One food editor explains why the entire team finds these pans so essential, plus shares their top three picks.

By Greg Lofts
August 20, 2019
Justin Walker

Find out what's been happening in the world of 42 burners, aka our test kitchen, with our weekly series.

Nothing gets our food editors fired up like straight-sided skillets. These hard-working, versatile pans sauté, sear, and stir-fry like champs, and they're deep enough for cooking stews and simmering sauces. Because they are wide pans with a greater volume capacity, straight-sided skillets can also cook long pasta noodles evenly when added to boiling water whole. Here are the three types of straight-sided skillets that that test kitchen team recommends.

Related: Catch Up On What Happened in the Test Kitchen Last Week

The Heat Seeker

Thick, heavy cast iron conducts high temperatures evenly, so it's aces for pan-frying, oven-roasting, and baking upside-down cakes (you'll get nice color on the crust). Plus, well-seasoned and cared for cast iron forms a layer similar to nonstick over time, so you should have no trouble releasing an upside-down cake from the pan. Because of its weight, cast iron is best used for searing and braising. Due to its porous material, avoid using acidic ingredients like citrus, vinegar, and tomato sauce; the material taints their flavor. Wash a cast-iron skillet with hot water and dry it right after use.

Our Pick: Lodge Cast-Iron Round Fry Pan, 10.25 inches, $30, williams-sonoma.com.

The Slickster

For clingy foods like eggs and cheese and low- to medium- heat dishes like stews, go with durable nonstick. Choose one with a titanium-reinforced ceramic coating that's safe both in the dishwasher and in an oven set below 400 degrees—then you can braise meat or bake skillet lasagnas in it, too. Old-school nonstick pans have uneven heat distribution and contain potentially toxic material; this hybrid of ceramic nonstick eliminates those concerns.

Our Pick: Culinary Science by Martha Stewart Collection sauté pan with lid, three-quart, $350 for a 14-piece set, macys.com.

The Speedster

Our go-to for quick weeknight meals is stainless steel: It's light in the hand and gets hot fast. Sticky foods can discolor the surface, but acidic ones a cast-iron can't handle are fair game. Wield it for one-pan pasta or chicken and rice, or to steam vegetables. All-Clad is high-quality, durable, and will last forever, which is why we chose this pan.

Our Pick: All-Clad D3 tri-ply stainless steel sauté pan, three-quart, $245, williams-sonoma.com

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