The Best Nonstick Pans of 2020
The Tramontina is hard to beat. First off, this American-made pan is durable and safe. It's coated with 3 layers of industrial strength Whitford Corp. Eclipse fluoropolymer and it has the gold-standard National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certification. More to the point, this pan has near-flawless anti-stick properties. Never before have we used a spatula so little when making eggs and pancakes. The lack of food build-up in the skillet results in quick and easy cleaning, too. Additionally, the metal handle is covered with a removable silicone cover, so there's little concern for burns.
While we like the handle cover on this model, the length and weight of the appendage makes the pan prone to tipping off small burners when empty. Additionally, we found that models with riveted on handles — such as the Tramontina — offer a place for cooking food to gain purchase. Thus, clean-up time can increase. Aside from these minor critiques, we were quite impressed with the performance of this professional grade product as perfect pancakes, eggs, and fish steaks slid onto the plate without the slightest residue remaining in the pan.
There are a lot of concerns about the health implications of using non-stick materials to cook food. As such, stone coated cookware has gained popularity. Of the stone cookware tested for this review, the Ozeri Stone Earth frying pan produced results competitive with the best pans in the class. This pan is on the smaller end of the group, making it perfect for fried eggs and omelettes. We didn't have any issues with stuck food when testing pancakes (we could flip cakes without the aid of a spatula), omelettes, and fish.
The main issue encountered with the Ozeri was that the tight diameter combined with the relatively steep sides of the pan made it hard to use a spatula if, for example, a pancake filled the majority of the cooking surface. Additionally, the handle is attached with three rivets that tend to hold food that would otherwise slide right out of the skillet. That said, we were quite pleased with the performance of this novel nonadhesive surface as cleaning was a breeze and the plated food was of restaurant quality.
If you're willing to pay for long term quality, then there is no better choice than the Scanpan HAPTIQ 8" frying pan. Scanpan takes craftsmanship seriously. From the 5-layer recycled aluminum and stainless steel body to the professional grade Stratanium+ nonadhesive coating to the mirror polish exterior, this pan is built to stand up to metal utensils and heavy use. Additionally, the pan is oven safe to 500º F and it offers superior heat distribution when on the range. There are no harmful chemicals in the surface material and the nonstick performance is without peer. We literally did not need a spatula when making pancakes, omelettes, or searing fish.
The main issue that we had with this product is the cost. The asking price of this pan is quite a bit higher than other high performing models. Moreover, with the attention to detail that Scanpan displays in the design and manufacturing that they could have eliminated the rivet heads securing the handle to the pan. The problem here is that the rivet heads present a weak point in the cooking surface where food can adhere. Other than these minor points, we think that this pan, and the company that makes it, is exceptional and worth the cost. As an added incentive, the pan is one of the few that carries a lifetime guarantee. For those looking for inexpensive cookware, we're inclined to remind them that when you buy cheap, you often buy twice.
The Le Creuset is not a true nonadhesive pan. However, we included it in our analysis as a point of comparison and found it to be quite competitive in certain areas, as well as offering a great deal more uses than the other models in the class. For one, the enamel coating is super durable, capable of handling the highest of heats. The cast iron core of the pan also offers superior heat distribution and recovery, meaning that the surface temperature is even and when food is added that would otherwise cool that surface, cast iron maintains its temperature.
These clear advantages aside, we must admit that the enamel surface is not nearly as effective as coated pans when it comes to preventing food adherence. For example, the Le Creuset is decidedly not an omelet pan and was the only model in our review to fail this test. Additionally, the pancake and seared fish evaluations revealed sticking issues in the absence of lubrication such as butter or oil. The pan is also quite heavy (5 lbs. 6 oz.), making pan tossing almost impossible. Finally, this product is pricey. That said, this pan is truly oven-safe at the highest of heats making it possible to cook both on the stovetop as well as under the broiler. Moreover, the pan is extremely durable such that we see Le Creuset cookware passed down as heirlooms or fetching high prices at thrift stores — a fact that does much to mitigate the initial sticker shock.
The Carote Deep Frying Pan stands out from the class as a more versatile piece of cookware. The lid and the deep sides make it possible to use the pan as a wok of sorts, as well as a frying pan. The angle of the sides promotes pan tosses of mixed veggies and searing meats. The lack of rivets securing the handle results in less elbow grease when it's time to clean as there are no weak points in the pan interior for food to grab onto and harden. Finally, the addition of a lid makes steaming and low heat simmering possible.
The Carote's design offers a variety of uses to a cook. However, its generalist nature means that it doesn't do any one thing particularly well. For example, the deep sides of the pan obstruct the spatula, making it hard to slide the blade under eggs and pancakes. At the same time, the middling volume of the pan means that it can't accommodate large serving recipes and the composite handle limits the oven-safe temperature to 350º F. Finally, stone coating rendered below average results when compared to its traditional nonstick counterparts. Despite these limitations, this pan offers users a variety of cooking options that can fill in the gaps left open by traditional cookware sets.
