The 5 Best Stainless Steel Skillets for 2022

The Misen 12-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet, our top pick, has the cladding chefs look for.

In This Article

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Best Stainless Steel Skillets

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Skillets are not all the same. Their material drives their use. A non-stick skillet is best for eggs, omelets, or crepes, but you wouldn’t want to char a steak in it. Cast iron is excellent for many tasks, like searing or making gravy, but it’s heavy for most to saute in. A stainless steel pan is ideal for pan-roasting and sauteeing. And though stainless doesn’t perform well with searing or other high-heat cooking, it can slowly build a Maillard crust on meats and vegetables at low to medium heat – the secret is to let the pan heat for several minutes before adding oil or food. 

Pros don’t shy away from stainless steel pans in their home kitchens. “At the house, I use clad pans that have a layer of copper in between steel. They are practically indestructible and will last a lifetime,” says chef Isaac Toups. That cladding is key to performance and longevity in a stainless skillet, and below, we review the best stainless pans on the market. Read on for our full list and to learn why we chose the Misen 12-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet as Best Overall.

Best Overall: Misen 12-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet

Misen 12-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet

Amazon

Pros: The Misen offers excellent speed and evenness of heating at a reasonable price. 

Cons: Some users have complained about discoloring and uneven heating.

Misen offers a professional-level pan at an excellent value for the price when compared to similar manufacturers. Its 5-ply construction allows quick and even heating across most burner types, and the angles of the sides increase the cooking surface area without sacrificing heating consistency, avoiding overcrowding the pan. It has a sturdy, ergonomic handle, and the pan is balanced well enough that it doesn’t lean to the side when you pick it up to flip or shake food inside. The interior construction is durable enough to withstand using metal utensils, such as spatulas, and is easy to clean and dishwasher safe.

  • Construction: Stainless/Aluminum/Alloy
  • Oven Safe: Up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes

Best Splurge: Hestan NanoBond 12 ½-Inch Skillet

Hestan NanoBond 12 ½-Inch Skillet

Amazon

Pros: It’s lightweight, and the durability of the cooking surface resists staining and pitting, even when using metal utensils.

Cons: It’s expensive, and its weight can allow the pan to move while stirring or flipping.

If you’re going to go big, the Hestan is a good choice, bringing value for your dollar spent. First is the interior finish, which the manufacturer claims is four times stronger than stainless steel. It resists pitting, staining, and scratching, which frees you from relying on wood or silicone utensils. The sides are angled for more cooking area than pans of the same size. The handle is ergonomic and largely cool to the touch, while rivets that attach to the pan are flush – no protruding surface for food to stick makes cleaning easier.

The pan is gas-, electric-, and induction-friendly as well as dishwasher safe. When combining the responsiveness of the pan to heating and cooling, the ease of cleaning, and its durability and longevity, the price tag justifies the quality. The only downside we could find is that the lightweight design allows the pan to wander a bit on the stovetop when stirring or flipping without holding the handle.

  • Construction: Stainless/Aluminum/Titanium, Triple Bonded
  • Oven Safe: Up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes

Best Value: Tramontina 12-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet

Tramontina 12-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet

Amazon

Pros: It’s lightweight, heats evenly, and a reasonable price.

Cons: The angle of the sides decreases the cooking area and adds difficulty to flipping food in the pan.

When you’re looking for a pan that won’t break the bank but won’t disappoint, the Tramontina is worth a look. It offers a similar tri-ply construction to many of its competitors, providing quick, even heating. The sides slope a little too much, however, reducing the overall cooking area, and some find that the shape dictates a modified flipping technique. Yet, these are minor tradeoffs for the price. The pan is compatible with most cooktops, with the magnetic stainless steel adding induction tops to the mix. The riveted, oval handle is easy on the hands and stays cool through most cooking.

  • Construction: Stainless/Aluminum/Magnetic Stainless
  • Oven Safe: Up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes

All-Clad D3 Stainless-Steel 12-Inch Fry Pan

All-Clad D3 Tri-Ply Stainless-Steel Traditional Covered Fry Pan

Williams Sonoma

Pros: This pan has very good heating and response times and is easy to clean.

Cons: The angle of the sides cuts down on the usable cooking space, and it’s more expensive than its competitors.

Lids can be useful for keeping sauces or sauteed vegetables warm. They do trap condensation, so to be forewarned, anything kept covered in a skillet will lose its caramelization. That being said, there are still many applications where a lid will be useful. The All-Clad performs well in all areas, and it could be a contender for the Best Overall were it not for a slightly higher price. It has great heating and response times and heats evenly without hot or cold spots. The handle is comfortable, and the pan is easy to clean.

  • Construction: Stainless/Aluminum 
  • Oven Safe: Up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes

Best for High Heat: Made In 12-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet

12 inch stainless steel skillet

Amazon

Pros: High heat resistance and temperature responsiveness make this a good choice for pan roasting and sauteing.

Cons: The cooking surface size could be a little bigger, and it’s a bit expensive.

