As a home cook, there are a few nonnegotiable kitchen tools you simply must have in your arsenal. The best nonstick pan you can find is one of them. While we don’t recommend that you buy a full nonstick cookware set, one excellent pan is essential, because for cooking crepes, scrambled eggs, and omelets only a nonstick pan will do. But with a truly high-quality model, you can go beyond even that—reach for your nonstick pan for a wide variety of tasks beyond foods that are especially prone-to-stick, like stir-frying and sautéing.
And if you’re concerned about the history of making nonstick pans from questionable and occasionally dangerous materials, it’s important to do your research before purchasing; thankfully, we did the hard work for you by testing 16 of the leading models made without PFOA or PTFE (a.k.a. Teflon) to find the best on the market today.
To find the best nonstick pans, we put each model through a thorough testing process in the kitchen. We also gathered anecdotal evidence from Epicurious editors who have owned a few of the pans for years and can attest to how the nonstick coating fares over time. Keep reading to learn more about our picks for the best nonstick pan of 2021 in both the standard and ceramic categories; scroll down for specifics about how we tested each pan and tips for how to care for your nonstick pan.
Table of contents
The best nonstick pan (2021): Zwilling Madura Plus
The best ceramic nonstick pan (2021): GreenPan Paris Pro
How we tested
Other nonstick pans we tested
A note on nonstick safety
How to care for a nonstick skillet
Looking for the best cast-iron skillets? Read our review.
Or, learn about carbon-steel skillets.
The best overall nonstick pan: Zwilling Madura Plus
The Zwilling Madura Plus is quite possibly the best nonstick pan we’ve ever used. No matter how we cooked our eggs—scrambled, sunny-side up, over easy—they didn’t stick to the pan’s surface. In fact, the only reason you’d need oil or butter in this pan right out of the box is for flavor (something we highly recommend).
Because the core is made of forged aluminum, this sauté pan has efficient heat distribution, meaning food cooks evenly and the pan heats up and cools down quickly. The four-layer Duraslide nonstick coating is PFOA-free (a.k.a. perfluorooctanoic acid, the red flag material used in Teflon), and Zwilling claims it’s 40 times more durable than traditional Teflon-coated pans. We found the model to be relatively lightweight and comfortable to use thanks to the heatproof plastic handle (it’s oven-safe up to 300°F); although you can use metal utensils on it, wooden or plastic ones are encouraged for longevity. Just be sure not to overheat the pan as that’ll ruin the coating.
The pan performed well in all of our tests, creating evenly browned pancakes and a fried egg that straight-up slid off the pan and onto a plate. Numerous online reviews attest to the pan’s long-term longevity, as can staff writer Kendra Vaculin, who’s put her own Zwilling Madura Plus through the ringer in her home kitchen for over a year. It’s not easy to bang up, and the nonstick surface truly doesn’t weaken with time. Plus, it’s less than $75, which makes this the best nonstick pan (not a ton of) money can buy.
The best ceramic nonstick pan: GreenPan Paris Pro
Ceramic pans are prone to lose their nonstickability more quickly and more thoroughly than standard PFOA-free pans, so in general we don’t prefer cookware made from this material. Nonetheless, after testing a number of ceramic pans, the GreenPan Paris Pro emerged as the clear winner. The pan is constructed from hard anodized aluminum for even heating and has a Thermolon Minerals ceramic nonstick coating that’s PTFE- and PFOA-free. It’s scratch-resistant, induction-compatible, and oven-safe up to 600°F—a huge benefit if you often would like to transfer your nonstick pan from the stovetop to the oven (hello, baked eggs).
We loved the look, feel, and heft of GreenPan Paris Pro—its medium weight meant it was heavy enough to feel durable but light enough that it felt easy to maneuver and pancakes and eggs lifted perfectly off the slick surface. And of all the ceramic pans we tested, this one appeared to have the most long-lasting nonstick coating. Customers on Amazon report having had theirs for more than three years and seeing minimal signs of wear. One reviewer notes that he had to replace his after seven years, which compared to the other ceramic pans we tested, is a very good tenure. The final bonus: This pan comes from GreenPan’s more economical Paris collection, so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg for it. (We also tested a nonstick pan from GreenPan’s pricier Venice line; more on that below.)
