Maybe you think you’ve already found the best nonstick pans—and you’re obsessed. Or maybe you shy away from nonstick pans altogether because of safety concerns. Either way, if you’re a home cook, you probably agree that there are some cooking tasks—omelettes, crepes—where only nonstick pans will do.
We thoroughly tested twelve of the leading nonstick pans (five of which were ceramic) to determine which are the very best. We tested the pans straight out of the box, but also relied on anecdotal evidence from Epicurious editors and online reviewers who’ve owned the pans for at least a few years and can attest to how the nonstick coating ages over time. Keep reading to discover the best nonstick pans of 2020; for the specifics of how we tested, as well as tips on how to care for your nonstick pan, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Best Traditional Nonstick Pan: Zwilling Madura Plus
The Zwilling Madura Plus is quite possibly the best nonstick pan we’ve ever used. No matter how we cooked our eggs—scrambled, sunny-side-up, over-easy—they didn’t stick to the pan’s surface. In fact, the only reason you’d need oil or butter in this pan is for flavor (something we highly recommend). Since the core is made of forged aluminum, this pan has efficient heat distribution, meaning food cooks evenly and the pan heats up and cools down quickly. The four-layer Duraslide nonstick coating is free of PFOA (short for perfluorooctanoic acid, the red flag material used in Teflon), and Zwilling claims that its coating is 40 times more durable than traditional Teflon-coated pans. The pan is relatively lightweight and has a comfortable heatproof plastic handle (it’s oven-safe up to 300 degrees), and though you can use metal utensils on it, wooden or plastic ones are encouraged for longevity. Just be sure not to overheat the pan, as that’ll ruin the coating.
The pan performed well in all of our tests, creating evenly browned pancakes and a fried egg that straight-up slid off the pan and onto a plate. Numerous online reviews attest to the pan’s longterm longevity. It’s not easy to bang up and the nonstick surface truly doesn’t weaken over time. A few members of our staff have had the pan in multiple sizes for over a year and it’s still good as new.
Madura Plus 10-Inch Nonstick Frying Pan
Best Ceramic Nonstick Pan: GreenPan Paris Pro
Choosing the best ceramic pan was difficult because we’ve seen more ceramic pans lose their nonstickability over time than non-ceramic PFOA-free pans. Nonetheless, the GreenPan Paris Pro emerged as the clear winner. The pan is constructed from hard anodized aluminum (even heating!) and has a Thermolon Minerals ceramic nonstick coating that’s PTFE- and PFOA-free. It’s scratch-resistant, induction-compatible, and oven-safe up to 600 degrees—a huge benefit if you often cook with your nonstick pan in the oven.
We loved the look, feel, and heft of the pan—its medium weight was a breeze to use, and pancakes and eggs lifted perfectly off the slick surface. And of all the ceramic pans we tested, the GreenPan Paris Pro appeared to have the most long-lasting nonstick coating. Customers on Amazon report having had theirs for more than three years and seeing minimal signs of wear. One reviewer notes that he had to replace his after seven years, which compared to the other ceramic pans we tested, is a pretty good tenure.
The final bonus: this pan comes from GreenPan’s more economical Paris collection. (We also tested a nonstick pan from GreenPan’s pricier Venice line; more on that below).
GreenPan Paris 10-Inch Ceramic Nonstick Fry Pan
How We Tested Nonstick Pans
First, we cooked a pancake in each pan—no butter or oil allowed—to see how easily the pancakes flipped and how evenly they browned. Then, we fried an egg in each pan, again without using fat. Finally, we made scrambled eggs (once again, without oil or butter!), to check for even heating and how much residue would get left behind. We also took into consideration the weight of the pans, how quickly they heated up and cooled down, and how easy they were to clean. For each of the nonstick pans, we also evaluated the following factors.
1. How effective is the nonstick coating right out of the box?
This was a simple one: If we couldn’t flip a pancake, fry an egg, or make scrambled eggs, all without oil or butter, the pan wasn’t worth our time.
2. How quickly does it heat up? Is the heat evenly distributed?
We put about two tablespoons of water in each pan before turning on the burner. We timed how long it took for the water to boil or start “dancing around the pan.” We took note of the pans that were remarkably fast or insanely slow at heating up. We also looked at how the heat was distributed around the pan. When we flipped our pancakes, we looked for areas that were lighter and darker, which indicated cool spots and hot spots, respectively.
3. What material is the nonstick coating made of?
Once we split the nonstick pans into two camps—ceramic and non-ceramic—we researched the materials and chemicals in their respective coatings. We ruled out any pans made with PTFE, commonly known as Teflon, and PFOA, a manmade material found in Teflon.
4. How easy is the pan to clean? How heavy is it?
Outside of function, we considered how much work we had to put into caring for the pan. Was it easy to clean? Did it take up a lot of space due to an extra-long handle? Was it uncomfortably heavy?
5. Does the nonstick coating last?
Last but not least, we researched how the nonstick coating fared over time.
