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Best frying pan 2021: The best cast iron and non-stick frying pans from Tefal, Lakeland, Darbymade and more

Josh Barrie
25 Jun 2021
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Free your fry-ups and minimise your washing up with our pick of the top non-stick frying pans

It doesn’t matter whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or a fry-up connoisseur, finding the best frying pan for your needs is essential if you want to excel in the kitchen. If you want a really easy life, you’ll want to own at least one non-stick frying pan, though an entire set is even better. If you’re sick of omelettes, stir-fries and potato rostis sticking to the pan, and doubly sick of scrubbing your pans until your wrists ache, a non-stick pan will come as something of a revelation.

You’ll find some chefs who steer clear of non-stick surfaces – this is largely due to the potential health hazards presented by heating non-stick, PTFE-based pans to excessive temperatures. But while you’re better off using a heavyweight cast iron frying pan for searing steaks and meat, there’s nothing quite like a Teflon-lined pan for knocking up scrambled eggs and crepes with zero stick and a minimum of hassle. What's more, most non-stick pans nowadays are incredibly safe to use for most cooking tasks, so there's no need to worry about chemicals.

Here, you’ll find our guide to picking the right frying pan for you, alongside bite-sized reviews of our favourite frying pans. With prices starting from around £20, your budget doesn’t have to be a sticking point, either.

How to choose the best frying pan for you

How much should I spend?

Non-stick frying pans don’t have to cost the earth but be warned: to get a hardy, long-lasting pan, you’ll need to spend at least £20 in most cases. Prices will quickly rise to £60 and above once you start to look at well-known brands.

The key to non-stick pans is the surface – namely, the material used and how hard-wearing it is. Thin layers will wear down too quickly and might even have a lower temperature tolerance. Pricier pans will often feature more hard-wearing coatings, and some will even survive meetings with metal utensils if you’re not too heavy-handed.

What size frying pan should I buy?

Non-stick pans come in a variety of sizes, each of which is suitable for different jobs in the kitchen. In an ideal world, you’ll have a small frying pan for bacon and sausages; a larger one for big omelettes and crepes. You might even want a large, thick and taller-sided item for risottos and paellas.

But a medium-sized pan, with reasonable height to prevent spillage, is a good place to start for those who are beginning to fit out their kitchen with quality cookware. Some also provide optional matching lids and spatter guards as part of the package, which can make them more versatile – and give you less of a mess to clean up afterwards.

READ NEXT: The best saucepans you can buy

Can I use metal utensils when cooking with non-stick pans?

One crucial element to using pans with non-stick coatings is to ensure you use suitable utensils when stirring, flipping, shaking or turning foods. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, or indeed a more modern silicon one, will eliminate the chances of scratching or damaging the non-stick coating. Metal tools can gouge the non-stick layer and that damage can lead to the coating steadily flaking off over time.

In the unlikely event that it ends up in your food, there’s no proven health risk associated with ingesting these tiny pieces of coating – the chemicals involved don’t break down in the human digestive system.

Given the option, though, it’s something we’d recommend avoiding anyway. Buy the right pan, and the right utensils, and it’s not something you’ll ever have to worry about. If you really don't like the idea of any kind of coating, you can always opt for a seasoned iron pan – you'll need to work very hard indeed to damage that.

What are the health concerns surrounding PTFE-based non-stick coatings?

Not everyone is a fan of PTFE. Ceramic-based non-stick coatings have no issues with high temperatures, but PTFE-based coatings can begin to break down once the temperature soars beyond 260˚C/500˚F. They can also potentially release tiny amounts of toxic fumes if you make the mistake of heating them beyond 350˚C/660˚F.

Tests have shown that it's only possible to reach these temperatures while preheating empty pans (something that many manufacturers advise against with non-stick pans), or while cooking items such as burgers or steaks at a high heat – and you should really be cooking those in a cast-iron skillet anyway. Items such as eggs, bacon or stir-fries are absolutely fine, however, and you’ll be highly unlikely to exceed the advised lower limit of 260˚C unless you have the hob set way too high.

