The Ultimate Guide to Choosing The Best Fry Pan Material For Your Needs

D.G. Zoe Sciortino
D.G. Zoe Sciortino

D.G. Zoe Sciortino

Dina is a seasoned journalist and food writer with over 16 years of experience, specializing in the food, home, and lifestyle topics.

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The Best Frying Pan Material

We’re all looking to stretch our dollars as far as we can. That’s why we want our cookware to last. But we also want it to cook our food properly and suit our cleaning habits. So, what is the best frying pan material that checks all those boxes? 

Ultimately – the best choice depends on you. Different cooking styles, ingredients you often use, and your commitment to caring for your cookware all impact its ability to serve you well. Our guide offers everything you need to know to help you select the best frying pan material for your home.

We’ll cover:

  • The best materials for frying pans
  • How to choose the best frying pan material for your lifestyle
  • The pros and cons of different fry pan materials
  • Other things that should be considered when purchasing a new pan

How to Choose the Best Frying Pan Material for Your Lifestyle

The type of frying pan material that’s best for you will heavily depend on your lifestyle. These factors include the number of people you cook for, how much time you have to spend cleaning, and whether you’ve “gone green.”

Best Frying Pan Material For People With Families

If you’re cooking several meals daily for several people, you’ll want something long-lasting and durable. Stainless steel and cast iron cookware stand the test of time. 

Best Frying Pan Material For People Who Don’t Like to Clean

If you’re not interested in putting a lot of elbow grease into cleaning your frying pans, you’ll find that ceramic nonstick-coated pieces offer easier cleanup. Food slides off these pans – at least when they’re new – so you won’t have to spend time scouring.

Best Frying Pan Material For Distracted Cooks

Carbon steel is one of the best choices for those who leave their pans on the burner too long. This frying pan material is known for being able to withstand high temperatures. You can even put certain types in the oven.

Best Frying Pan Material For the Health Conscious

A ceramic nonstick frying pan can help you keep to your low-fat diet. That’s because it requires less butter or oil when cooking to keep your food from sticking to the pan. Of course, Teflon pans are great for low-fat cooking as well, but there is a complex debate on the safety of this type of cookware.

Best Eco-Friendly Frying Pan Material  

If you want to select a frying pan that’s better for the environment, consider cast iron, stainless steel, or carbon steel. These materials are viewed as environmentally friendly since they are more likely to be recyclable and have a long lifespan.

Pros and Cons of Different Frying Pan Materials

Stainless Steel

Pans are never made of pure stainless steel. Steel is a poor conductor, so it is always layered with aluminum or copper in either a multi-ply or impact-bonded design. 

Stainless steel frying pan


  • Durability Stainless steel pans are known for their longevity. This strong material is resistant to rust, scratches, and dents. 
  • Versatility – Stainless steel works on induction cooktops since it is a ferritic, or iron-based, metal. Metals with high nickel content can, however, disrupt the magnetic field that induction stovetops use to function, causing the pan to lose its effectiveness. This is why many stainless steel pans are made with a nickel-free exterior. Stainless steel can also withstand an open flame and be placed in the oven. 
  • Heat and Retention – Stainless steel can withstand temperatures up to 600°F without losing shape or releasing toxic fumes. That’s what makes these frying pans so great for searing thick cuts of meat like pork chops or steak. Stainless steel is also really good at retaining heat. This means the food inside will keep warm even after you remove it from the stovetop.
  • Non-Reactive – You can cook tomatoes to your heart’s content in a stainless steel frying pan. Stainless steel isn’t affected by acidic foods thanks to the chromium oxide layer formed on the pan’s surface. This surface ensures the food’s composition won’t react with the metal to create toxins or unwanted flavors. 
Stainless steel isn’t affected by acidic foods


  • Stickiness – Stainless steel requires a fair amount of oil, butter, or spray to ensure food doesn’t stick to the pan. You might also find yourself scraping food off that pan if you don’t heat up your pan before you toss in that egg.
  • Poor heat conductivity – It takes a while for a stainless steel frying pan to get nice and hot. So, these aren’t the pans for the distracted or impatient cook.
  • Weight – Stainless steel pans could be a poor choice for those who have stability or mobility issues with their hands. These pans are heavier than their aluminum counterparts, making them harder to maneuver.
  • Price – You’ll spend some extra cash upfront when opting for stainless steel instead of a nonstick frying pan. However, your stainless steel frying pan will likely last you much longer, and you won’t need to buy a new one. 

Best For: 

Stainless steel frying pans are often found in restaurants and commercial kitchens used by professional chefs. But serious home cooks are also fans of this cookware material. This is because it can be used for boiling, simmering, frying, searing, and sautéing.