The Made In pan is an Italian-made, reasonably-priced kitchen workhorse. Like most stainless pans, it works best at low-to-medium heat, but it can withstand oven temperatures of up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Its 5-ply design provides even heating and responsiveness to heat and cooling, meaning that your sauces won’t over-reduce or break from heat retention after removing them from the burner. The angle of the sides reduces the usable cooking area to 9 1/2 inches, but that’s still a considerable amount of room to cook without overcrowding. The handle fits well in your hand for flipping and is solidly riveted to the body to increase stability.

Chef Brandon Rice gives them his endorsement: “They are incredibly well-made pans that will last a long time as long as you take care of them. These are the pans we use at Ernest, and I also use them at home,” he says.

  • Construction: Stainless/Aluminum/Ferritic 403
  • Oven Safe: Up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Dishwasher Safe: Yes

Our Favorite

Misen 12-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet edged out the competition for its quality and price point. The Made In 12-Inch Stainless Clad Frying Pan is an excellent choice for higher temperature use with just a slightly higher price tag.

Factors to Consider

3-Ply vs. 5-Ply

Stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat. Hence, manufacturers started layering, using the stainless as an exterior finish and then layering a more conductive metal between the stainless. The more conductive metal is usually aluminum or copper, which evenly spread heat without immediately scorching the pan and food as stainless is prone to do on its own. The number of plies refers to the number of layers of metal bonding. 

So, 5-ply is better, right? Not necessarily: the thickness of the layers is what really determines the conductivity and resistance to warping. When judging a 3-ply pan vs. a 5-ply pan where the 3-ply is thicker than the 5-ply, we recommend going with the 3-ply.

Diameter

As a rule of thumb, a 10-inch pan will be suitable for cooking for two to three people, while a 12-inch pan is appropriate for four to six. Of course, this all depends on what you’re putting in the pan. A 12-inch pan won’t cook five pork chops, for example. 

It’s also a good idea to look at the usable cooking area of the pan. A 12-inch pan is the diameter measured at the top of the pan. The sides taper from the rim to the bottom, so the slope angle dictates the actual area you’ll be cooking on. Some manufacturers claim their pans offer as much as 20 percent more cooking space than their competitors based entirely on the tapering of the sides.

Handle Design

Handle design is important in that you can support the pan's weight and its contents without losing your grip and the pan tilting or dropping it. A longer handle will keep your hand away from the cooktop's heat, but it adds to instability. 

Do you plan on putting the pan in the oven for pan roasting? Ensure that the handle is of a length that will fit both in the oven in general and between the oven racks. Finally, the pan needs to feel right in your hand. If it digs in from being narrow or is too wide for you to grip comfortably, the pan may not suit you.

The Research

For this piece, we spoke with Brandon Rice, chef and owner of Ernest in San Francisco, and Isaac Toups, cookbook author, chef, and co-owner of Toups Meatery in New Orleans. We gathered their thoughts on what they looked for when buying stainless steel pans for themselves. We then combined their insights with our expertise to comb the leading brands for the best matches.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is a fully clad skillet?

    A fully clad skillet construction consists of a minimum of three layers of bonded metal: a layer of stainless steel, a layer of a more conductive metal, and another layer of stainless steel. Some manufacturers only clad the bottom of the pan, whereas full cladding refers to the bonding encompassing the entirety of the pan's body.

  • Do you need to season a stainless steel pan?

    There are several videos showing how to season a stainless steel pan out there on the Internet, but the worth of that process is questionable. Some manufacturers don’t mention the issue of seasoning, and some, like Made In, actively discourage it. With carbon steel or cast iron, you want to polymerize a layer of oil onto the pan to deter rust and reduce sticking. With stainless, which is rust-resistant by design, the polymerization will discolor your skillet and doesn’t contribute significantly to the sticking issue.


    Although I have little scientific proof to back this up, my technique of choice to reduce sticking is to heat my skillet without oil, during which time the molecules in the cooking surface expand, exposing pores in the metal. Once the pan is hot, I add oil or fat and then quickly swirl it around the pan, allowing the fat to fill those pores, theoretically making it less prone to sticking.

  • How do you clean a burnt stainless steel pan?

    Don’t panic if you’ve scorched or burnt food in your stainless skillet. But before proceeding, check your manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning. Here are some general tips. First, allow the pan to cool. Then use a non-abrasive tool, like a wooden spoon or rigid silicone spatula, to loosen what you can from the pan. After scraping, add water to the cooled pan (adding tap water to or plunging a hot pan into a filled sink is a surefire way to warp your pan) and let it soak for a few hours. Time is your friend here.


    Use a non-abrasive scrubber, never metal, and some dish soap to scrub the loosened, burnt food off the pan. If that doesn’t get the job done, a non-abrasive cleaner, like Barkeeper’s Friend, is your next best bet. Add the cleaner to the pan with a little bit of water to make a paste, then spread that paste over the entirety of the pan. Let it sit for a few minutes. I don’t know the magic that Barkeeper’s Friend performs, but this waiting game aids in the cleaning process. Again, with a non-abrasive scrubber, like the nylon side of a dish sponge, work in circular motions on the worst burnt spots, then expand out to the rest of the pan. Rinse the pan well to remove any remnants of the paste and then clean it with dish soap and water or put it in the dishwasher.

Our Expertise

Greg Baker is an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and food writer with four decades of experience in the food industry. His written work appears in Food & Wine, Food Republic, and other publications.

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