Jul 19, 2023

The 5 Best Stainless Steel Skillets of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Plus, an expert explains how to maintain your stainless steel cookware.

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Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Stainless steel pans are an ideal option for various kitchen tasks, whether you’re a professional chef or a beginner home cook. Unlike metals such as aluminum and iron, stainless steel is non-reactive. This means a few things. For one, pots and pans made of stainless steel can cook acidic foods without imparting flavor. They also don't require seasoning, making them less high-maintenance than cast iron skillets while still being up to the task of quick searing. A stainless steel skillet's high melting point makes it durable enough to go from the stove to the oven. When properly cared for, stainless steel cookware is also nearly indestructible and consistent, a few reasons professional chefs frequently use stainless steel.

When shopping for stainless steel cookware, you’ll find 3-ply and 5-ply options, which indicate the cookware's count of bonded metal layers. 3-ply pots and pans tend to be lightweight and less expensive but can cook less evenly and are more prone to scratches or dents. 5-ply tools can be pricier and heavier but will conduct heat more evenly and resist wear and tear. You'll notice this isn't a hard and fast rule, as we tested a few great 3-ply options we still recommend. If you’re ready for a new stainless steel skillet, we tested 19 pans to find the most foolproof option for your kitchen.

Made In

Balanced and well-designed, it passed all our tests with flying colors.

No complaints — we loved everything about this pan.

The Made In Stainless Clad Frying Pan has everything: beautiful design, even heating, and a comfortable hold while cooking. We love the sleek construction, including the flat handle that makes it easy to shift, flip, and pour. Made In's skillet even considers kitchen storage by adding a hole for hanging the pan from a hook, though the 10-inch size stores easily in a cupboard or on a rack. You can't really go wrong here; it has slightly sloped sides and a flared lip for flipping and pouring. It also held up almost perfectly during our durability testing, showing nothing more than some scuffing (despite the trials we put it through). This isn't the most inexpensive skillet we tested, but it works wonders on the stovetop and is durable enough to last for years. We feel it's a fantastic investment for both experienced cooks and anyone buying a stainless steel pan for the first time.

Price at the time of publish: $129

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore


A nearly perfect score cuts so close to our winner, thanks to easy cleanup and great heat distribution.

It didn't perform as well for durability and weighs a bit more than the best overall skillet.

While the Made In pan had a perfect score, the Misen was barely behind. We loved so much about this skillet, but ultimately it lost just a hair of a point in design and durability categories. It's still far and away better than many of the other pans we tested. There was minor warping at the base of the pan during our durability test but hardly any when we tested for thermal shock, and it was a bit heavier than the Made In skillet. It was super easy to clean after our chicken piccata test, which left plenty of fond stuck to the pan. The beurre blanc we reduced — which turned out smooth and silky due to proper heat distribution — was easily rinsed out. At a lower price than our favorite and with excellent performance scores, we recommend this skillet to anyone looking for a less expensive pick with many of the same benefits.

Price at the time of publish: $75


Reliable performance, stunning appearance, and even heat distribution, this is our favorite pan for gifting.

The price doesn't keep this from being a high-performing piece of cookware, but it is a splurge.

Whether you’re a more experienced cook, looking for a beautiful gift, or treating yourself, this skillet from All-Clad is the way to go for us. It shined in its even heat distribution during our chicken piccata test, showcasing how useful a 3-ply stainless steel pan can be. In some ways, it might even be too good at conducting heat; our beurre blanc test proved that you should watch your flame when using this skillet, particularly when cooking at a lower temperature. It held up well during our shock test, suffering little more than cosmetic damage all the way through. This pan has time on its side and is a worthwhile investment.

We also tested the 5-ply version of this pan. While it was a strong competitor, it wasn't one of our favorites. The 3-ply performed better overall and was much lighter and more comfortable to handle.

Price at the time of publish: $160

Food and Wine / Russell Kilgore


A high-value buy that won't let you down. Effective in the kitchen with a price that can't be beat.