Exploring Stainless steel in more detail: Why Use Stainless Steel Cookware?

Traditional Nonstick

Nonstick pans typically have an aluminum base coated in one (or several) layers of nonstick Teflon. (Even if they don’t use branded Teflon, it will be a similar compound known as PTFE.) The PTFE may be infused with titanium or other elements for durability or marketing appeal.

traditional nonstick frying pan


  • Easy to Clean: Nonstick pans are made specifically to have surfaces that prevent food from sticking to their surface. You won’t have to do much scrubbing to get them clean. All you need is some soap and a sponge. 
  • Quick Cooking: Nonstick pans are what you want to grab when whipping up a quick meal. They heat up fast and evenly to cook your food efficiently. 
  • Good for Low-Fat Cooking: If you’re looking to watch your waistline, a nonstick pan could be your best option. Since they are already coated with a nonstick surface, you won’t have to use a lot of fats to prevent your food from adhering to the pan.
  • Lightware:  Traditional nonstick cookware is typically lighter than other frying pan materials, such as an enameled iron pan. Since they are often made with aluminum cores, flipping food and cooking will be a lot easier on your hands.
Cooking egg using Traditional Nonstick pan


  • Durability: Traditional nonstick pans aren’t the most durable and must be replaced over time. Teflon coating can wear off or become scratched when frequently used at high temperatures or exposed to abrasive utensils. 
  • Limited High-Heat Use: High temperatures can damage its nonstick coating, making it unsuitable for searing or broiling. 
  • Not Suitable For Metal Utensils: Using metallic utensils on this cookware will scratch the surface and damage its coating. Opt for wood or silicone instead. 
  • Not Good for Browning: Looking to get a crisp sear on that steak or a nice browning on that ground beef? If so, don’t use a nonstick pan. The coating will prevent you from achieving a good crust. 
  • Health and Environmental Concerns: The nonstick part of a traditional nonstick frying pan is coated with Teflon. WebMD calls Teflon “generally” safe, but many people have concerns about using it. Teflon fumes are said to be especially deadly to pet birds

Best For:

Traditional nonstick pans are great for cooks who are always on the go. They are affordable and easy-to clean, lightweight, and allow you to cook without much fat. However, those who like to cook on high heat or who have concerns about using plastic in the kitchen will want to choose a different option.  

Wondering if Traditional Nonstick cookware is a healthy choice? Check out this comprehensive guide.

Ceramic Nonstick

Ceramic nonstick pans also have an aluminum or stainless steel base. But instead of being coated in Teflon, they are coated in a newer technology called sol-gel ceramic.

ceramic frying pan


  • Easy to clean: The silicon dioxide-derived coating on ceramic nonstick cookware allows your food to slide effortlessly off the pan and onto your plate. Soaking or scrubbing these pans won’t be necessary.
  • Non-toxic: It is widely circulated that ceramic nonstick cookware is less toxic than those that use Teflon. This is because it doesn’t use chemicals like PFOA or PTFE and instead derives its nonstick coating from natural elements like silicon – sometimes infused with stone or diamond.
  • Good for Low-Fat Cooking: Cooking on ceramic nonstick cookware also requires less fat. There’s no need to coat the pan with a lot of butter or oil to prevent sticking – but using a little may still be helpful.
Sautéing onions using ceramic pan


  • Durability: Ceramic nonstick cookware won’t last as long as uncoated metals like copper or cast iron. Its coating can easily become damaged over time when roughed up by utensils.
  • Limited High-Heat Use: Like its traditional nonstick counterpart, ceramic cookware isn’t a good option for high-heat cooking methods. High temperatures break down its coating faster.
  • Not Good for Browning: You won’t get a satisfying brown or sear on a ceramic-coated pan for the same reasons as you won’t on a traditional nonstick pan. 
  • Price: Ceramic nonstick frying pans aren’t as expensive as some high-end cookware. But they also aren’t as cheap as some traditional nonstick cookware. 

Best For:

The ceramic nonstick coating on these frying pans makes them forgiving and great for beginner cooks. They are also excellent for those who cook lighter diets and favor easy cleanups. 

Wondering how long ceramic pan will last? Check out this article for tips!

