DIY Food

What's the Best Stovetop Pan for Everyday Use?

November  2, 2013

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

Shop the Story

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


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Senlin
  • Jeff
  • Marina Langer
    Marina Langer
  • DrRisk
  • Greg Burns
    Greg Burns
Lactose intolerant cheese lover, who will walk blocks for a good cup of coffee. Recently escaped the corporate world, after discovering her favorite part of the job was ordering catering.


Senlin February 22, 2016
I would love to use cast iron but I have an electric ceramic top stove and was told not to use cast iron. Does anyone have any experience with this??
Jeff February 22, 2016
That's a tough one. As long as you do not slide it around you could use ENAMELED cast iron.But I would not recommend it.

I have an induction hob, they are not that expensive. It has a glass surface and I use cast iron on it all the time. Actually it is the BEST DEEP FRYER EVER with a cast iron dutch oven. holds heat well and recovery time is soooo quick.

Also with an induction hob, I place a silplat between the burner and the pot. Because the way induction works it does not burn. ... and helps to hold the pot on the burner.
Jeff February 22, 2016
Copper, enameled cast iron, blue steel, plain cast iron, nonstick, and clad stainless steel. Like all of you, I have them all and love to use them all.

Having said that, I'm going off topic a little. A lot has to do with the stove/oven/range. In "the day" great grandma's stove produced far fewer BTUs. iron, copper and blue steel work better on the lower, more gentle heat produced by ranges from days gone by. (I know searing in blue steel or cast iron at red hot temp is great).

Cast iron retains heat (it's thermal index is high) and blue steel has a high thru-put of heat. Copper is very responsive bur extremely temperamental to higher heat. ALL do far better at the lower and more gentle temperatures.

Try this experiment. take a recipe for a cast iron dutch oven that is to be prepared on the stove. do it in the oven instead. Searing aside, stove top they are temperamental and over-cook on the bottom - thus you must, as the recipies say, "stir occassionally."

It is a gentler heat from all around the dutch oven. It cooks more evenly. In my opinion, the flavors are fuller and more nuanced.

This is all just my opinion. Thanks for indulging me and I'd like to hear about your experiences, especially with cast iron and copper.
Jeff February 22, 2016
Scan Pan CTX clad nonstick.
Marina L. March 20, 2015
cast iron, hands down! It never leaves my stovetop (I have two: 6" & 10"). For bigger meals I love my stainless steel with copper bottom. If you heat a pan properly and coat it it with oil, it will be non-stick
DrRisk March 1, 2015
If I were absolutely limited to ONE pan the only choice would be a deep 9-10" iron skillet. You can cook ANYTHING would ever want to eat in that pan; it wouldn't always be the most convenient, but it would always work well, and it is the lowest maintenance pan ever invented.
Greg B. February 16, 2015
I use various pans for the specific task, but my carbon steel frying pan is my favorite and the best overall performer. It seems to enhance flavors much better than stainless and especially non-stick Teflon. I wonder what the Altimzers percentages are in China since they have been using carbon steel/cast iron for centuries!
Larry J. February 17, 2015
A steak seared in a carbon steel pan can't be beat! The resultant pan sauces are also much better.
dcole February 16, 2015
One pan? Was this article written by a communist? This is America we can have MORE than one pan, now get out there and buy that cheap Chinese pan set.
Larry J. February 16, 2015
I, too, find it difficult to narrow it down to just one! I have cast iron, stainless, a minimal amount of non-stick (for fried eggs and such), and some Lodge high Carbon steel skillets that are seasoned like and function like cast iron, but are much lighter. As to Alzheimer runs in my family. Everything I have ever read shows that genetics are more suspect than pan material. There are SOME articles that tend to implicate aluminum, but I have NEVER seen an article that ever implicated cast iron.
Toby February 9, 2015
I bought a new set of Scan Pans and I love them! They heat evenly and are very easy to clean!
Jacque November 30, 2014
Can I say my favorite skillets are the Calphalon Everyday pans. I've used them for years. I follow the manufacturers directions and ever sticks. I have two of them because I frequently use two at the same time. One of the first things is never put them in a dishwasher and never use non-stick spray.
How do I keep my last name off the forum?
Jacque November 30, 2014
It is Aluminum that is suspect in Alzheimer's. There are countries that prohibit the use of Aluminum for food preparation.
JULI November 4, 2014
I'm confused. I have NEVER heard of cast iron causing/contributing to Alzheimer's. Have heard of ALUMINUM causing it, not cast iron.
Brenda August 17, 2014
It sounds like you have good genetics, but my family has a history of Alzheimer's on both sides, my dads sisters, and also on my mom's side of the family. Good luck to me in not getting it later on, right? So I just try to steer away from what might cause me to get it, you know? :)
Napie August 17, 2014
OK, so my opinion is that after 200 years of cast iron cooking to say it causes Alzheimer's is a load of crap. My family has used it for generations and everyone had long (90 years plus..) and no ill effects. There are plenty of others too. Besides just how are you going to make cornbread without it????!!!!
Brenda August 17, 2014
Actually Dr. Bernard said it, and it was in Veg Times too. I know family members of mine that use cast iron and swear by them, but there is always more than one view point on it, and personally I don't want to use them! This is an opinion forum so as far as it being a load of crap idk.
Brenda August 17, 2014
Sorry that was such a long comment, I meant to only copy the part of the article about cast iron and Alzheimer's, anyway I just thought I'd put in my two cents worth. Didn't mean to offend anyone! :)
Napie August 17, 2014
Cuz if Oz says it it must be gospel.... Give me break, what load of crap..
Bernie August 17, 2014
I can personally attest to a long line (153 years of my great grans, grans, children and grandchildren) of family cooks and caterers who used and/or ate from cast iron almost daily. So far, no Alzheimer's or any other ailment that could be traced to cast iron except the occasional banged-up toe from an unfortunate drop. For the seasoning-challenged I would suggest the pre-seasoned cast iron pans now sold by most cookware vendors.
Brenda August 17, 2014
I read that cast iron pans can emit extra iron into your blood system and could contribute to Alzheimer's disease over time.
istreeter July 29, 2014
After cooking for more than 55 years, I have come to the conclusion that it's not just the pan, but the cooktop is just as, if not more, important. I learned on gas and swore by the old cast iron pan for many years. Then I was dropped on to an electric stove in Hawaii, and found it useless! Fortunately I had a cookware set of flint by Farberware (c 1964) that I think you can't even find any more, and I quickly adapted to it. All pieces, with the exception of the frypan, are still in use today. I have since used the teflon coated and like it (still electric) but found the coating does not stand up well for more than a few years. And some brands are useless from day 1. We have a vacation home in the mountains and, while it is heated all winter, it appears to create a moisture issue for my stored teflon, causing it to begin pealing well in advance of the articles I use at home more frequently Most recently I have graduated to the ceramic coatings and agree that they are a step up from the teflon--I am awaiting a judgment on their durability. If I was able to use gas, I would again try the cast iron. Unfortunately, for the past 45 years we have lived in areas where it is not available as natural.