Nonstick pans that work (and keep working)
Getting a pan and having the nonstick coating wear off in a couple months is pretty disappointing. Luckily there are some quality options for 10- and 12-inch pans under $30.
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This is good for multiple reasons:
- Because we all save money! $30 is easy to fit into a budget.
- Even good pans lose their nonstick coating eventually. Even if it’s great quality, and even if you treat it right. It’s sad but unavoidable.
Personally, I love buying things that will last forever, but this is a kitchen item that you will HAVE to rebuy. So cheap is extra important because this will be something you’ll be buying again. But if you get one that lasts for 4 years, then your cost averaged over the years is only about $8/year. And that’s for a quality version of an absolutely necessary item. I still like to get things that last a lifetime, but a $8 yearly cost is easy on my income. Also, a quick possible safety issue.
Ideally your pan would also be APEO– and PFOA-free. These have been found to cause issues in lab animals in Europe and the USA, respectively. No one has done studies on humans as yet, but I prefer to limit my risk when possible, and it is possible. Enough with the things you SHOULDN’T have. Onto the good stuff!
Features you need
A good, durable nonstick coating!
This means you should NOT buy anything with a ceramic coating. It wears out far too quickly and you’ll be left trying to justify the price and headache of buying a new one in a year instead of 3-4 years. Avoid anything with the words: ceramic coating, silica, sol-gel, silicone oil. A good coating is made with some version of polymer, also known as PTFE (not PFOA! No, PTFE isn’t bad, and yes, it’s confusing). Teflon is a good example of one such coating, but different companies have different ones they use that are all PTFE. However, they still need to stand up under scrutiny! Not all polymer coatings were created equal.
Even heat distribution!
Second only after a safe nonstick coating. This can vary widely even among pans constructed with the same materials, but tri-ply construction is agreed to be the best for even heating and browning. But there could definitely be a well-constructed aluminum pan that outperformed a shoddily-made tri-ply pan. There’s no one factor that determines pan excellence.
The correct size!
This will vary depending on your needs of the day. What are you cooking? How many are you cooking for? However, a 10-inch pan is a solid choice and if you don’t have one, you need one! A 12-inch is less necessary for some homes, but is my personal favorite for fried and scrambled eggs. If you’re unsure, you can stick with the 10-inch. If you’re like me, you’ll get both.
The right shape!
I’m an expert consumer but an amateur cook, and the only way I flip my frying food is with a spatula. But the professional versions of items are usually better designed, so I decided to look at pans with a nice flared edge that a real chef could love.
– BEST NONSTICK PAN –
Best 10-inch Nonstick pan – Ozeri 10-Inch Stainless Steel Pan
After reviewing many, many options, the Ozeri 10-Inch Stainless Steel Pan has the best design and the highest consensus of favorable opinion. With its flared edge for easy flipping and its tri-ply construction for even heating and browning, this should yield evenly cooked, delicious-looking food whenever you need it. It’s very nice to find a really good tri-ply pan under $30. It also works with induction stovetops, so no worries for those of us without electric or gas stoves. It’s APEO- and PFOA-free, which is a rare combo. It’s fairly easy to find an excellent PFOA-free nonstick pan, but a pan that’s free of both is more difficult to find.
Next, the lid:
In addition, I was very happy to see that the Ozeri has a matching lid that can be purchased separately. A lot of the pans reviewed did not have a matching lid, which disappointed me. Some of those pans were good, but I don’t want to go on a treasure hunt trying to find a lid that sort of, almost fits my pan. Aside from the hassle of finding one you think will fit, a lid that doesn’t quite fit is just annoying.
Besides all the quality, durability, heat distribution, etc etc, I love how this pan looks. It’s not the highest feature on my list, but it certainly will add to the look of my kitchen which is definitely a plus. With the proper care and no abuse this should last at least 3 years. I can’t prove longer than that, but my hope is my kitchen will see 6 years with this pan. It’s solidly built, so it’s simply a matter of how long the coating lasts. Things which will hurt your pan are:
- Metal utensils. Don’t do it, ever.
