive sponge to finally remove it.

Babish 12 Inch Stainless Steel Triply Fry Pan w/Stainless Lid

For more cookware reviews, check out our tests for the best dutch ovens, the best cast iron skillets, and the best nonstick frying pans.

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