How we tested
To assess the merits of each nonstick frying pan, first we cooked pancakes in them—no butter or oil allowed—to see how easily the pancakes pulled away from the surface and how evenly they browned. Then we fried an egg in each pan, again without using fat. Finally, we made scrambled eggs (you guessed it, sans oil or butter) to check for even heating and to note how much food residue would get left behind. We also took into consideration the weight of the pans, how quickly they heated up and cooled down, and how easy they were to clean. We also evaluated the following factors:
How effective is the nonstick coating right out of the box?
This was a simple one: If we couldn’t flip a pancake, fry an egg, or make scrambled eggs without a cooking fat when it was brand-new, the pan wasn’t worth our time.
How quickly does it heat up? Is the heat evenly distributed?
We put about two tablespoons of water in each pan before turning on the burner. We timed how long it took for the water to boil or start “dancing around the pan.” We took note of the pans that were remarkably fast or insanely slow at heating up. We also looked at how the heat was distributed around the pan. When we flipped our pancakes, we looked for areas that were lighter and darker, which indicated cool spots and hot spots, respectively.
What material is the nonstick coating made of?
Once we split the nonstick pans into two camps—ceramic and non-ceramic—we researched the materials and chemicals in their respective coatings. We ruled out any pans made with PTFE, commonly known as Teflon, and PFOA, a man-made material found in Teflon.
How easy is the pan to clean and store? How heavy is it?
Outside of function, we considered how much work we had to put into caring for the pan. Was it easy to clean? Did it take up a lot of space due to an extra-long handle? Was it uncomfortably heavy, such that tipping it with one hand would be a strain on the wrist? We stuck to pans in the 10- to 12-inch range to keep cooking surface consistent, but differences in weight and handle shape and length abounded.
Does the nonstick coating last?
Last but not least, we researched durability, and specifically how the nonstick coating fared over time. This involved interviewing Epi team members who own these pans themselves, and scouring online reviews for mentions of wear and longevity.
Other nonstick pans we tested
The Kyocera Ceramic Coated Nonstick Pan ($55) is sealed with a proprietary coating that’s PTFE-, PFOA-, and cadmium-free, and it has a thick aluminum base clad with a stainless-steel plate that makes for quick and even heat distribution. However, Epi alum Anna Stockwell reported that the nonstick coating on her Kyocera pans stopped working after just a few months, and we found a number of online reviews that claimed the same thing.
The Great Jones Large Fry ($70)—measuring just over 10 inches wide, so not that large—is aesthetically very pleasing but tripped up on a few of the tests. While it heated quickly and made evenly browned pancakes, the fried egg stuck to the pan’s cooking surface; gently trying to nudge it free with a rubber spatula resulted in a broken yolk.
The Five Two Essential Nonstick Skillet ($89) boasts a “diamond-infused ceramic coating” and a heatproof, welded-on handle—meaning no rivets where scrambled egg gunk can get stuck. Like all ceramic pans, it didn’t perform as well as the standard counterparts for the same (or lower) prices, but it cooked eggs and pancakes evenly. Plus, it is oven-safe to 390°F.
The Zwilling Carrara Pan ($60) has a beautiful white interior, and because of how well the standard pan by this brand fared, we had high hopes for it. Unfortunately, the nonstick coating was questionable right out of the box, and we quickly had to resort to using more cooking fat that we wanted to during a first use in order to avoid a stuck-on mess.
The GreenPan Venice Pro ($130) performed similarly to the Paris pan, but thanks to its stainless-steel core, it’s noticeably heavier. We don’t see much benefit to using a nonstick pan with a stainless-steel core over an aluminum one, and considering the price difference, the Paris Pro is a better bet.
The Caraway Fry Pan ($95) comes in an array of pleasant colors and can withstand high temperatures. It is oven-safe up to 550°F—a major plus and rare among the ceramic-coated pans. The nonstick surface performed extremely well during testing; we were able to slide an egg off of it with with ease, but we found the coating was far from scratch-resistant: It scuffed quickly and easily, which was hard to get past.
The Equal Parts Fry Pan ($69) is another colorful DTC option with a sleek stainless-steel handle. It was the smallest pan we tested; the brand offers it in only one size, the potentially too-small 8-inch frying pan. It was simple to use and very easy to clean, but we recommend going with a darker-colored model if you do buy it; the lighter pans stained quite badly on the bottom after just one use.