Not the most durable skillet we tested, but at $40, we can't complain too much.

This Tramontina pan was one of the best in terms of feel and construction. We love its slightly rounded handle, which is comfortable to hold (even with one hand!). The perfect balance of the skillet itself makes for an effortless cooking experience. The pan's sides and flared edges are well-designed and make storage easy; they also support drip-free pouring and prevent pan overcrowding, too. This skillet's performance impressed us so much that the $40 price point feels like a dream come true. This skillet would be perfect as a backup pan for someone who already owns a lot of stainless steel cookware, but it would also function well in a newbie's kitchen.

Price at the time of publish: $40

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore


Inexpensive enough for a first-time stainless steel buyer while providing the performance required in a more experienced kitchen setting.

Imperfect browning due to heat distribution is less apparent when adequately preheated.

We were pleasantly surprised with the durability of this OXO skillet. This skillet showed a slight physical shift during our thermal shock test, but not much. After hitting it with the bricks (literally), it showed hardly any damage, which we consider an excellent indication of a pan's longevity.

The sides on this pan are sloped enough to be helpful when flipping food. The handle's curve is very comfortable, and the pan is evenly weighted. We also loved how easy it was to clean. Overall, we feel this is an ideal pick for beginner cooks due to its versatility and reasonable cost.

Price at the time of publish: $80

The 10-inch Made In Stainless Clad Frying Pan is our perfect stainless steel skillet. It delivered a perfect performance in our tests, from cooking to durability, earning it our highest possible score. We’re crowning it Best Overall for its high value at its price point, gorgeous design, and beautifully even surface temperature. Stainless steel cooks, both green and weathered, will be able to appreciate this skillet.

We started with 19 skillets, performing preliminary tests. From there, nine winners moved into a second round of testing with three tasks. First, we made chicken piccata to measure how each skillet handles shallow pan-frying, how evenly heat is distributed, and how easy the skillet is to clean. Second, we made a beurre blanc to observe ease of use, how quickly the mixture comes to a boil and reduces, and how quickly the pan comes clean afterward. Third, to test durability, we put each skillet through thermal shock and hit every pan with a cinderblock wrapped in a towel.

After these tests, we evaluated the results and rated the skillets based on several categories. For one, design, assessing the comfortability of use, the shape of the handle, and features of the skillet, like its surface and sides. Heating ability, monitoring for even browning, time to boil and reduce, and observing for any hot or cold spots on the pan. Ease of cleaning, for how simple or difficult it is to clean the skillet by hand, and whether any of its design features helped or hindered. Lastly, durability in regular cooking, thermal shock, and targeted force (remember the cinder blocks?) to check for any discoloration, warping, or other damage.

Food and Wine / Russell Kilgore

The distribution of weight in a skillet's design is an essential feature if you plan on using your pan with frequency. While some weight will allow for durability, a too-heavy skillet will be difficult to maneuver. Look for a skillet that's light enough to hold comfortably. Keep in mind that you won't just shift it on the stove burner; it shouldn't strain your wrist when you are pouring from it or flipping and tossing its hot contents. While some people may prefer a heavier or lighter pan than others, the ‘ease of use factor’ for you and your cooking habits is one to consider.

While all pans technically have cold and hot spots, any that are noticeable — especially in preheated stainless steel cookware — lead to irregular browning, uneven cooking, and food sticking to your skillet to the point of difficulty when cleaning. We specifically observed and recorded any hot or cold spots on the surface of each skillet to help avoid this problem.

Rebecca Eisenberg, the journalist-turned-pastry-chef and founder of The Practical Kitchen, suggests leaning toward the more moderate sizes if buying a skillet for the first time. "Skillets come in a wide range of sizes, but the three most common are 8, 10, and 12 inches. If you don't have any skillets, I'd recommend starting with an 8- or a 10-inch skillet." She says that the 8-inch is large enough when cooking for one or two people, and the 10-inch is perfect for feeding three to four. A 12-inch skillet is better for entertaining a crowd or cooking in large batches.