If you’re going to buy a PTFE-based pan, look to see if the manufacturing process is PFOA-free – this is a toxic substance used in the production of PTFE, and while manufacturers claim that any residue is burned off at the factory, most are now looking to abandon its use.

READ NEXT: The best woks you can buy

The best frying pans to buy

1. Tefal Extra 26cm Frying Pan: Best cheap frying pan

Price: £21 | Buy now from Amazon

Despite its bargain price, the Tefal Extra pan is far more than cost-effective. For starters, you get Tefal's Thermospot centre, which indicates when the pan is hot enough to start frying. There's also the smooth non-stock coating, which comes with an impressive lifetime guarantee against blistering and peeling.

The frying pan is just as smart on the outside, with a strong aluminium body and a bakelite soft-grip handle. It’s oven save up to 175 degrees celsius and is suitable for gas and electric hobs but not induction.

Key specs – Non-stick coating: Powerglide; Sizes: 20cm, 26cm, 28cm, 30cm; Guarantee: Lifetime non-stick

2. Ninja Foodi Zerostick Aluminium Frying Pan: Best durable frying pan

Price: £40 | Buy now from Argos

Ninja’s mid-sized 24cm frying pan is an ideal addition to any busy kitchen, with a robust, textured non-stick coating that’s scratch-resistant and dishwasher-safe.

In testing, we put it through its paces on both an induction and gas hob, cooking a variety of foods such as fried eggs, fish and rice. Even when dry-frying, our food only occasionally stuck to the pan and any residue wiped off easily, with no need for soaking.

Another excellent feature of this pan is that it’s oven-safe up to a whopping 260°C, making it perfect for finishing off frittatas and other one-pan meals. If you need a versatile pan that’ll last for years to come, then look no further.

Key specs – Non-stick coating: Plasma ceramic bonding with unspecified non-stick coating; Sizes: 20cm, 24cm. 26cm; Guarantee: 10yrs

3. Tefal Titanium Excel All-in-One Frying Pan: The best pan for steaming, draining and stewing

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

This large, high-sided square pan is a chameleon – thanks to its glass lid, removable steamer plate and strainer spoon, it can be a pot, frying pan, wok, rice cooker, baking dish or roasting dish. Metal utensil-safe, its titanium particle-infused non-stick coating is reputedly 24 times more robust than Tefal's Intensy coating, meaning you can flip and stir without stressing about scratches. The pan is dishwasher-safe, suitable for all hob types and by itself, oven safe up to 250˚C (or 175˚C with the glass lid). And, as ever, it features Tefal's Thermo-Spot heat indicator so you know when the pan is ready to cook.

During testing, our favourite feature was its sheer size and versatility – it's ideal for deep frying, huge fry-ups and rice dishes, plus you can use it to make a variety of dishes from the included recipe booklet. The lid gives it an extra dimension – it's handy for popping on for a few minutes while sautéing to stop the contents from drying out, or for minimising splashes. The only real downside is storage – it's big and bulky – but if you want your cookware to do more, the All-in-One is the pan for the job.

Key specs – Non-stick coating: Titanium Excellence; Sizes: 24cm and 28cm; Guarantee: Lifetime

4. Lakeland Stainless Steel Non-Stick Frying Pan: The best mid-range pan

Price: £35 | Buy now from Lakeland

If you want a pan that’s going to stand up to heavy use but don’t want to spend over £60, this stainless steel offering from Lakeland is pretty much as good as it gets. It’s weighty yet well balanced, with three layers of Teflon non-stick that are metal-utensil friendly.

The thick aluminium base helps to prevent hotspots when cooking, while the soft, non-slip handle makes transferring the pan from stove to counter very easy. Thanks to its high sides, this pan is also incredibly versatile: you can use it for everything from stir-fries to poaching eggs.

Key specsNon-stick coating: DuPont Teflon Platinum; Size: 24cm; Guarantee: 3 years

Buy now from Lakeland


5. GreenPan Venice Pro Frying Pan: The best eco-friendly, PFOA-free pan

Price: From £45 | Buy now from John Lewis

GreenPan claims that its Venice pans use a much more environmentally friendly non-stick technology than most. The company’s proprietary Thermolon ceramic coating doesn’t have nasties such as PFOA involved in its manufacture and, best of all, those green credentials don’t come with a hefty price tag.

