There’s one pan I reach for just about every day; it’s shiny, smooth, and I can cook just about anything in it. Stainless steel pans are a kitchen essential, and I’ve relied on them in several sizes for years. The best stainless steel skillets feature tri-ply construction for even heat distribution and durability, and you’ll find them in small to large sizes for cooking up any dish.
Stainless steel is an excellent cookware material for its durability, non-reactiveness (so it won’t tarnish if you’re cooking something acidic like tomatoes), and easy maintenance. But on its own, a lightweight stainless steel skillet struggles with heat distribution. Tri-ply construction sandwiches an aluminum or copper layer in between the steel for superior heat distribution and even heating. If your budget permits, a copper core offers the best heat conduction and is more sensitive to heat changes, which allows for more precision when cooking.
The Different Stainless Steel Types
Another quick note on stainless steel pans: they contain chromium and nickel to enhance their durability and shine, and those percentages are typically reflected in 18/10, 18/8, or 18/0 labels. The best stainless steel skillets use 18/10 steel, which is the most effective at resisting rust and maintains its polish. Stainless steel with 18/8 uses 18% chromium and 8% nickel and is slightly more prone to rust and dullness than 18/10 stainless steel. And 18/0 steel pans have even less resistance against corrosion, so they are likely more affordable but won’t last as long.
Consider a pan that measures 8, 10, or 12 inches. If you’re going to add just one, go for a 12-inch pan, which is suitable for essentially any recipe. A 10-inch pan is a favorite for preparing eggs, and I love my 8-inch pan for small servings. Stainless steel skillets also conveniently go from the stovetop to an oven and come with handles that are riveted to the pan for durability and often remain cool during stove-top cooking.
Now, here are the five best stainless steel skillets to add to your cookware collection. Each one is highly rated on Amazon, and I’ve included a cult favorite cleanser to keep your new skillet in tip-top shape.
1. The Overall Best Stainless Steel Skillet
The best stainless steel skillet is a 12-inch pan made with tri-ply construction and an aluminum core. I’ve had this pan for years, and it performs just as well as when I first got it. This 18/10 stainless steel pick has a wide, flat base that’s compatible with all stovetop surfaces, including induction, and its highly polished finish and won’t react with acidic ingredients.
This dishwasher-safe pan goes from the stovetop to the oven and broiler up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, and its stainless steel handle is riveted for a sturdy grip — the manufacturer does not mention whether the handle stays cool. You’ll also love the tapered rim for drip-free pouring. Plus, its capacity is etched on the bottom for easy reference.
A helpful review: “This thing is worth the money. After years of cooking on teflon and anodized aluminum, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a stainless steel pan. But this pan has delivered some of the best dishes I have ever cooked. Meat browns beautifully. I can throw it in the oven to finish cooking. And I don't have to be timid when cooking or washing it, because it is built to last. I borrowed one from a friend before buying mine and his cooks just as well after years of use.”
2. The Runner-Up
Looking for the best stainless steel skillet under $100? Using 18/10 steel, this pan also features tri-ply construction with an aluminum core. This pick’s value and performance have earned it its 4.6-star rating with over 1,700 reviews. The 12-inch skillet has cast stainless steel handles riveted to the pan for stability, and they stay cool during cooking, according to reviewers. Plus, this dishwasher-safe pan is safe to use on all cooking surfaces, including induction.
Unlike my top pick, this skillet’s rim is not designed for drip-free pouring, and its maximum oven-safe temperature is lower at 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
This pan also comes in a variation with a helper handle for extra support when lifting the large skillet.
A helpful review: “I ‘review’ very rarely but this pan deserves 5 stars! [...] I've learned to preheat the pan (below medium heat) and use enough butter and or olive oil making sure to coat up (w/spatula) the sides a bit. Now my eggs (fried and scrambled) do not stick! Yay! It cleans up nicely. Sometimes I use a paper towel and a little Bar Keeper's Friend, making it look new. I've just used it for eggs, sautéing greens and vegetables so far. This pan is every bit as nice as the very expensive ones, very substantial and well shaped. I feel like I got a very good deal! Love it!”
