Your Burning Questions

What's the Best Stovetop Pan for Everyday Use?

By • November 2, 2013 • 20 Comments

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There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: We'll help you avoid pan regret.

Pans on Food52

A pan is not an expendable accessory in your kitchen -- it's not like having a dull peeler, or a flimsy spatula -- it can make-or-burn a meal. If a pan isn't up to the task, you could end up with less than perfect scrambled eggs or an overly-browned frittata. So how do you select the perfect pan? Do you prefer stainless steel or cast iron? Does it include the environmentally controversial non-stick coating? If you're not strategic when choosing a pan, you could quickly find yourself wishing that you went with a different option. 

Laurgolis made a wise move and the tapped into collective Food52 wisdom bank before selecting an everyday skillet for frying, simmering, and sautéing:

  • Going with one solitary pan is not easy -- most had two standbys: a cast iron pan and a non-stick skillet.
  • The crowd favorite without a doubt was cast iron. Recently, the community offered wonderful advice on how to care for your cast iron (with bonus tips for where to scour for the best pans).
  • ChefJune interjected that any good pan should be non-stick if you heat it correctly.
  • Rhonda35 shared the brilliant tip to make sure larger pans have a small handle on one side to make for easy transportation. (We've all been guilty of a risky stove to sink pan transfer!) 

More: Cast Iron 101 -- SelectionSeasoning, and Cleaning.

What pans have you found most success with? Do you get different results based on the pan? If you were forced to only have one pan in your kitchen what would it be? Tell us in the comments!

Photo by Nicole Franzen


Tags: how-to & diy, pan, saute, frying, simmering, hotline, best question

Comments (20)


about 1 month ago grasspress

i've used a variety of pans over the years (i'm 71 and an avid cook). today, i'm using 'scanpan' for most uses; i have three sizes, the 'low cost' version with the non-metal handle but which is good up to most oven temps). it cleans right up and is easy to move on the stove top. i have used cast iron in the past and like it but it's too heavy for me. i have a staub brand grill pan which i love! (and staub brand cocottes which i also love.) i've used all-clad and (nearly) all the big-name varieties but am now sticking to scanpan. i'll probably change when something new comes along. b-t-w, don't look for the pan to improve your cooking skills. it all starts with you!


2 months ago queen jeanne

What about for use on a conduction stovetop. What works best?


2 months ago Michelle DL

I've been using a Scanpan lately. It's the best frying pan I've ever used. Working on switching my whole collection over!


3 months ago Senlin

Can a cast iron be used on a flat top electric range. I have a couple of old cast iron skillets and have not used they for quite a while because I was told not to use them on a flat top range.


3 months ago lizabeth

I've used T-Fal non-stick pans off and on for many years. I went "off" T-Fal to see what all the fuss was about with Calphalon and Analon and found out that T-Fal makes a great quality pan and the telfon coating and heat distribution is every bit as good as with the expensive pans. Non-stick pans require certain care to last a long time - medium heat, don't wash them when they're hot, use plastic utensils so you don't scratch it. Do these things and don't buy expensive non-stick cookware.


3 months ago Trish

Cast iron, hands down, but have Swiss diamond non stick breakfast pan...higher on one side for ease of transferring eggs to plate. One small Calphalon pot for oatmeal!


4 months ago Machelle

I have my grand mothers cast iron skillet. it's over 80 years old and the one I always cook in. in fact it never gets put away, it's my prize possession.


4 months ago Agnes

I have all cast iron pans, woks, fryer, panini pans, works well and cooks wonderfully.


6 months ago lauriJeanne

I have two 8" pans. I think it's All Clad but doesn't have a name anywhere. This little pan is perfect for Eggs and omelets and scrambled if need be. I only wash it with hot water and a non-soap scrubber. Nothing ever sticks. It's hard to keep this way, as my husband does the dishes and if you don't use soap it's not clean... So I do my best to get them clean before he comes in. lol


6 months ago bobby z

My go-to pan is a 10" All Clad Copper Core saute pan. It heats quickly and evenly and is easier to clean than cast iron. It's the right size for most meals I cook. I use Caphalon and ScanPan nonstick for eggs and such.


6 months ago nratt

Cast iron is hard to beat, when it's cared for properly. As for non-stick, my go-to pans are made by Swiss Diamond. I have the 11" and 12.5" skillets, but my favorite is the 9" so-called "Breakfast Pan" that has one side slightly lower than the others, thereby making it a cinch to slide a two-egg omelet or fried eggs, or anything else, for that matter, right onto a plate.


6 months ago Napie

Carbon steel! I have five that are used for just about everything those and my grandmothers cast iron cover most of it. The All-Clad SS spend a lot of time in the cabinet...


6 months ago arcane54

I rely on my cast iron pans: the 6" size I found in a "free box" 20 yrs. ago and is perfect for eggs, toasting nuts and small sautes. I have an 8" and 12" (I bought while in college 40 yrs. ago) and the 16" monster my mom shipped to me that takes two hands to pick up even when it's empty! I also have a large grill pan, a dutch oven (a junkyard find) and a griddle. Other than these, I use triple-ply stainless. I still don't trust non-stick coatings... and the patina and seasoning of cast iron work well for me -- excellent cornbread, steak!, frittatas, burgers.... They require a bit more care and when I occasionally have to soak or scrub, a minor re-seasoning returns them to their former glory.


4 months ago LA Walker

I have to agree with you on the cast iron...mine were gathered and collected along the years from "free boxes" and Good Will (before they became so popular! I even snagged a cast iron Wok off a sale table about 15 years ago! They are easy to live with but VERY heavy to move with!


6 months ago Dtown Boy

My sister conveniently stole our family cast iron pan which is still in service 50 years plus. When I'm in town for the holidays or whatever event and stay at her house, I always make eggs like my mother did. Over easy and draping the hot bacon grease over the eggs. the only way to cook an egg in a cast iron skillet.


6 months ago TheSlyRaven

I feel like if you're taking proper care of your cast iron (cleaning and seasoning it correctly) and you are using it correctly (letting it heat up, using the right amount of oil), it should BE your non-stick pan. No need for teflon, just educate yourself on how to use a cast iron pan.


6 months ago Bob Y

I love cast iron, but not for eggs as the eggs pick up odors, tastes from what I've browned or seared in the cast iron. I keep a good quality non-stick (Wearever pro line) for eggs and delicate foods.


6 months ago ksherk

I live alone, and I have a little 6" Calphalon skillet (without nonstick coating) that I use almost weekly for bacon, eggs and omelets. But my daily go-to skillet is an All-Clad 12". The heat distribution is great and it cleans up easy.


6 months ago Pat in SoCal

...a 10 inch cheap non-stick, replaced yearly, for eggs, a collection of very old cast iron from 6 inch to a massive 18 inch monster....and a gorgeous all clad wok. These do everything I need done.


6 months ago Cristina

I have a variety of sizes of cast iron, but I sometimes find myself reaching for my hard-anodized 4 qt saute pan, if I am making an acidic sauce or something. I could also go for a 12 inch hard-anodized skillet, but have not made that investment yet. That is my choice over stainless. I have very good luck with the cast iron for most things, although I recently made philly cheeseteak in the cast iron and maybe let it sit too long, I had a gloopy cheesey pain of a mess to clean up after the juices from the meat, onion, and cheese all sat.