Our Picks for the Best Frying Pan
What makes the KitchenAid so much better than the competition? Consistency. While some pans performed well in some areas and poorly in others (the Frieling Black Cube Fry Pan, for example, seems to have an indestructible nonstick coating, but we couldn’t get a clean egg flip) the KitchenAid ranked either at the top or near the top through every test. It’s the Meryl Streep of pans.
We were impressed with the KitchenAid pan pretty much as soon as we took it out of the box. It has a particularly comfortable handle that makes it easy to balance the pan’s 2.5-pound heft (about the median weight of all 10 pans we looked at) and once we started testing, it continued to deliver, competing with — if not outperforming — pans that were up to twice as expensive. Every time we took the KitchenAid pan off the burner or out of the oven, we found ourselves saying, “This is a really great pan.” The majority of 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon and the KitchenAid website agree.
How many plys?
Of our top picks and honorable mentions, two pans are tri-ply: the KitchenAid Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Nonstick Skillet and the All-Clad Stainless Nonstick Fry Pan. The All-Clad d5 Stainless Nonstick Fry Pan, the Demeyere 5-Plus Nonstick Fry Pan, and the Swiss Diamond Nonstick Clad Nonstick Fry Pan all have five layers — which helps explain why they are typically more expensive than the tri-ply options.
At around $100 (we’ve seen it for as low as $60), the KitchenAid hits a sweet spot between quality construction and “so expensive you’ll think twice.” It’s oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and boasts tri-ply construction (think toilet paper, and you’re on the right track), which is a pretty common feature in the best frying pans. “Tri-ply pans are widely used in commercial and test kitchens,” food writer Ruzielle Ganuelas explained. “You need that layer of copper sandwiched between the aluminum for even heat distribution, and it also heats up the pan a lot faster than regular pans.” Of the 10 pans we tested, the KitchenAid stayed on the cooler side, which resulted in steak that had a more even sear compared to, say, the hotter Copper Chef — even though both cooked the meat to about the same rareness in the same amount of time.
Our fried eggs left comparably little egg white residue post-flip, and cornbread lifted right out of the pan onto our spatula cleanly and evenly. Cleaning this pan was easy too: A simple swipe of a soapy sponge left it looking shiny and new. Compare that to the Williams Sonoma pan, which needed a lot of elbow grease to get food residue off, and the Swiss Diamond, which was so heavy it was hard to maneuver in the sink.
The KitchenAid’s limited lifetime warranty doesn’t cover normal wear and tear, just manufacturer and workmanship defects — wobbly rivets, for example, or a nonstick coating that rubs off. But when we actively tried to damage the pan, we had a really hard time getting any results. Smashing the pan against a concrete step didn’t leave a dent, just a tiny chip on the pan’s backside. Scraping a metal fork across the pan 10 times left faint marks, but the nonstick coating remained intact.
A few things to note: Although we were able to successfully fry eggs and release cornbread without any added lubricants, you’ll probably want to add a little butter or oil if you want a truly slippery experience, like you get with our budget pick, the Copper Chef. Also, even though it’s dishwasher safe, the KitchenAid’s care instructions suggest hand washing in hot, soapy water may “extend the life” of the pan. It also recommends you bring liquids to a boil before adding salt to keep white dots or pits from appearing on your nonstick surface.
We’re going to be honest: We expected this pan to fail. Anything with the bright red “As Seen on TV” logo comes with instant skepticism (remember the Ped Egg?), but the more we tested the Copper Chef Nonstick Pan, the more impressed we were. It’s just so… not sticky.
Case in point: The Copper Chef gave us the best fried egg in our tests and it was the easiest egg to fry. Although the KitchenAid did very well in this test, there was still a slight resistance — that is, a little bit of stick — when we slid in our slotted turner and tried to flip the egg without breaking its yolk. The Copper Chef had no resistance at all. It was as if the pan were made of ice and our egg was landing a perfect double axel.
It’s definitely not a perfect piece of cookware. You’ll want to use a hot pad or an oven mitt while stovetop cooking. The majority of the pans we tested, including the KitchenAid and the All-Clad pans, had handles that stayed cool while we fried eggs and seared steak. The Williams Sonoma handle got a little warm. The Copper Chef handle got notably hot.
You’re also going to want to avoid banging it around your kitchen. It’s the lightest of the pans we tested — only 1.5 pounds — and that comes through in its handling. Even though it made it through our fork-scratch test without a mark, we managed to put a huge dent in it during our damage testing. Its instruction manual also points out that irreparable warping can take place if you wash it in too-cool water while it’s still hot.
