Consumer Reports Best Frying Pans of 2021
You can’t go wrong with these nonstick, cast-iron, carbon steel, copper, and stainless steel skillets from CR’s tests
By Mary H.J. FarrellLast updated: January 31, 2021A coated cast-iron frying pan being tested in CR’s cookware lab.When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn affiliate commissions. 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our nonprofit mission. Learn more.
There’s a reason the frying pan is the go-to piece of cooking equipment for so many cooks: versatility. You can use it to make everything from a grilled cheese sandwich to a sauce.
Consumer Reports tests five types of frying pans, from nonstick to copper, and we can help you zero in on the one to get. “We test all frying pans for cooking evenness, but many of the other tests are type-specific,” says Tara Casaregola, who oversees our frying pan ratings. “For example, we test cast-iron and carbon steel pans for cornbread baking and searing steaks, since they’re suited to high temperatures. Nonstick pans, on the other hand, are tested for their food release performance and the durability of the nonstick coating.”
Nonstick frying pans are the most popular type by far, and cast-iron skillets are making a comeback. If you’re stocking your kitchen from scratch, you can’t go wrong with either one. As you up your cooking game, you may want to branch out into stainless, carbon steel, or copper—but don’t feel like you have to own every type just to make a good meal. (To find out which frying pan is best suited for you, check out “Best Frying Pans for the Way You Cook.”)
For details on the top-scoring pan among every type we test, feast your eyes on the recommendations below. Bon appétit!
CR’s take: This nonstick, cast-aluminum frying pan from Swiss Diamond earns a Very Good rating for cooking evenness, and fried eggs slide easily out of the pan time after time. It earns our top rating for durability, withstanding the punishment of our steel wool abrasion test. Construction is sturdy, and the handle stays cool to the touch during cooking. The pan is dishwasher-safe and oven-safe up to 400° F, but it can’t be used on an induction cooktop.
For more choices, see “Best Nonstick Frying Pans From Consumer Reports’ Tests.”
CR’s take: The pricey Butter Pat, $295, is worth every penny. It aces our tests for baking cornbread and searing a juicy New York strip steak, and is the only cast-iron pan that earns a Very Good rating for heating evenness. At just over 6 pounds, it’s also one of the lighter models in our tests. Its handle gets hotter than the handles of other frying pans in our labs, though, so you’ll want to be careful handling it while cooking. The Butter Pat is sold only on the company’s website.
Check out other options in “Best Cast-Iron Frying Pans From Consumer Reports’ Tests.”
CR’s take: The Tramontina 80131/066DS excels at two crucial tasks for a cast-iron skillet—searing and browning. In our tests, we seared a New York strip steak and brown scallops. We also baked cornbread, for which this pan earns a Very Good rating—that’s on a par with most of the top cast-iron pans we test.
Find more models in “Best Cast-Iron Frying Pans From Consumer Reports’ Tests.”
Best Stainless Steel Frying Pan
Made In Cookware Stainless SteelPRICESOLD BY$75.00In stockMade In CookwareShop
CR’s take: This $75 frying pan is part of the Made In Cookware line and can be purchased on its own or as part of a set. The stainless steel pan aces Consumer Reports’ cooking evenness test, meaning pancakes turn out evenly browned. But sautéing is only average. It can withstand hot oven temperatures, and the sturdy handle stays quite cool to the touch. This pan is also a cinch to clean. It’s sold on the Made In Cookware website.
For more, see our completed stainless steel frying pan ratings.
Best Carbon Steel Frying Pan
De Buyer Mineral B French Collection 5670PPRICESOLD BYSee OffersAmazonShop
CR’s take: Carbon steel pans have similar properties to cast iron in that they can take high heat and are great for searing. But they’re lighter and easier to lift when shifting from stovetop to oven, which is a great use for this pan. Like cast iron, they need to be seasoned, but they then develop a fine nonstick patina. In addition to searing meat, the De Buyer Mineral B French is good for baking, browning, and sautéing, earning Very Good ratings in those tests.
For more on the carbon steel pans we test, see our full cookware ratings.
CR’s take: The Brooklyn Copper Sauté is made by a small 10-year-old company. Each piece is handmade, which accounts for the $480 price. It tops all the uncoated pans in our ratings for performance, not just copper ones. The 9.5-inch pan is the only one in our copper skillet tests to earn an Excellent rating for cooking evenness. Sautéing performance was on a par with the four other copper pans in our tests; all earned a Good rating. The handle is sturdy and stays cool to the touch when the pan is in use. The pans are sold only on the company’s website.
Not all copper pans cost this much. You’ll find some less expensive options in “Best Copper Frying Pans From Consumer Reports’ Tests.”
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Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials “H.J.” A veteran of online and print journalism, I’ve worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.