The Oxo Good Grips Nonstick Pro ($60) was one of the largest standard nonstick pans we tested (12 inches), and it performed very well across tests; it is slightly heavier than its competitors, which made it a bit more difficult to maneuver with one hand. However, priced at only $40, it’s a worthwhile purchase if you’re often cooking for more than two people at a time. Just don’t expect it to last forever; Kendra said it lost its nonstick abilities at about the two-year mark.
The All-Clad Nonstick Pan ($50) is a favorite of Epi alum David Tamarkin; like the other top performers, it has an aluminum core and multiple layers of PFOA-free coating. It’s a solid choice, but the Zwilling felt a bit more durable in testing.
The Scanpan Classic Fry Pan ($72) is Stockwell’s preferred tool. It’s another one that’s versatile and great for high temperatures because it is ovenproof up to 500°F. In testing it took a little longer than the others to come up to a high heat, but once it was up to temperature, the Scanpan provided an effective nonstick surface for both our pancake and egg test.
The Swiss Diamond Nonstick Fry Pan ($109) has a unique shape that made it interesting to cook with; rather than sloped sides that gently curve up from the cooking surface, it has straighter walls, which increased the size of the flat cooking surface but also created corners where scrambled eggs could get stuck while stirring. The weight was perfect and the handle felt very easy to work with, but for the highest price of any standard nonstick we tried, this didn’t make our best overall ranking.
The Cuisinart Contour Skillet ($40) was a nice tool; the metal handle and light pan felt good in our hands and heated up evenly and quickly, making it easy to cook with. However, we’re a bit skeptical of how safe the pan is for long-term use. For such a low price and with no information available about the makeup of the cooking surface, we had to rule it out as potentially unsafe.
The Tramontina Professional Aluminum Nonstick Pan ($36) heated up extremely fast and came with a nifty removable silicone grip sleeve for the handle, but after just one use the light metallic bottom of the pan showed some signs of scorching.
The Made In Nonstick Frying Pan ($99) performed in the middle of the pack. We love the brand’s stainless-steel cookware and were keen for this nonstick version to be a hit as well; it’s ultimately a fine choice, but we preferred skillets that were lighter weight and easier to maneuver.
If you want a versatile, PFOA-free nonstick pan that lasts, go with the Zwilling Madura Plus. If you’re looking for a ceramic pan, go with the GreenPan Paris Pro, but know that in general, the nonstick coatings on ceramic pans don’t last as long as those on non-ceramic pans.
A note on nonstick safety
The original nonstick cooking product was Teflon, trademarked by DuPont in the early 1960s. Treated with PTFE—the chemical that puts the non in nonstick—these pans are the only true nonstick pans, with a surface that lets food slide right off. PTFE is safe for humans—and in fact, many other manufacturers have adopted the technology—but if you heat it above 500ºF, the molecules can start to break down and release harmful gasses. Teflon-free pans were created to avoid this possibility, but many were originally made with the chemical PFOA, which has been found likely to be a human carcinogen. For this reason, nonstick cookware has a bit of a bad reputation.
Thankfully, nonstick cookware has improved significantly over the years, and manufacturers have learned to apply better coatings to make the pans stronger, more scratch-resistant and better heat conductors. PTFE- and PFOA-free labels are found on almost all of the leading brands and should be the first thing you look for when sourcing a nonstick pan for yourself.
How to care for a nonstick skillet
After selecting the best nonstick pan to bring into your kitchen, the most important thing to to care for it properly. Here are a few tips to keep your cooking surface in top, pancake-sliding shape for as long as possible.
Watch the heat: don’t let your nonstick skillet get too hot, especially if it’s empty.
While many nonstick skillets claim to be dishwasher-safe, we recommend hand-washing all nonstick cookware to extend its lifespan.
Wash your pan with soap and water every time. Even though your nonstick skillet might look clean after a quick wipe with a paper towel, you need to give it a real wash to remove any food residue. If you don’t, the next time you use your skillet any leftover food residue will burn on the pan, creating a film of burnt stuff on the nonstick surface. Just be careful not to scrub the surface when you’re washing it with anything that would scratch it, like steel wool.
Protect the surface of your pan when storing it. If you stack anything on top of it, shield the surface by lining it with a piece of paper towel or a dish rag to prevent scratching and denting.
When possible, avoid using metal utensils; though many new nonstick skillets claim to be impervious to metal utensils, wood and plastic are nicer on the surface and keep your pan in better shape for longer.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious