F&W’s Kristin Donnelly tried out 50 cast-iron, stainless steel and nonstick skillets to pick the best. Here, the winners, plus ideal recipes for each type of pan.

November 01, 2008

Cast-Iron Pans

There are two kinds of cast-iron skillets: regular and enameled. Both heat evenly, if slowly, so they’re great for cooking pancakes and searing meat. They’re also good at keeping oil hot for frying and can withstand the high temperatures of an oven or grill.

Recipe: Cornmeal Pancakes with Maple-Cranberry Butter 


Stainless Steel Pans


Stainless steel pans are superdurable, versatile (they can go from stovetop to oven) and easy to care for. Cooks love them precisely because they do what nonstick skillets don’t—make food stick (slightly) to the bottom. The crusty browned bits left in the skillet after searing meat are crucial for making a sauce.

Recipe: Chicken Breasts with Apricot-Onion Pan Sauce 


Nonstick Pans


These skillets require little or no fat to prevent food from sticking, which makes them indispensable for preparing delicate egg dishes, crêpes and fish. To protect the nonstick coating, never expose the skillet to high heat; many manufacturers also recommend adding some kind of fat before preheating.

Recipe: Pan-Seared Cod with Preserved-Lemon Aioli