This shiny skillet heats up evenly thanks to a thick disc of aluminum on the bottom. It’s a great choice for anyone with an electric smooth-top range as it makes good contact with the glass ceramic surface.
A stainless-steel skillet is a go-to kitchen workhorse, capable of cooking almost anything. Searing, braising, frying, sautéing, and making pan sauces—this pan can do it all. And if it’s durable, it should last a lifetime. Our best stainless-steel skillet is the Anolon Tri-Ply Clad Frying Pan. While All-Clad, our second best overall, still makes great skillets.
Because your stainless-steel pan is likely to stick around for a while, it’s reasonable to wonder if it’s worthwhile to splurge on a spendy skillet (or even an entire stainless-steel cookware set). To find out, we chose the best stainless-steel pans from well-known cookware brands at a variety of price points and looked into their properties. While two skillets rose to the top of our ratings, there wasn’t a bad pan in the bunch. If you're looking to spend even less, our best value is the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Skillet with Helper Handle (available at Amazon), which has incredibly even heat distribution.
The recommendations in this guide are based on thorough product and market research by our team of expert product reviewers. The picks are based on examining user reviews, product specifications, and, in some limited cases, our experience with the specific products named.
Anolon Tri-Ply Clad Frying Pan with Lid
Our top pick for a stainless-steel skillet is the Anolon Tri-Ply Clad 12.75-Inch Frying Pan With Lid. First, it aced all our cooking tests, browning evenly and keeping tomato sauce at an absolute constant temperature with no stirring required. Thanks to a high flared side, we found it particularly easy to flip mushrooms by pulling back on the handle the way the pros do and to get around the edge with a whisk to make pan gravy. It should also make it effortless to turn out a frittata.
Of all the skillets we worked with, the Anolon is the deepest, plus it includes a lid. That makes it a great choice for chili, pot roast, or meatballs in tomato sauce. The pan handle stays cool to the touch but you will need a pot holder to lift the lid. We only wish there was a helper handle to make it easier to lift when chock full of hot food.
One of the things we like best about this skillet—especially compared to others on this list—is it's relatively easy to clean and restore to a like-new condition, even after searing a spattering steak. It can also go from stovetop to the oven—up to 500°F—to brown off that frittata. While burnt-on spatters may need detailed work, this skillet is dishwasher safe, too.
Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Cookware Skillet with Helper Handle
For the money, you can’t beat the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Skillet with Helper Handle. It was the only skillet among our test group with a disc bottom and because of that, it was the only one that browned food perfectly evenly.
If you have an electric or induction range or cooktop with a smooth glass ceramic cooking surface, this skillet is an excellent choice as the disc will make good contact with the glass.
With a wide bottom, this pan also provides lots of room for browning off beef cubes for stew or frying eggs. One thing to note is that the sides are straighter than on some skillets, but we were still able to flip mushrooms like a chef and found it exceptionally easy to get around the edge with a whisk to make pan gravy.
You’ll notice that the Cuisinart has a gleaming surface and it cleaned up easily and kept its shine. Unlike other skillets we tested, this pan has a helper handle which is exceptionally convenient when it's filled with a saucy dish like chicken cacciatore and you need to use two hands to move it from the stove to the countertop or to the table.
While the long skillet handle stays cool enough to use without protection, you will need a pot holder for the small one. You can pop this pan in the oven up to a temperature of 500°F which means it's a great choice to crisp up a crumb topping on skillet mac ‘n cheese. Like many companies, Cuisinart says its pan is dishwasher safe, but suggests hand washing.
You’ll be able to depend on the reasonably priced KitchenAid Stainless Steel 5-Ply Clad Fry Pan for excellent performance whether you’re simmering a marinara sauce or searing a sirloin. But keep in mind that this skillet is not as deep as some so you might not be able to make enough sauce or chili for a big crowd.
The KitchenAid, has five layers of ply construction and is oven safe up to a temperature of 500°F which means you can start your salmon off on the stovetop to crisp the skin on the bottom and then transfer it to the oven to finish cooking. Even after a long simmer on the stovetop, the handle stays cool enough to handle without an oven mitt.
This skillet is unreservedly safe for dishwasher cleaning but as on many, we did have to do a lot of scrubbing by hand and weren’t successful at completely removing fatty spatter marks.
We have one big pet peeve about this pan. The handle is made of black stainless steel and is also short and narrow. Although it’s easy to use, the color is much less attractive than shiny stainless steel and the size makes it look out of proportion. If how your cookware looks is a priority, you might want to choose another skillet.
