From Season 9: The Crunchiest Pork Chops Ever
We’ve always recommended buying inexpensive nonstick skillets, because with regular use the nonstick coating inevitably scratches, chips off, or becomes ineffective. Why spend big bucks on a pan that will only last a year or two? Since our testing of inexpensive 12-inch nonstick skillets in 2006, several new pans have come on the market.
We rounded up 8 models priced under $60 and pitted them against our gold standard, the $135 nonstick skillet from All-Clad, to see how they measure up.
We sautéed onions and carrots, cooked thin fillets of sole, made omelets, and fried eggs (with no added fat) in each pan. We found that they all did an acceptable job cooking and releasing these foods. There were noticeable differences in sauté speed, but most home cooks know if their cookware runs a bit fast or slow and adjust accordingly; we did not factor sauté speed into our scoring.
Each skillet measures 12 inches from lip-to-lip, but we found plenty of differences in the usable cooking space. The actual flat cooking surface ranged from 9 inches (in four pans) to 10 1/2 inches, which can make all the difference when you need room to sear an extra pork chop or piece of chicken. Volume capacity ranged from a shade below 13 cups to 19-plus cups. Unless the pans were too heavy for some users, we think bigger is better. Testers also preferred pans with flared sides (which made maneuvering food easier).
Our testers preferred handles made entirely of metal, which are securely riveted to the pan and can withstand higher temperatures in the oven. Three pans' handles consist of metal and heat-resistant silicone, but their heat resistance is limited to 400 degrees (per manufacturers’ recommendations). A skillet handle should also be comfortable, sturdy, and balanced, and it should stay cool during cooking. Finally, all testers disliked the helper handles on two of the skillets, which made the pans cumbersome to use on a stove filled with other pots and pans.
To gauge durability, we cooked 12-egg frittatas while doing several things that manufacturers specifically forbid in each pan: broiling, cutting with a sharp knife, removing the slices with a metal pie server, and washing with an abrasive metal scrubber. Two pans made it through these tests with only minimal scratching, while others were quite beat up.
The $135 All-Clad is still the best pan out there, but some of the cheaper pans performed nearly as well. You can buy four of our winning pan (and get change back) for the cost of the All-Clad. We also recommend another pan for the strong-armed cook.
Victorinox (formerly Victorinox Forschner) 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
|★ ★ ★||★ ★ ★||$19.95|
Wüsthof Classic Boning Knife
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasnt sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|★ ★||★ ★ ★||$99.95|
|Recommended with Reservations|
Mundial Boning Knife: Flexible
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
|★ ★||★ ★||$19.95|
Shun Gokujo Filet Knife
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
MAC Boning KnifeChef Series
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
Messermeister San Moritz Elite Flexible Boning Knife
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.