The Calphalon Contemporary pan is great for making big meals. One of the primary frustrations that we experienced with the other frying pans in the class was that their diameters limited the amount of food we could cook at one time — particularly when it came to pancakes. The lid helps to expand the types of meals one can make with this cookware and, with an oven-safe temperature of 450º F, the culinary horizons are further expanded. The non-stick coating is reasonably effective, though it wouldn't hurt to grease the pan for delicate items such as tuna and beaten eggs.
All of our stick tests were conducted sans grease, however, and the Contemporary showed its average quality coating as a result. We had issues with fish and eggs releasing, though the results were not catastrophic. For example, we were still able to flip and fold an omelet. Another issue we encountered was the heat transferred to the loop handles which required us to use a pot holder when working the contents of the pan. That said, this pan was great for slow simmers of red sauces where sticking/ burning must be avoided and whipping out large numbers of pancakes in a hurry. All and all, this pan is a go-to for big meals.
The All-Clad HA1 is a heavy-weight in the class of nonstick cookware. It's hefty to be sure, but it's also quite large with a 12 ⅛" diameter and an 8 ¾" handle. As such, it's a go-to for those looking to make big meals. The pan also comes standard with a glass lid, thus adding to the diversity of cooking techniques it can accommodate. Additionally, the pan and lid are rated to 500º F in the oven — a real boon for those tackling complex recipes.
As is often the case, a product's pros can also be cons within certain contexts. For instance, the sheer size of this pan may be more than one's range or kitchen can handle. On a small burner, heat is poorly distributed across the wide cooking surface and the long handle is easily bumped in a busy kitchen. Given these proportions, it won't come as a surprise that this pan was not preferred for flipping and folding omelettes, though the generous real estate is an advantage for pancakes. Finally, the nonadhesive coating is decent but not great, and will likely require greasing in time. That said, this pan performed admirably, and considering its competitive price, it will satisfy most users.
The smaller pans in the class have a distinct advantage when cooking eggs, particularly omelettes, and the Anolon Advanced is no exception. This 8 ½" skillet with flared walls makes pan tossing eggs, pancakes, and even fish a breeze. Moreover, the nonstick coating worked wonders on even the most adhesive foods in our tests.
On the flip side, the Anolon if fairly limited. It doesn't come with a lid and, while the "sure grip" handle proves good purchase, it really isn't suited for use in the oven despite the oven-safe rating. Finally, its three layers of nonstick coatings do not inspire confidence in the long term durability as the surface showed some wear after our testing was complete. Despite these shortcomings, we think that this pan is a great choice for a dedicated egg pan as the finished product will come sliding out onto a plate with little to no resistance.
The T-fal E76597 is more of a sauté pan than a frying pan. As such, it didn't thrive in the tests we ran it through (i.e. pancakes, omelettes, and searing fish). Mostly this is because the pan has tall, vertical sides. That said, when used for appropriate tasks, such as making sauces, deep-frying, and, you guessed it, sautéing, the pan performs well.
While we thought that this pan had some interesting features that we wanted to add to our comparative analysis, we were not completely sold on the quality of the pan. The aluminum seems a bit flimsy and the heat indicator at the center of the cooking surface is a bit gimmicky. Lastly, the T-fal started to show a reduction in food release towards the end of our testing. This issue was most notable when searing tuna as there was a significant amount of crispy residue left in the pan following the flip, which required a spatula unlike some of the competition. Despite these misgivings, we think that there is a place for this sauté pan in many kitchens when used for the right tasks.
Why You Should Trust Us
Seasoned cookware experts Michelle Powell and Nick Miley headed up this review of nonstick pans. Collectively, this duo has over 30 years of culinary experience in both the professional and home cooking arenas. Michelle has been a barista, baker, and café manager, while Nick has been called the Mike Plant of home cooking. Whether it's searing Mahi Mahi for friends after a successful fishing trip or folding crepes during a Sunday rush, these two are overly familiar with the value of a good nonstick surface in an active kitchen.
This review began with a thorough investigation of the leading nonstick pans commonly available. We researched over 100 products, reading consumer comments as well as seeking professional insight from a line chef and a short-order cook. After careful consideration, we reduced the candidates and bought the best pans of various sizes for hands-on testing. Our team then got to cooking the stickiest foods we could think of where a quality nonstick surface stands between professional and mediocre results.
Analysis and Test Results
Our evaluation of nonadhesive pans, specifically their food release performance, relied on three recipes that are best made on a nonstick surface. Namely, these are sourdough pancakes, country omelettes, and seared yellowfin steaks. These foods are both sticky and delicate. As we did not grease any of the pans during testing, the desired outcome depended solely on the nonadherent quality of the pan's coating. Additionally, we assessed the ease of use which includes size, weight, dimensions, number of plies of coating, whether a lid is included, and the cleaning difficulty. The following is a rundown of the tests' details and the best performing products.