So why, if the handle gets hot and the pan is susceptible to damage, are we counting the Copper Chef among our top picks? Two big reasons:
- Its nonstick capabilities are seriously impressive. Those commercials aren’t lying — eggs and even steak slide around on this pan like marbles on a tabletop, and that’s without adding oil.
- It’s only around 20 bucks, depending on where you buy it. For that price, we say give it to a college grad, knowing full well it won’t last the entire three to five years we’d expect from the KitchenAid.
There’s one more thing that makes the Copper Chef stand out — it’s one of the only pans we tested that’s not coated with PTFE — aka Teflon. (We initially looked at the Anolon Nouvelle Copper Nonstick Covered French Skillet, but its high-maintenance user manual precluded it from our tests — who owns copper polish?) The Copper Chef is aluminum (copper is just its color) with a Cerami-Tech ceramic nonstick coating. Ceramic coatings are known for not having the lifespan of PTFE — another reason for that $20 price tag — and we’ll discuss why PTFE isn’t the risk some consumers think it is a little later. But if you know you won’t be convinced that Teflon is okay, then the Copper Chef is a good option.
If the Copper Chef is a pan for college students, the All-Clad series is designed (and priced) for a more serious kitchen. We tested two All-Clad nonstick pans to see if the five alternating layers of steel and aluminum in the d5 were better than its tri-ply sister pan, the All-Clad Stainless Nonstick Fry Pan. We ended up liking both a lot — just not enough to outshine the KitchenAid.
From a performance standpoint, both did well across the board, with the tri-ply slightly outperforming the d5 in egg flipability and damage resistance. The tri-ply even edged out the KitchenAid in our egg test.
The d5 stands out by coming with a lid — one of only two nonstick pans among our top 10 that did. (The other was the sticky, tough-to-clean Williams Sonoma.)
We ended up preferring the KitchenAid to both the All-Clad models for a couple of reasons. First, their handles. The All-Clads’ handles have outer edges that dig into your skin a little when you grip them on the stove or while scrubbing in the sink. The KitchenAid pan handle, as we mentioned earlier, was so comfortable. Not a dealbreaker, but it’s noticeable — sort of like the difference between the window and aisle seat in first class.
The comfortable, easy-grip handle of the KitchenAid (right) compared to the edged version on both All-Clad pans.
Perhaps the more important differentiator: pricing. The All-Clad tri-ply pan runs around $135 (we found it for $115); the All-Clad d5 pan about $130. With similar construction, weights within ounces of each other, and near-equal performance, we couldn’t justify spending $50 more for an All-Clad. That said, if you’re already a fan of this very popular brand and prefer a matching kitchen, both these pans proved to be top performers.
Did you know you can purchase universal frying pan lids online? Just make sure the diameter of the lid matches the diameter of your pan.
Other (Heavier) Frying Pans to Consider
We were very impressed with both the Demeyere 5-Plus Nonstick Fry Pan and the Swiss Diamond Nonstick Clad Nonstick Fry Pan. Both pans did slightly less well at the egg test than our top picks, but excelled at the cornbread test, and are truly gorgeous to look at.
Top: Swiss Diamond Bottom: Demeyere
What stood out the most: their heft. Each is just under 3.5 pounds, the heaviest of all 10 pans we tested. Some cooks prefer a heavier pan that gives them more control for, say, flipping hashbrowns or tossing veggies. That said, our testers all preferred the KitchenAid and All-Clad pans (each is about a pound lighter), especially when imagining working with more food than just a single egg.
Another standout comes in pricing: $170 for the Demeyere and $150 for the Swiss Diamond. Yowch. At least the Swiss Diamond pan includes conflict-free diamond crystals in its nonstick coating.
A big part of this price increase is purely due to construction — namely, rivets. Rivets are what connect the handle to the skillet of slightly cheaper pans. They are rarely nonstick, which means food can get stuck to them as you cook, and they take a few extra scrubs to get totally clean. This doesn’t particularly affect the performance of the pan itself, but it is a sign of quality. All our top picks have rivets (although the KitchenAid’s have a nonstick coating); the Swiss Diamond and the Demeyere do not.
The KitchenAid’s rivets (left) feature a nonstick coating, which the All-Clad (top right) lacks. The Demeyere’s rivet-free interior (bottom right) could make for easier cleanup.