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is extremely popular in Europe, and gaining traction in the United States. This metal pan is made of 98-99% iron, so it needs to be seasoned with oil to prevent rust.

carbon steel frying pans


  • Professional quality: Carbon steel can handle high heat and puts a pro finish on all kinds of dishes, from fish filets to crepes. It lasts for decades if well cared for.
  • Nonstick: Seasoning a carbon steel frying pan will create a decent semi-nonstick layer. The thicker the layer of seasoning, the less likely your food will stick to it. 
  • Versatility: Carbon steel is suitable for any kind of stovetop. It is important to note that you should heat a carbon steel frying pan slowly on an induction top to prevent warping.
Sautéing using carbon steel pan


  • Reactivity: Carbon steel cookware can react with acidic and alkaline ingredients. This will reduce the effectiveness of the pan’s seasoning and affect the flavor of acidic foods.
  • Rusting: Carbon steel is prone to rusting. A well-seasoned pan will prevent the iron-rich carbon steel from connecting with oxygen and creating rust. Thankfully, rust can be easily removed with some oil and coarse salt.
  • Maintenance: You’ll need to keep the seasoning on a carbon steel pan in good shape for nonstick performance. So, you’ll have to monitor it frequently for bare or thin spots in the seasoning and re-season as necessary. Carbon steel needs to be hand-washed.

Best For:

Carbon steel pans are ideal for chefs who want to value heat control and retention. You’ll find them in the kitchens of professional chefs and amateur cooks who want a powerful cooking tool and don’t mind its upkeep.

The versatility of this pan might surprise you. Find out why in our All About Carbon Steel Pans article.

Cast Iron

cast iron skillet


  • Durability: Cast iron ranks at the top when it comes to cookware durability. Cast iron pans are so long-lasting that they can become family heirlooms.
  • Heat Retention: Cast iron is masterful at retaining heat. It takes a while to heat up but stays a steady temperature when you add ingredients.
  • Price: You can find a good cast iron frying pan for an extremely affordable price. Though, of course, you can also get exquisite handcrafted pieces for a premium.
cooking steak on a cast iron pan


  • Weight: Cast iron is among the heaviest cookware materials. Cast iron fry pans can range in weight from 3 to 12 lbs. 
  • Potential for injury: Cast iron frying pan handles get extremely hot, which can be dangerous and painful if you forget this fact!
  • Maintenance: Cast iron pans require seasoning. So you’ll have to coat them regularly with oil and heat it to build the seasoning.

Best For: 

Cast iron pans are best suited for cooks who take pride in their cookware and are willing to invest time in maintenance. They are ideal for those who cook on high heat or grills and appreciate the ability to transition seamlessly from stovetop to oven. Since they have no synthetic coatings, they are popular with health-conscious home chefs.

For American-made cast iron, check out this roundup!

Enameled Cast Iron

Enameled cast iron was invented by the Le Creuset company, and remains synonymous with that famous French brand. Though it’s often found in the shape of Dutch ovens, you can also get enameled cast iron fry pans. They are made of cast iron and coated with colorful porcelain enamel.

enameled cast iron frying pan with asparagus


  • No Seasoning Required: The enamel coating over the cast iron on this type of cookware creates a nonreactive surface, so there’s no need to season it like a regular cast iron pan.
  • Easy to Clean: That nonstick enamel coating means you won’t have to scrub at this pan too hard to remove caked-on food. Just wipe it down and use a soft sponge with soap.
  • Colorful Options: Enameled cast iron pans typically come in a variety of colors that can bring beauty to your kitchen.
Braising Meat in Enameled Cast iron


  • Prone to Chipping: Lower-end enamel cast iron cookware can become chipped over time if handled roughly, making them look beat up. But higher-end options offer chip and scratch-resistance surfaces. 
  • Limited High-Heat Use: Unlike its uncoated counterpart, the enamel version of cast iron can’t be used in high heat. Enamel cast iron frying pans can only be used on low or medium heat without damaging the coating. 
  • Price: Enameled cast iron is more expensive than cast iron cookware of the same quality.

Best For: 

Enameled cast iron cookware is best for chefs looking for a stylish pan that’s easy to clean and has a non-reactive surface.

Curious about enameled cast iron? Learn more here.


Copper fry pans are favored by French chefs and culinary experts across the world. No other material commonly used for cookware is as sensitive to temperature changes as copper.


  • Aesthetics: Copper cookware is favored for its elegant look. It’s often left on display in kitchens to create a sophisticated vibe. 
  • Heat Responsiveness: Copper offers cooks excellent temperature control. It heats up and cools down quickly and distributes that heat extremely evenly.
copper frying pan with mushroom


  • Cleaning: Most frying pans made from copper should be hand-washed. Make sure to use non-abrasive cleaning products.
  • Price: Copper cookware is expensive. You can find less costly copper-colored options, but it’s not the real thing. (Cookware marketing is extremely slippery, so watch out!)
  • Durability: Pure copper cookware is fragile and prone to dents. It’s best to hang these pans to avoid getting them banged up.