All-Clad D5 10-inch Stainless Brushed 5-Ply Fry Pan $180 at Amazon)

Performing well in our tests but somewhat heavy and awkward to hold, this skillet wasn't our favorite, but we still think it's a great option.

Le Creuset 1-inch Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Fry Pan ($152 at Amazon)

A great skillet, though some trouble occurred when the edges showed signs of heating up significantly faster than the middle of the pan. Durable and easy to hold, the Le Creuset Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Fry Pan is tough competition.

Martha by Martha Stewart 10-inch Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Fry Pan ($100 at Martha)

This pan held up impressively during our durability tests. The high cost may be too much for some, but the longevity we expect from this skillet may make it worthwhile.

Food and Wine/Russell Kilgore

There were a few models that didn't perform quite as well, including the Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Skillet. Its lower price point ($40) is appealing, but this was the worst-performing skillet we tested regarding durability. We do commend its even heating and how easy it was to clean. We also tested the Goldilocks Plus Stainless Steel Fry Pan, which showed excellent browning during our chicken tests and was easy to handle. However, it lacked durability, and we felt it wasn't the best value.

"Stainless steel needs much less upkeep and maintenance than cast iron," says Eisenberg. She notes that stainless steel is less inclined to rust, so it doesn't need to be regularly seasoned to maintain a nonstick surface. "Stainless steel is nonstick if you preheat it properly," she notes. Preheating is essential for getting the best quality cook from your stainless steel cookware while maintaining its quality. Eisenberg also suggested finding the smoking point of any oil or fat you plan to use in your skillet. "Once your pan is preheated, you should adjust the temperature of your burner before adding the fat to make sure it's not going to burn."

"If you maintain and clean your stainless steel pans regularly, you won't ever need to replace them," Eisenberg says. "The only time you may need to replace your pans is if they are truly damaged — scorched bottoms that can't be cleaned, pitting or warping on the surface or bottom of the pan, things like that. If you maintain and treat them properly, they will truly last you for decades, if not longer." She uses dish soap and a little water but advises that persistent discoloration can be solved with pan-safe scouring powder and some elbow grease.

"Saucy tomato-based dishes. Like shakshuka, which starts on the stove but finishes in the oven to perfectly poach the eggs in the sauce." Highly acidic foods aren't recommended for less resilient cookware, but the non-reactive nature of stainless steel makes it a perfect match for tomatoes.

"You may want to put a sheet of felt between pans if you're stacking them," Eisenberg says. But because stainless steel is highly durable, the extra precaution may be unnecessary. She suggests this for anyone particular about scratches or scuffing on their cookware. Otherwise, "it's purely for superficial reasons; the pans themselves will be just fine stacked together without a buffer."

Christa Glennie has been a freelance writer and food editor for nearly 20 years. She is also the author of two cookbooks and specializes in food and drink trends, agriculture, the regional foodways of Western New York, and the restaurant business. Her respect for simplicity and uncluttered counters in the kitchen ultimately fuels a desire to find and own well-designed, multi-purpose, best-in-class kitchen tools. For this piece, she also spoke with Rebecca Eisenberg, the journalist-turned-pastry-chef and founder of The Practical Kitchen, for more insights on stainless steel skillets.

Price at the time of publish: Material: Oven safety: Dishwasher-safe: Price at the time of publish: Material: Oven safety: Dishwasher-safe: Price at the time of publish: Material: Oven safety: Dishwasher-safe: Price at the time of publish: Material: Oven safety: Dishwasher-safe: Price at the time of publish: Material: Oven safety: Dishwasher-safe: All-Clad D5 10-inch Stainless Brushed 5-Ply Fry Pan Le Creuset 1-inch Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Fry Pan Martha by Martha Stewart 10-inch Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Fry Pan "