3. The Best On A Budget
If you’re shopping on a budget for a stainless steel skillet, this is a solid pick for less than $50. Though it doesn’t use tri-ply construction, it is designed with a diamond embossed aluminum base for even heating and though it opts for 18/0 stainless steel (instead of the more rust-resistant 18/10) it’s still a fan favorite on Amazon. It’s suitable for all stovetops, including induction, and it’s oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This 12.5-inch skillet is dishwasher-safe, and its handle is riveted for strength and durability. The handle can warm up somewhat during stovetop cooking, and some reviewers report using a potholder to move the pan when it’s hot.
A helpful review: “This has more than met my expectations...it's sturdy yet lightweight, has a comfortable handle, and is super easy to clean. A great, affordable investment for the kitchen. Many thanks!”
4. The Splurge Pick
Instead of three layers, this stainless steel frying pan features five, which include 18/10 steel and aluminum sandwiched around a thick copper core for unmatched responsiveness to changes in heat. The added durability and ability to quickly adjust to temperature changes allow for more control over your dishes, especially if you’re preparing something delicate that can quickly overcook. Though an up-front investment, this is a pan that will last you a long time and help you execute complex dishes well.
This 10-inch pan’s wide, flat base is suitable for all cooktops, including induction, and it’s oven- and broiler-safe up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. The steel handle is vented to stay cool, contoured for a comfortable grip, and riveted to the pan for a secure hold. Flared edges on the rim allow for drip-free pours. A highly polished finish gives the skillet better resistance against sticking, and it’s conveniently dishwasher-safe. You can also try this skillet in a smaller 8-inch size or a larger 12-inch option. In the smaller or larger size, the pan’s capacity is etched on the bottom for reference.
A helpful review: “You cannot beat All-Clad in the quality department. After using this pan for a week my family even noticed how my cooking was tastier. This pan does a fantastic job caramelizing meat and veggies. It heats very quickly and evenly. But it also cools very rapidly because the copper is a fantastic conductor of heat and cold. I like the copper core better because of the ease of maintenance. Just a little Barkeeper's Friend and it shines like new. [...]”
5. The Best Nonstick Stainless Steel Frying Pan Set
For a nonstick pick, this set of stainless steel skillets is your best bet. The 8-inch and 10-inch pans are made with 18/8 stainless steel with aluminum cores and nonstick coatings. Each pan works on all stovetops, including induction, and they’re oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Both pans are BPA and PFOA-free.
The riveted steel handle stays cool to the touch during stovetop cooking. Reviewers report the skillets are dishwasher-safe but know that nonstick coatings last longer when washed by hand.
A helpful review: “I got these because I wanted something I can use to cook eggs and pancakes on weekend mornings faster. I love stainless steel and cast iron but waiting for it to preheat to prevent sticking can be annoying when you have a very hungry toddler waiting for breakfast. So I decided to try these non-stick frying pans. [...] These are really good heavy pans, the coating is good quality, and they’re easy to handle and clean. Making breakfast and cleaning up on weekends has been made easier thanks to these pans. Just be sure to only use wood or silicone cooking utensils so as not to scratch the coating.”
Nice To Have: A Cleanser To Keep Your Pans Looking Shiny & New
A can of Bar Keepers Friend is always under my sink, and it’s the reason my stainless steel cookware maintains its shine. Both a cleanser and a polish, it removes tarnish and stains from stainless steel and other surfaces in the kitchen, bathroom, and outdoors. It’s a favorite with a 4.6-star rating and over 7,000 reviews, and trust me when I say it’ll help you get rid of the most stubborn stains with ease.
A helpful review: “I read a bunch of reviews that said this stuff was great for cleaning stainless steel. I was skeptical, I thought I could just use a scrub pad and some elbow grease, but I ordered this anyway just in case. Wow, I'm glad I did. It's basically magic, lol. I can scrub and scrub with just soap and do an OK job on my stainless steel fry pan, but once I throw some of this on and scrub again the pan looks like brand new. I will definitely always have some of this under the sink from now on.”