Best For: 

Copper cookware is not for beginner cooks. Since copper is susceptible to temperature changes, you have to be very aware and agile when cooking to avoid burnt and sticky messes.

Want pro-quality copper pans? This guide has you covered.

More Things to Think About When Picking a Fry Pan

Choosing the best material for your fry pan is a great place to start! But here are some other factors you’ll want to consider when fry pan shopping.


Frying pans typically come in sizes between 6 and 16” and are measured from rim to rim. Your ideal size will depend on how many people you’re cooking for or if you’re cooking a dish that needs a lot or a little room. 

Larger pans can cook more food without crowding. Smaller pans will distribute heat more efficiently and get hotter faster.


It’s essential to know what type of handle your frying pan has if you want to use it in the oven. Metals like stainless steel or cast iron can get hot on the stovetop and burn your hand, whereas wood or a silicone-covered handle is a little safer. A wood handle, however, won’t be as long-lasting as stainless steel. Some pans have handles made from bakelite, which is a plastic resin.

Stainless steel frying pan handle


Cooking with a lighter-weight pan gives you a more comfortable range of motion when cooking. 

Favorite Products

While a wide range of quality frying pans could suit your needs, we’ve selected some of our favorites to help make your research go more smoothly. 

Best Stainless Steel Frying Pan

Best Stainless Steel Frying Pan
Made In Cookware - 8-Inch Stainless Steel Frying Pan

This comes with a higher price tag, but that’s because it’s of amazing quality. This made-in-Italy pan is made to last and is designed to be your favorite piece of cookware with an ergonomically shaped hollow handle that won’t burn you after sitting on the stovetop.

Check Today's Price

Best Ceramic Nonstick Frying Pan

Best Ceramic Nonstick Frying Pan
Caraway Nonstick Ceramic Frying Pan

If you’re looking for the perfect frying pan to swiftly serve eggs in the morning, then the 10.5” Caraway Nonstick Ceramic Frying Pan is an excellent option. Not only is it a PTFE-free option, but it will make an elegant addition to your kitchen with its gold handle.

Check Today's Price Full Caraway Review

If you’re looking for something moderately priced, you’ll want to try GreenPan’s Paris Pro hard Anodized Healthy Ceramic Nonstick 10” Frying Pan that’s a breeze to clean and is easily maneuverable due to its aluminum build.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are nonstick or uncoated frying pans better?

A nonstick pan cleans easily and works great for lighter dishes, but it might last only a few years. Uncoated pans like stainless steel or cast iron are more durable and better suited for high-heat cooking but require more maintenance. 

What’s the healthiest material for fry pans?

The healthiest material for a frying pan depends on your criteria. If you want to avoid Teflon coatings, try ceramic nonstick, Xtrema pure ceramic, or stainless steel. If you are looking for a pan without aluminum or nickel, try cast iron or carbon steel.

What are the best brands of frying pans?

All-Clad, Le Creuset, Lodge, Calphalon, and Made In are all reputable companies that sell top-quality frying pans suitable for home use. At the Skillful Cook, we have used and reviewed most of these brands. With frying pans, honestly, you get what you pay for. Cheap brands will not last as long as investment pieces.

What frying pans do Michelin chefs use?

Go-to brands for top chefs with Michelin stars frequently include Mauviel, Demeyere, and Matfer Bourgeat. These top-of-the-line brands are known for exceptional quality, durability, and precise heat control. They are made of responsive metals like copper and carbon steel. 

What’s the best material for high-heat cooking?

Stainless steel is best for cooking with high heat. Its sturdy construction and consistent heat distribution make it withstand the heat of rigorous cooking techniques such as searing and browning.

What frying pan material is best for eggs?

Did you know you can successfully cook eggs in any kind of frying pan? If you want fat-free frying, you’ll need to use a pan with a PTFE or ceramic nonstick surface. But if you’re willing to learn to use the right temperature and the right amount of oil, you can get a fantastic fried egg or delicate omelet even in cast iron or carbon steel. 

What material is best for deep frying?

Cast iron wins as the best pan for deep frying, as its ability to retain heat helps to ensure consistent temperatures. Stainless steel is a good alternative if you don’t have a deep cast iron fry pan.


Different factors, such as your cooking methods and personal preferences, will determine the best frying pan material for your kitchen. Each material has pros and cons, and we appreciate them all here at the Skillful Cook!

Don’t hesitate to comment if you have any more questions.

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D.G. Zoe Sciortino
About The Author
Dina is a seasoned journalist and food writer with over 16 years of experience, specializing in the food, home, and lifestyle topics.

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