Other Nonstick Pans We Tested
In the ceramic category, we tested the Kyocera Ceramic Coated Nonstick Pan. Its proprietary coating is PTFE-, PFOA-, and cadmium-free, and it has a thick aluminum base clad with a stainless steel plate that makes for quick and even heat distribution. However, our senior food editor Anna Stockwell reported that the nonstick coating on one of her Kyocera pans stopped working, and indeed, some Amazon reviewers note that their coating stopped being effective after less than a year.
The Great Jones Large Fry (just 10 1/4-inches wide, so not that large), is aesthetically very pleasing, but tripped up on a few of the tests. While it heated quickly and made evenly browned pancakes, the fried egg stuck to the pan’s cooking surface; gently trying to nudge it free with a rubber spatula resulted in a broken yolk. It is also the most expensive of the ceramic category, at $65. We had high hopes for the Zwilling Carrara Pan, which has a beautiful white interior, but found that this nonstick coating also didn’t last for very long. And though the GreenPan Venice Pro performed similarly to the Paris pan, it has a stainless steel core that makes it noticeably heavier. We don’t see much benefit to using a nonstick pan with stainless steel core over an aluminum one.
We had a harder time finding a winner for the best traditional nonstick pan because so many performed well and came with rave staff reviews. The OXO Nonstick Pro was the largest non-ceramic pan we tested (12 inches) and performed very well across tests; it is slightly heavier than its competitors, but for only $40, it’s a worthwhile purchase if you’re often cooking for more than two people at a time. Epicurious Digital Director David Tamarkin stands by his All-Clad Nonstick Pan, which, like the other top performers, has an aluminum core and multiple layers of PFOA-free coating. Anna loves Scanpan’s Classic Fry Pan, which has an aluminum-coated body, is oven-proof up to 500 degrees, and is PFOA-free. In testing, it took a little longer than the others to come up to a high heat, but once up to temperature, it provided an effective nonstick surface for both our pancake and egg test.
We also liked the Cuisinart Contour Skillet —the metal handle and light pan felt good in our hands and heated up evenly and quickly, making it easy to cook with. However, we’re a bit skeptical of how safe the pan is for long-term use. We couldn’t find any information of what the coating is actually made of, and there’s no mention of it being PFOA- or Teflon-free. The Tramontina Professional Aluminum Nonstick Pan heated up extremely fast, and came with a nifty removable silicone grip sleeve for the handle, but after just one use, the light metallic bottom of the pan showed some signs of scorching.
Finally, we tested the nonstick pan from Made In, a newish direct-to-consumer company that also makes stainless steel cookware. It performed in the middle of the pack and is ultimately a fine choice, but we preferred skillets that were lighter weight and easier to maneuver.
If you want a safe, PFOA-free nonstick pan that lasts, go with the Zwilling Madura Plus. If you’re looking for a ceramic pan, go with the GreenPan Paris Pro, but know that in general, the nonstick coatings on ceramic pans don’t last as long as those on non-ceramic pans. Epi staffers also like the OXO Nonstick Pro, All-Clad Nonstick Pan, which is sold in a set of two, and the Scanpan Classic Fry Pans.
A Note on the Safety of Nonstick Pans: We’ve Come a Long Way Since Teflon
The original nonstick cooking product was Teflon, trademarked by DuPont in the early 1960s. Treated with PTFE—the chemical that puts the non in nonstick—these pans are the only true nonstick pans, with a surface that lets food slide right off. PTFE is safe for humans—and in fact, many other manufacturers have adopted the technology—but if you super-heat it (above 500ºF), the molecules can start to break down and release harmful gasses.
Still, this type of nonstick cookware has a bit of a bad reputation, because it used to be made with the chemical PFOA, which has been found likely to be a human carcinogen. That’s why you want to look for nonstick skillets with a “PFOA-Free” label.
Classic nonstick coated cookware has improved significantly over the years, and manufacturers have learned to apply better coatings to make the pans stronger, more scratch resistant and better heat conductors.
To find a safe nonstick pan that will be the most useful to you, ask yourself a few questions: Are you going to be heating your skillet above 500ºF? If not, then don’t worry about that PTFE. But if you are, and you’re worried about PTFE, then opt for a ceramic nonstick pan.
How to Keep Your Nonstick Skillet at the Top of Its Game
Now that you know which nonstick skillet to invest in, you probably want to know how to take care of it. Here’s how to keep your nonstick skillet performing at the top of its game!
Don’t let your nonstick skillet get too hot, especially if it’s empty.
While many nonstick skillets claim to be dishwasher safe, we recommend hand washing all nonstick cookware to extend its lifespan.
Wash your pan with soap and water every time. Even though your nonstick skillet might look clean after a quick wipe with a paper towel, you need to give it a real wash with soap and hot water to remove food residue. If you don’t, the next time you use your skillet any leftover food residue will burn on the pan, creating a film of burnt stuff over the nonstick surface. Just be careful not to scrub the surface with anything that’d scratch it, like steel wool.
Protect the surface of your pan when storing it. If you stack anything on top of it, protect the surface by lining it with a piece of paper towel or a dish rag to prevent scratching and denting.
Don’t abuse it. Seriously. Be nice. No banging, no scratching, no hitting, okay? And when possible, avoid metal utensils, though many new nonstick skillets claim to be impervious to metal utensils.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious