Many cooking techniques — including sautéing, searing, and stir-frying — require the use of high heat. The best pans for high-heat cooking are safe and effective when used at high temps, allowing you to whip up delectable dishes in a snap. Cast iron, stainless steel, and carbon steel are all great choices for cooking at high temps, but each has pros and cons. Choose cast iron for superior heat retention, stainless steel for easy maintenance and cleaning, or carbon steel for somewhat of a middle ground between the two.
Cast iron is a great option for high-heat cooking since it’s super durable and can withstand scorching temps on the stovetop or in the oven. It’s relatively low-cost, too. That said, cast iron is quite heavy, it’s not dishwasher-safe, and it requires regular seasoning to stay in good working order — so if that’s a deal-breaker, opt for an enameled cast iron pan, which has the benefits of cast iron, but doesn't need to be seasoned since it has a ceramic enamel cooking surface. If that sounds too good to be true, it's not — so long as you can stomach a significantly higher price tag. Enameled cast iron also has the benefit of providing a smooth surface that food shouldn't stick to too badly — which is important because nonstick cookware shouldn't be used for high heat cooking, as the nonstick coating can melt or break down at higher temps.
If you’re looking for a low maintenance, dishwasher-safe option, lightweight stainless steel is your best bet. It's a classic choice but isn’t the best conductor of heat, so look for a stainless steel pan that’s paired with a super-conductive copper or aluminum base. Finally, carbon steel is an extremely durable option that's more conductive (though moderately heavier) than stainless steel. It’s not dishwasher-safe (though it’s easy to wipe clean with a paper towel) and requires regular seasoning.
These five pans will hold up well against high heat cooking. Amazon reviewers have tested them out, and can confirm they’re the best of the best.
1. A Fan-Favorite Cast Iron Skillet
With more than a whopping 59,000 reviews on Amazon and a stellar 4.6-star rating overall, this Lodge cast iron skillet is clearly a favorite on the site, thanks in part to its unrivaled versatility. The skillet can be used over virtually any heat source — including in the oven, on the stove or grill, or over a campfire — to sear, sauté, bake, broil, braise, or fry up a tasty meal. Cast iron is known for its superior heat retention, and this pick is no different. The 8-inch pan is also surprisingly lightweight considering the material (at just over 3 pounds).
The skillet is pre-seasoned with vegetable oil, but it needs to be regularly seasoned in order to stay in good shape. It’s also hand-wash only. This pick comes with a silicone handle cover so you can safely hold it without getting burned — a must when you're cooking with high heat.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "Can see why this skillet could be passed down for generations. It is heavy cast iron that is [very] versatile as it can be used in ovens, stove tops, outdoors, grills (or just open campfire), and high heat temps. This one came w/ neat silicone removable handle that comes in handy when handling while hot. With proper care this is one of rare items that gets better after each use, recommended for sure."
- Available sizes: 3.5 inches - 15 inches (including select options with a silicone handle cover)
2. A Carbon Steel Wok
This wok from Craft Wok is both a showpiece and a kitchen workhorse, with a rounded bottom and hand-hammered design that can handle high heat with absolutely no problem. The wok is made of durable carbon steel, and it features a steel and wood handle that shouldn't get too hot or burn even when used over high temps. Tons of Amazon reviewers were thrilled with the number of uses they’ve found for this pick — it can be used to make a mean stir fry, but it’s also great for deep frying, making soups, steaming food, and more — hence the solid 4.4-star rating on the site, among 2,400 and growing reviews.
The wok must be seasoned regularly, and it should only be hand-washed. It weighs 4.39 pounds, which isn't bad considering its large 14-inch diameter.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "I had fun curing my wok and it turned out beautiful with the shiny black patina. I leave it out, hanging from a hook in my kitchen, because it’s a piece to behold. I cook eggs, noodles, rice, chicken, fish... All on a big flame and everything slides right out! This wok is just what I needed and although I wish it were a little lighter for maneuverability (I am a small woman), I understand that a lighter material would not yield such good results. My family is delighted with the Asian-inspired dinners that come out of my authentic wok, and I love how fast I can churn out delicious food with this piece! Highly recommended."
- Available sizes: 14 inches
3. A Large Stainless Steel Skillet With A Glass Lid
If you’re looking for a dishwasher-safe pan that can handle high heat, look no further than this skillet from Cuisinart. The large, 12-inch skillet is made from stainless steel — which shouldn't get discolored or react with foods — with aluminum at the base for quick heating. A glass lid allows you to see the contents inside as it cooks. This pick weighs just over 5 pounds, which is still fairly lightweight for its size.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "I am so pleasantly surprised with this product. I wanted to move away from non-stick and go with stainless, but did not want to invest in an expensive piece until I knew if I liked cooking with stainless or not. I was worried about clean up and heat predictability. Well, I decided to buy this pan as a move into stainless thinking that it was not a huge investment if I was not thrilled with it. But needless to say, my non-stick pan has now gone to the goodwill. This pan is sturdy, heats evenly, has a good heft and feel. The lid fits perfectly. It cleans easily. [...] No need to buy more expensive, this pan is good looking, functional and affordable. Great purchase."
- Available sizes: 12 inches
4. A Three-Piece Set Of Enameled Cast Iron Pans
Like the idea of cast iron pans, but don’t want to deal with the seasoning process? These pans from Klee have all of the benefits of bare cast iron with the added bonus of an enameled finish that you won't have to season. The pans can be used on all types of heat sources — including gas, electric, induction, and ceramic stoves — and they're great for searing, frying, sautéing, roasting, stir frying, and more. Each pan has two spouts for pouring sauces and drippings without any mess. And thanks to that enameled finish, the food should slide right out.
Hand-washing is recommended by the brand. The pans are oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "These are the best pans I have ever owned. The heat is equally distributed which means the food is cooked perfectly. Unlike traditional cast iron these are easy to clean. I’m actually going to order another set for my son!"
- Available sizes: One set (includes 7-, 8.5-, and 10-inch skillets)
5. A Cast Iron Grill Pan
Achieve amazing grill marks on your favorite meats, veggies, and more thanks to this grill pan from Lodge. The pan is made of cast iron, so it’s an excellent pick for heat retention and even cooking, and it can be used on all cooking surfaces, including in the oven and even on campfires. While two handles and a red silicone handle cover make the pan a little easier to lift, it’s quite heavy at 6.67 pounds. But this fact doesn’t seem to deter Amazon reviewers who gave this pick an impressive 4.4-star rating overall, among 11,600 and growing reviews.
The pan comes pre-seasoned, but it needs to be regularly seasoned in order to stay in good working order. Like the other cast-iron pan, this one is also hand-wash only.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: "This is a heavy duty cast iron square, made out of their famous material, heavy, and it holds the heat well. It does need to be seasoned, and one should take care of the unit like keep it away from moisture when storing. It will rust if not protected. Since it is extremely thick and heavy, once it heats up, it is hot and works well on stuff that needs high heat."
- Available sizes: 10.5 inches