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A skillet – the sophisticated name for a plain old frying pan – is essential for omelettes, sautéing and searing. But, as always, you get what you pay for. Cheaper pans with non-stick coating work just fine for eggs and stir-fries; however, most aren’t ovenproof, which means they can’t be used for recipes that require transferring food from stovetop to oven. They also tend to have thinner bottoms that can warp at high heat and turn seared food into a scorched mess.
Instead, bring in a heavyweight for properly searing meat or fish. (A cheaper pan won’t give you that lovely golden crust.) You’ll spend more for a model that’s ovenproof, moderately heavy and made from either stainless steel-wrapped aluminum, anodized aluminum or cast iron, which most efficiently conduct heat. But it’s worth it: The non-stick coating on high-end pans can usually weather more wear and tear than its cheaper cousins, and most of the expensive models also come with a lifetime warranty.
Here are eight skillets – at a wide range of price points – that have earned our seal of approval.
A new cast iron skillet can come seasoned, but if doesn’t, it must be seasoned before you can use it. Seasoning creates a relatively non-stick surface for cooking and also protects the pan from rusting. Re-season your pan at least once a year to keep it in top shape. Here’s how:
1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C).
2. Wash pan in warm soapy water. Rinse and dry. Set pan on stovetop over medium-high heat. When hot, remove from heat.
3. Pour in a thin layer of vegetable oil. Using a dry kitchen cloth, carefully wipe oil over entire pan, including the bottom.
4. Turn pan upside-down on a baking sheet. Place in oven for 30 min.
5. Turn off heat and let pan cool completely in oven. Wipe out excess oil with paper towel.
1. The Family Pan T-fal Jamie Oliver Professional Series Anodized Frying Pan, $180. Jamie Oliver’s signature skillet has an indicator that turns a solid shade of red when the pan is properly heated – the secret to perfect searing. It’s also non-stick and ovenproof and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
2. The Shining Star Beaumark Stainless Steel Skillet, $60. A shiny looker with a pleasing weight, thanks to the heavy-gauge stainless-steel bottom. We also love the Beaumark’s comfortable, heat-proof handle and deep sides, perfect for saucy dishes.
3. The Campfire Classic Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, $25. This pan is excellent for searing and makes better crisp-edged pancakes and pan-fried fish than its metal counterparts. This skillet comes seasoned (see above), so you don’t have to do it yourself.
4. The Non-Stick Wonder Scanpan Fry Pan, $150. Made from aluminum that’s been coated with a ceramic-titanium treatment, the Scanpan boasts a permanent non-stick surface that won’t peel, blister or crack – hence the lifetime warranty. It’s also ovenproof and dishwasher-safe.
5. The Proud-To-Be Canadian Paderno Stainless Steel Fry Pan, $80. Our associate food editor, Jennifer Danter, swears by her Paderno skillet. Its handle is welded into the base, it’s dishwasher-safe and it’s made in Canada. This standout pan is also ovenproof and backed by a 25-year warranty.
6. The Elegant Italian Lagostina Prima Italia Skillet, $60. A heavy-gauge base transfers heat rapidly across this sleek non-stick skillet for even cooking. It also comes with a five-year warranty.
7. The Ultimate Omelette Pan President’s Choice Anodized Non-Stick Skillet, $15. The price is right on with this affordable non-stick skillet. Like the more expensive models, it’s also ovenproof. Treat this pan kindly – plastic utensils only! – and it will serve you well for at least one year.
8. The Cast-Iron Cadillac Le Creuset Iron Handle Skillet, $155. This iconic pan – which boasts both superb heat retention and good looks – is worth shelling out for. It can withstand acidic foods (like tomato sauce) and it’s also backed by a lifetime warranty.