When it comes to the best pans, our opinions run deep. Ask us about our favorite cast-iron skillets, stainless-steel cookware, carbon-steel pans, nonsticks, and the very best pan for making eggs and we will be overjoyed to go into minute detail. But the truth is, the best pan is the one you enjoy cooking with the most, and that will vary from person to person. As proof, we asked Bon Appétit test kitchen staffers about their most beloved pans for everything from shallow-frying to braising to cooking over a fire. Some of the pans are teensy and cute, others are durable and ultra hefty—and all of them serve a great purpose. Watch or read on for their top picks.
My favorite pan is this 10-inch skillet with double pour spouts. What sets this cast iron apart is the smooth enamel coating—just like the kind you find on the inside of your Dutch oven—which makes for a nonstick surface without the need for seasoning and maintenance. You can bake in it or use it on your stovetop. Omelets or fried eggs? No problem. It’s super sturdy and thick, and you basically have a cast iron without the work of maintaining a cast iron. You can hand-wash it without worrying about reseasoning.
One of my favorite things to cook in it is crispy chicken thighs: Start with a cold pan, put the thighs skin side down, and then bring it up to temperature. It just gets so crispy, so delicious. If you need to pour off some fat, the two little indents and helper handle make it easy. I also love baking cobblers in it. No need to transfer it to a separate serving dish—you can put this on your dinner table, and it’ll look beautiful. To me, it’s the best cast-iron pan and a true kitchen workhorse. —Rachel Gurjar, associate food editor
I didn’t grow up using a wok, but as I got introduced to a bunch of different cuisines, I fell in love with its versatility. This piece of cookware can do the job of so many different pots and pans. It can handle pasta, stir-fried vegetables, fried rice, even stews and soups. It’s perfect for mussels and clams. You can take it to the beach and fry fish right on your little propane burner. I like to put some vegetables in the center of the wok, and then I’ll take really thin slices of fish or meat and slap them right on the sides as the pan heats up.
I prefer carbon-steel woks, because they can take really high heat, are nonstick once seasoned, and are lightweight—you can throw them in a bag or backpack. I use mine at home, but I use it even more when cooking outdoors. You can easily rest it on rocks or on coals. There are many different brands and models of carbon-steel woks, but this one has a nice patina on it straight from the factory. You’ll be able to pass this pan on for generations. —Brad Leone, contributor
I love this aluminum nonstick pan because it’s high-quality, versatile, and convenient to use—especially when I don’t want to deal with a lot of cleanup after cooking. When we talk about nonsticks, we often say things like, “You have to keep it on low or medium heat,” or “This pan won’t give your food as much color.” With this Zwilling Madura pan, though, I don’t really run into those problems. It can do everything I need it to do. It can handle high temperatures on the stovetop, and it’s also oven safe up to 300 degrees—a rarity for most nonstick coatings. It’s super durable compared to other nonsticks, so much so that I never worry about scratching the PFOA-free cooking surface. The fact that I can use metal utensils and stainless-steel tools, like my fish spatula, on this pan is a big plus for me. Not to mention it’s dishwasher-safe, conducts heat like a champ, and is very lightweight, which makes it easy to maneuver.