Excellent at searing
Oven, induction, and dishwasher safe
Black stainless-steel handle detracts from appearance
For its ability to keep tomato sauce at a perfect simmer and brown onions evenly with minimal stirring, the 12-Inch Le Creuset Stainless Steel Fry Pan rose high in our ratings. Its classic shape with a flared side made it easy to toss mushrooms by pulling back on the handle.
The rounded handle is very comfortable to hold and doesn’t get hot on the stovetop. You can use the Le Creuset in the oven to a temperature of 500°F and place it in the dishwasher to clean. However, we found it stained badly and even after a lot of soaking and scrubbing, we weren’t able to get it looking like new.
We love the classic good looks of the Made In Stainless Clad Frying Pan, a 5-ply clad skillet with a brushed stainless steel handle. It will only set you back about half the price of more well-established brands, yet beats or matches them for performance. The only caveat is that you have to purchase it directly from the company's website.
Although weighty at over 3 pounds, this skillet heats up relatively quickly. A strip steak came out perfectly browned outside and evenly pink inside. Tomato sauce simmered steadily without stirring. Keep in mind that the bottom of the skillet is only 9 inches in diameter and the height just 1 ¾ inches so you don’t have a ton of room for a one-dish dinner.
The Made In is oven safe up to a whopping 800°F so you can easily run it under the broiler to brown off biscuits on a stovetop cobbler. You can go ahead and simmer in it for an hour and still lift the handle without a mitt.
Cleaning it up took a bit of effort and some small spots remained. No use and care instructions are included with the skillet. You have to visit the website and dig a bit for complete information.
The Misen Stainless Skillet is made in the U.S.A. of three layers of metal—all-aluminum—sandwiched between stainless steel. While it has all the attributes of highly touted pans from well-known brands, it’s only about half the price.
The 12-inch skillet is exceptionally handsome with a commercial look. With its nice wide interior surface, it offers a lot of room for cooking pork chops without crowding and a gently flared side that makes it easy to slip a spatula under those chops for serving. Of all the pans we tested, it’s the heaviest, weighing in at over 3 ½ pounds. This makes it slow to heat up but also results in even cooking for sautéing onions, pan frying burgers, or simmering a sauce.
You can use the Misen in the oven up to 500°F which makes it perfect for a Dutch baby pancake. Even after a long simmer on the stovetop, the handle stays cool enough to touch without protection. We found it relatively easy to clean by hand and it is dishwasher safe.
Minimal information about using and caring for the skillet comes with it and what there is, is on the packaging. You can learn more about the skillet by visiting the company’s website.
Hestan ProBond Clad Professional Stainless-Steel Skillet
While the Hestan ProBond Professional is the priciest skillet we tested, it’s beautifully designed. It has a high angled handle that makes it comfortable to flip vegetables, turn out a large omelet, or pour out sauces in spite of the fact that the pan weighs close to 3 ½ pounds.
Even though it’s heavy, the 12.5-inch Hestan is not slow to heat up. On the bottom, there’s plenty of room for browning off beef for a Bolognese. It sears beautifully but was only average at holding sauce at a steady temperature.
As it can go into the oven up to 600°F, you can run pan-fried burgers under the broiler to melt on cheese. You’ll never need a pot holder to hold the handle when you cook on the stovetop. The rivets are flush with the side of the skillet on the inside so nothing collects around them and they don’t interfere with cleaning. However, to get the surfaces looking pristine, you’ll need an application of Bar Keepers Friend.
Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad Stainless-Steel Fry Pan with Helper Handle
If price is your number one consideration, you can’t go wrong with the Tramontina. It kept sauce simmering at an even temperature and seared a steak beautifully. However, it doesn’t have a perfectly even heating pattern, so you’ll have to be sure to stir your vegetables and rearrange your burgers while you’re cooking.
This skillet has wide sloping sides, which make it easy to stir with a wooden spoon, flip with a spatula, and whisk a pan gravy. You’ll find the bottom surface is not as wide as on some skillets so if you’re making flapjacks, fewer will fit in at once.
The Tramontina is easy to maneuver thanks to its light weight and it has a comfy handle that stays cool during long stovetop simmers. It’s safe in the oven to a temperature of 500°F and can be placed in the dishwasher. After our tests, we had to spend a considerable amount of time trying to get it clean, and some stains still remained.
All-Clad D5 Stainless Brushed 5-Ply Bonded Fry Pan
All-Clad’s D3, D5, and LTD Cookware is involved in a lawsuit that alleges the brand advertised the cookware as being “dishwasher safe,” but, when cleaned in the dishwasher, it developed sharp edges along the rim in several cases. All-Clad and Groupe SEB deny these allegations, but we recommend hand-washing this cookware.