- Scrubbing with abrasive materials. This can scratch off the nonstick coating on the pan.
- Using cooking spray. Applying nonstick cooking spray will adhere to your pan and accumulate, eventually making it sticky. Weird but true.
It’s dishwasher safe, though to be as gentle as possible I recommend you only hand-wash it. The limited lifetime warranty will not cover abuse or normal wear and tear, which is true of all nonstick pan warranties that I’ve seen. All nonstick pans wear out, so they can’t promise it won’t. But it will cover you from manufacturer defects like a loose handle, which is good. Just don’t hope that they’ll replace your pan when the coating finally gives out or you’ll be disappointed. This pan is $27.58 at the time of posting, but I’d still put this one first for anything under $40. If it’s over that, it’s a toss-up between this and my second choice, the TeChef.
– SECOND PLACE –
TeChef 12″ Wok / Stir-Fry Pan, PFOA-free
The only things that really knocked this down from first place, for me, is the shape and that it’s not APEO-free. It is essentially tied with the Ozeri in quality, heat distribution, and non-stickiness. However I personally wasn’t looking for a stir-fry pan, and I wanted the flared edge and more flattened shape of the Ozeri. The sides of this are just a little steeper than I was looking for. But the more I look at it the closer I get to deciding I need one. I do love stir-fry…
This also has the matching lid available which I really prefer. And this is a very cool lid, I love the handle.
A ten-inch size of the TeChef is also available, but with the deep sides you’ll likely want the 12-inch so more food has direct contact with the frying surface.
– BEST SET OF TWO PANS –
All-Clad Aluminum Nonstick PFOA Free 8-Inch and 10-Inch Fry Pan Set
If you need both an 8- and a 10-inch pan, it’s worth spending a little extra for the All-Clad versions. All-Clad is an extremely reputable brand and will perform reliably on heat distribution, quality of build, durability. Their products are also consistently PFOA-free.
– OTHER CONTENDERS –
Calphalon Contemporary Aluminum Nonstick Omelette Fry Pan
Calphalon has a lot of fans, and for good reason, so I’d be remiss if they didn’t get an honorary mention. This is a really nice pan with 3 layers of nonstick (the TeChef has 5 layers). The heat distribution is just a little unreliable, but it’s definitely a solid, quality pan that will last a long, long time.If you’re looking for brand recognition, this is probably the pan for you.
All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply PFOA-free Non-Stick Fry Pan
There are no problems (no problems. Really) with this except the price. If you are looking for the best, you found it in the tri-ply All-Clad pans. This is an exceptional pan, one that any All-Clad-less chef will look at with longing. If you can afford it, please get it and tweet a picture of the food you make so those who don’t have the pleasure of using it can have some vicarious satisfaction from this professional-level pan.
Amazon’s Choice T-fal Total Nonstick Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator Fry Pan 12.5 Inch
There’s a some good things about this pan, namely the price is competitive with the Ozeri, but it does not have a completely flat bottom… which kind of shocked me. It rises slightly in the middle so your eggs slink away to hide at the edge of the pan. Also omelettes will end up a little thicker at the edges than the middle and not cooked quite evenly. Heat distribution is good and the red indicator showing when the pan is pre-heated is nifty, but for me, the non-flat bottom took this right out of the running.
– DARK HORSE –
Lodge LCS3 Cast Iron Chef’s Skillet Pre-Seasoned
If you don’t know what “pre-seasoned” means, this is the wrong pan for you. I actually really like the process of seasoning a cast iron skillet and cooking with it. It’s also hard to ignore the price tag. If you’re already a cast-iron cook, this is a steal. It’s heavy, and it takes preparation before the first use, but its versatility is hard to beat and unlike the nonstick pans, with proper care this will last forever. You can put this on your grill or in your oven at 500 degrees Fahrenheit, no problem. If you’re looking to cook pizza, for example, this is one of the best ways outside of a commercial pizza oven to achieve that nice, crispy crust. And a commercial oven costs just a little more than $15.