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The Best Stainless-Steel Skillets
Perfect searing, flavorful sauces, and stove-to-oven versatility make stainless-steel frying pans essential to home kitchens. Which is best?
Last Updated Feb. 28, 2023. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 20: Springtime Feast
What You Need To Know
Our favorite stainless-steel skillet is the All-Clad D3 Stainless 12” Fry Pan with Lid and has been for several decades. Its fully clad construction helps it heat responsively and brown evenly. Its broad cooking surface provides ample room for searing and sautéing, and gently flaring sides allow moisture to evaporate quickly and let you pour from the pan easily. On the whole, the skillet is relatively lightweight and sturdy but well-balanced. It has a well-designed stay-cool handle, so it’s especially easy to lift and maneuver. And while it’s not cheap, it’s durable—a worthy investment for home cooks.
What You Need to Know:
We love stainless-steel skillets in the test kitchen. While cast iron, carbon steel, and even nonstick have been elbowing them out of the limelight, they’re still our top choice for achieving golden, uniform browning and developing fond, the secret weapon of chefs. Those browned bits of stuck food are the source of deeply flavorful dishes and pan sauces—but only if you have a high-quality skillet; bad pans leave fond that’s skimpy or scorched. We appreciate these all-metal pans for their ability to go from the stovetop to the oven, where we finish cooking thicker cuts of meat and fish, bake skillet pies, and skillet-roast whole chickens. Unlike carbon-steel or cast-iron pans, stainless doesn’t react to acidic foods, so you can cook without fear of metallic flavors or damaging the pan’s seasoning—plus, stainless will never wear out like nonstick will. If you want perfect searing, deeply flavorful sauces, and cook-anything, stove-to-oven versatility for a lifetime, you need a stainless-steel skillet.
What Size Skillet Should You Get?
We think that a 12-inch skillet is the best size for most cooks, providing plenty of room to cook for as many as six people.
Slightly smaller 10-inch skillets can also be a good choice if you have limited storage space or regularly cook for two to four people.
And 8-inch skillets are useful for small tasks, such as toasting nuts or browning butter.
Are Expensive Skillets Worth the Money?
Yes, up to a point. Over the decades, we’ve tested dozens of stainless-steel skillets in a wide range of prices. We’ve found that less expensive skillets—usually those costing less than $100—are often problematic for one reason or another. They’re generally less well-made and less durable, warping or denting more easily, or having handles that loosen over time. They can be too heavy, making them difficult to lift and maneuver, or too lightweight, making them prone to warping. And they...
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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.
Valerie Sizhe Li
Valerie is an assistant editor for ATK Reviews. In addition to cooking, she loves skiing, traveling, and spending time outdoors.