The solid, sturdy construction is matched with a riveted stainless steel handle, and the pan can withstand temperatures of up to 260˚C for oven use. The only annoyance is that it’s a little heavier than some of its rivals here, and you’ll need to rejuvenate the non-stick coating with lemon juice or vinegar on a reasonably regular basis. Still, for this kind of money, the Venice is an affordable, effective alternative to pricier models.

Key specs – Non-stick coating: Ceramic; Sizes: 20cm, 24cm, 28cm and 30cm; Guarantee: Lifetime on material/workmanship, 2 years on non-stick coating

Buy now from John Lewis


6. Darbymade Spun Iron Frying Pan: The most-stylish non-stick frying pan

Price: £64 | Buy now from Darbymade

If you’re after something stylish yet traditional-looking, few pans can match the Darbymade. This pan is handmade from spun iron and that, combined with a solid-feeling handle made from air-dried English oak, makes for a pan that’s destined to provide many years of non-stick cooking.

The other thing to note is that it’s environmentally friendly. Rather than a chemical coating, the pan is “pre-seasoned” with flax oil, providing a natural non-stick surface. It does work but needs maintenance and regular seasoning to maintain the non-stick properties.

It’s a bit of lump compared to some of its rivals, but it’s nowhere near as heavy as some of the cast-iron Le Creuset pans we have in our cupboards, and if you remove the handle covers, it’s ready for both oven and grill use. At this price, the Darbymade is a bit of a steal.

Key specs – Non-stick coating: Iron seasoned with flax oil; Size: 30cm; Guarantee: 1 year

Buy now from Darbymade


7. Berghoff Gem Cast-Aluminium 24cm Pan with Detachable Handle: The best frying pan for storage

Price: £67 | Buy now from Amazon

In an ideal world, we’d all have the perfect cookware storage, but most frying pans are awkwardly jammed in cupboards and drawers. Not so for the Gem cast-aluminium frying pan. The range’s clever design features easy-click detachable handles, so you can house your pan pretty much anywhere, as well as use it handleless in the oven and take it straight to the table for serving.

The pan also features a BPA, PTFE and PFOA-free non-stick coating, long cool-touch handle and stylish looks. It’s suitable for all hob types, including induction, and is dishwasher-safe, although hand washing is recommended.

Key specs – Non-stick coating: Ceramic; Sizes: 20cm, 24cm and 28cm; Guarantee: 10 years

8. Stellar Rocktanium Stone Quartz Induction 24cm Frying Pan: The best pan for family kitchens

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

With a scratch-resistant finish that’s more durable than conventional non-stick, Stellar’s Rocktanium frying pan is great for busy lifestyles as well as uncompromising cooks. It’s all down to its titanium-based PFOA-free coating, which, coupled with a thick aluminium body for even heat distribution, makes frying and flambéing a cinch.

A hollow, stainless steel handle also makes the pan both comfortable to move around while remaining sturdy. Compatible with all hob types including induction, one notable feature is its distinctive “stone” interior as an attractive change from the usual black. Dishwasher and oven safe up to 210°C, the pan also has a lifetime guarantee.

Key specs – Non-stick coating: Quantanium; Sizes: 20cm, 24cm, 26cm, 28cm and 30cm; Guarantee: 5-year non-stick, lifetime general

 

9. Samuel Groves Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Fry Pan: Best pan for heavy professional use

Price: £150 | Buy now from Samuel Groves

If you're a keen cook and an even keener fryer, this professional-grade pan from Samuel Groves should be on your list of must-haves. The non-stick coating is double the thickness of standard pans, meaning it can be used in ovens up to temperatures 250 degrees celsius and can stand up to heavier use than traditional pans. It also looks sleek and stylish and is surprisingly thin.

Of course, you do have to pay extra for professional-level cookware but trust us, it's worth it for a pan that'll last for years to come.

Key specs – Non-stick coating: Not stated Sizes: 25cm; Guarantee: Lifetime (must register)

Buy now from Samuel Groves


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