They say you're only as good as your tools, and that's especially true on the culinary front — particularly when it comes to cookware. If you’re fed up with having to soak your battered old skillet in the sink overnight after yet another meal didn’t go as planned, it might be time to reassess your pan situation. Oh, but where to start? With so many gorgeous skillets seeming screaming out, “Choose me, choose me!” every time you enter a home goods store, how on Earth does one go about choosing? Making a final selection is a gamble at best — unless you've done your homework, that is! We have, and we're more than willing to share the knowledge that we've gained — read on to find out how to choose the best skillet and shop our top picks.
Why is my skillet sticking?
According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, food sticking is caused by the chemical bonds that form between the food you put into your skillet and and the pan's material, with protein rich foods, such as eggs, cheese, or meat, forming particularly strong bonds.
Care should be taken to avoid sticking while cooking. For starters, it's best to get your pan good and piping hot before you add any ingredients — even oil — inside. When it's finally ready, add in some cold oil to coat your skillet's base, and once that's hot, you can add in your food.
If you're following proper sticking prevention methods and you're still having issues, there could be other factors at play. It may be that you're using the wrong type of pan for the job, but more often than not, the culprit is unintentional mistreatment. Quite simply, if you’ve used the skillet in any other way than it was been designed to be used, you may have damaged it — if not ruined it — without realizing.
A few examples of skillet no-no's include putting a non-dishwasher safe skillet in the dishwasher, scratching or scraping its surface with your cooking utensils or by stacking it the cupboard without a protective layer, or harshly scrubbing it while cleaning, could all render your pan a write-off.
When to Throw a Pan Away
At some point in time, we’ve all had to soak a pan or two in the sink overnight, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to go in the dumpster. More troubling, however, is a skillet that's badly damaged or warped. Here are just a few reasons why a skillet might need to make its way to the trash.
- Warping: If your pan has become warped, it won’t evenly heat or cook your food, and, more importantly, its newfound wobble-factor could become a potential cooking hazard.
- Nonstick scratching: A nonstick pan is only truly nonstick if it’s in good condition. These types of skillets have a shelf life of about five years, and just one scratch could lead to bits of its toxic coating flaking off and ending up in your food. When cooked over high heat, this coating also gives off a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid. If in doubt, get rid of it!
- Damaged or loose handles: You don’t want to be left holding a pan handle that has broken off your skillet while cooking. If it's loose and you can’t fix it safely, it’s better to just say goodbye.
- Extremely worn down: If your pan starts to look really worn down, it probably is. Signs a skillet has outstayed its welcome are a core that's peeking through, a material that's visibly thinner, or a coating that's practically non-existent.
What are the best types of skillets?
To get a better idea of what type of skillet would suit you best, we've compiled a few of the most common types available and their main attributes.
- Cast iron skillet: This type of pan, which is known for its ability to heat slowly and evenly, stays hot and turns food a scrumptious golden brown. These skillets also have small flakes of iron that can come off in your meal, thereby increasing the level of iron you'll be consuming: In fact, University Health News Daily reports that these skillets can even be used as a budget-friendly treatment for iron deficiency! A word of caution however: cast iron pans have very specific cleaning instructions, particularly when they're pre-seasoned (i.e. no detergent) and acidic ingredients are not advisable for this pan, as they could lead to a metal-like flavor.
- Stainless steel skillet: Stainless steel heats up fairly quickly and evenly, doesn’t rust or chip, and won’t trigger any food reactions, either. You can pretty much cook anything in steel skillets — even pie!. To clean, use a solution of vinegar and hot water — this mixture will work wonders for getting rid of any burned bits.
- Copper skillet: Used for millennia and adored by many top chefs, copper cookware heats up evenly and easily, requires no preheating, and is naturally antibacterial. These pans are usually lined with tin or stainless steel.
- Aluminum skillet: Aluminum skillets come in two main forms — nonstick (i.e. Teflon-coated) models, which can cook just about anything, and anodized cookware, which conducts heat efficiently and is harder and more durable than its nonstick counterparts. Both have their drawbacks however: nonstick pans can be easily scratched, while anodized pans are far more likely to have food stick. Both types should be cleaned with a plastic, non-scratch brush.
Other factors to consider, depending on your personal preference, include the size and depth of the pan you want, whether it can be put in the oven, and its washing instructions.
Best Skillet Recipes
Before you choose a favorite skillet, behold a few of our favorite skillet recipes below!
- Ultra-Creamy Skillet Mac and Cheese
- Sautéed Garlic Mushrooms
- Quinoa Black Bean Cheesy Enchilada Skillet
- 14 Easy and Delicious Meals You Can Prepare in One Skillet
- 15 Skillet Recipes That Are Truly Sizzling
Now, it you're ready to get cooking, keep reading — We’ve scoured the market for all of the highest-rated skillets around to come up with the 10 best skillets that are sure become your new kitchenware staples. Keep scrolling for our top-rated picks!
Keep scrolling for FIRST for Women's picks for the best skillets.
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