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.
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.
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.
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.