The 12-inch All-Clad D5 Stainless Brushed 5-ply Bonded Fry Pan is similar in design to the popular All-Clad D3. However, it has an aluminum core sandwiched between the stainless-steel surfaces which make it heavier and about a ¼ inch less deep. Because of its increased weight, this model heats up more slowly.
In our tests, it seared a steak well but didn’t show a particularly even heat distribution pattern or a hold a steady simmer. When using it you will definitely need to stir regularly. The flared side of the pan makes it easy to toss veggies without a spoon and get around the edge with a whisk or spatula for stirring.
This oven-safe skillet includes a handle that stays cool even after long stovetop cooking but a center groove and sharp sides make it uncomfortable to hold.
This isn't the most difficult skillet to clean but like most stainless-steel skillets, you will have to work on cleaning it to get it looking spotless.
The All-Clad D3 Stainless 3-ply Bonded Fry Pan is one of the best-looking pans out there and continues to perform well. But in our current round of testing, many pans that sell for a lot less bested its cooking performance and gave it a run for the money when it comes to style.
At under 2 pounds, this was the lightest pan we tested and it heated up relatively quickly. However, it had trouble maintaining tomato sauce at a constant simmer and onions needed frequent stirring to caramelize evenly.
All-Clad is safe in the oven up to 600°F. While the handle is evenly balanced and stays cool when used on the stovetop, it's not particularly comfortable to use because of its center groove and sharp sides.
While we have washed this skillet safely in the dishwasher many times, we recommend hand-washing. To get off spatters and get it looking shiny, we had to spend some time scrubbing and polishing.
What to Know About Buying Stainless-Steel Skillets
All good stainless-steel cookware, like the skillets featured here, have either an aluminum core or a disc of aluminum on the bottom to conduct heat. That's because stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat and aluminum is an excellent one.
Cookware with a core is called clad because it has inner layers of aluminum that are encased or clad in stainless steel. On clad pots and pans, the bottom and sides are more or less equally thick and heat is conducted from the bottom up the side. Disc-bottomed pots and pan have thin stainless-steel sides and sometimes, will scorch at the point where the disc meets the side.
Stainless steel is used on the inside and outside of the cookware because it won’t interact with food. In addition, stainless steel makes the cookware less prone to denting, more attractive, and at least in theory, easier to clean.
If you have, or are thinking of buying, an induction range or cooktop, stainless-steel pans are a top choice (although not all stainless works with induction, so double-check before purchasing). However, keep in mind that a skillet with a disc bottom will work better than a clad one as the disc’s perfectly flat bottom will make better contact with the glass ceramic surface of the cooktop.
One of stainless steel’s advantages is that it can be used over high heat which makes it great for stir-frying and searing foods like steaks and burgers that you want to develop a dark brown crust. However, if you use oil or cook fatty foods that spatter, over medium to high heat, the oil can stick onto the pan, leaving a dark brown or even black residue that can take a significant amount of elbow grease to remove.
For searing, one of our best cast iron skillets is a better choice. If you do choose to brown meats or poultry, don’t use a bigger skillet than you need to as the unfilled areas can develop gunky stains that are hard to get off. Plus, heat can lead to a brownish or rainbow-like discoloration on the outside of the skillet.
How to Clean a Stainless-Steel Skillet
Nothing beats Bar Keepers Friend for cleaning messy skillets. To remove seemingly impossible-to-get clean spots, make a paste with the cleaner and apply it to the skillet surface and let it sit several hours or even overnight.
Almost all high-quality stainless-steel skillets have stainless steel handles that are attached with rivets, which keep the handles firmly in place. However, inevitably, residue collects around the rivets and it’s almost impossible to get it off completely.
Although stainless-steel skillets can be cleaned in the dishwasher, most manufacturers recommend hand washing as they claim harsh ingredients in dishwasher detergent can leave them with white spots, discoloration, and/or a duller finish. We put all our test skillets through a dishwasher cycle and they came out gleaming, although not all burnt-on stains were removed.
Stainless Steel vs. Nonstick Cookware
Stainless steel cookware lasts longer than nonstick, which will eventually lose its nonstick properties and need to be replaced. However, unlike stainless steel, nonstick releases food easily and is very easy to clean.
The best nonstick pans are also a low-cost investment for someone stocking a starter kitchen. When you’re shopping for nonstick cookware, keep in mind that there are two kinds of nonstick coatings.
The first and most widely available types are made with PTFE (Teflon is the brand name for the most popular one); these pans have excellent nonstick properties but can’t be used over high heat. So-called ceramic nonstick finishes aren’t always as nonstick as PTFE coatings but they withstand higher temperatures.
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