One of our favorite breakfast treats is sourdough buttermilk pancakes. These tasty morsels are best rendered light and fluffy with a thin golden-brown crust on either side. The great benefit of a quality nonstick pan with this recipe is that it eliminates the need for grease that has the potential to make the cake soggy. At the same time, the cakes will have a smooth, even crust. The Tramontina, Ozeri, and Scanpan excelled at this task as all met the highest standard of being able to lightly shake loose the cake, flip it, and then slid it onto a plate all without the use of a spatula. The Anolon, Carote, and Calphalon were close seconds, requiring a slight budge to break their bond with the cooking surface.
Each pan was heated for 10 minutes before pouring one cup of batter onto the non-greased surface. The first cake was not scored but was used to assure the correct temperature. We made both blueberry and plain cakes, making four cakes in total. Their scores are on a scale of one through five. A score of one was a total failure, two meant the cake stuck to the pan and fell apart when a spatula was used. Few of the products received such low marks. Most fell into the three to four range, meaning the cake stuck but maintained its integrity when flipped, or better yet, it was easily freed with a spatula. A true five, such as the Scanpan, could cook the cake from batter to plate without the use of a spatula.
There are many ways to cook an omelet, however, we focused on a country-style method that flips the egg cake before adding the filling and then folding when the underside is done. Scored similarly to the pancake test described above, the omelet test revealed which pans' coatings effectively resisted the adherence of foods heavy in proteins and fat. Given the previous performance of the Tramontina and the Scanpan, it should come as no surprise that these smooth operators dished out professional results. They flipped the egg cake with ease and not a little bit of flare. The Anolon got into the mix as well, showing that the small diameter pans offered a distinct advantage for shaping, flipping, and folding so long as their coating was up to the task.
As with the pancake test, we were looking for pans that required little input from our spatula to release the food. A five then would be a pan that required a spatula only to fold the egg over the filling. The dreamy Scanpan epitomized this score. A one, such as was given to the La Creuset, is a complete failure as the egg was irreparably bonded with the ungreased pan.
While not necessarily the stickiest, yellowfin is the most delicate of the three foods used to test the pans in this review. Additionally, the searing method we used to render the tuna steaks called for the highest heat of the three recipes. Thus, the moisture and oil that is released from the muscle quickly dries and hardens in every microscopic crease, crack, and pore. The usual suspects, the Tramontina and the Scanpan, topped the charts with almost no noticeable adhesion and only the slightest bit of residual marks on the pan. The Ozeri was close behind with a bit more stick, though no utensil was needed to free the steak for the flip.
As this recipe calls for searing, we heated the pan to "searing hot" which is medium-high on most stoves. For the heavy bottomed pans such as the Le Creuset, we allowed ten minutes of heating before we began. Five to eight minutes was enough for the other models. The steaks were placed in the center of the cooking surface and timed to 1 minute and 30 seconds to a side before removing. Those pans that did not require utensils to release the fish were highly rated. Those like the Calphalon that retained a big chunk of fish on their surface received lower scores. None of the pans utterly failed, but the Le Creuset surprise all that it outperformed many of the true nonstick pans in this evaluation.
Ease of Use
As the name suggests, the ease of use evaluation looks at the features and performance of the pans under review, and how, as a whole, they impact the user experience. Specifically, we delve into the difficulty of cleaning, pan dimensions, weight, whether it comes with a lid, and the number of plies of nonstick coatings. The last item on this list speaks to the durability of the pan as all nonstick coatings wear and fail in time. While all the pans have appealing ease of use features, none more so than the Tramontine. From the removable rubber panhandle, to the light weight, to the diameter, and the sidewall bevel, this pan is just nice to use.
While the Tramontina has 3 nonstick coatings, the Scanpan boasts 5 plies making it arguably the most durable and easiest to use for the longest period. For those looking for more real estate than these pans offer, both the Calphalon and the All-Clad have over 113 square inches of cooking area and come standard with glass lids — a definite boon if you're looking to simmer with a pan.
The Carote is an interesting pan as it has equally strong pros and cons weighing on its ease of use. The lack of a riveted handle makes cleaning a piece of cake as the nonstick coating is unbroken throughout the interior of the pan. It has a lid and it's light as well. However, the tall and steep sidewalls make it hard to flip eggs and the like.
This review provides a complete analysis of nonstick pans. Our hands-on tests use three recipes that are greatly benefited by the prevention of adhesion between the food and cooking surface. These are country omelettes, buttermilk pancakes, and seared tuna steaks. After cooking dozens of these courses we can definitively say which pans performed best and why. The above analysis is curated to make direct comparisons possible so that you can make your next nonstick frying pan selection with ease and accuracy. With that in mind, here's to showy pan tosses, perfectly fried eggs, and the satisfaction of a good meal. Bon appétit.
— Nick Miley