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The Cuisinart frying pan in several sizes.

Best Frying Pans for $40 or Less

Consumer Reports' tests find three inexpensive nonstick skillets that can take the heat and a pricier one that's a cut above

Finally, nonstick skillets that aren’t a flash in the pan.

Consumer Reports’ latest tests found three inexpensive nonstick skillets that are keepers. Fried eggs easily slid out of each pan, one after another. Cleanup was a cinch. The clincher? These pans cost $17 to $40, including the Cuisinart CastLite Nonstick ClL22-26RN 10-inch frying pan.  

"Food cooked evenly in all three pans, and each handle stayed cool to the touch," says Cindy Fisher, who oversees Consumer Reports’ cookware tests. "Even after we roughed up the pan in our tests, eggs slid out with just a nudge or two."

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More on Cooking Gear

Lab Tested for Your Home
Our lab kitchen heats up when our experts put nonstick fry pans, the big sellers, and uncoated pans to the test. We evaluate how well each pan turns out evenly browned pancakes, and how well nonstick surfaces release fried eggs when the pan is new—and then again when the coating is worn.

We use an instrument to assess a handle’s sturdiness, and measure how hot it gets during heating. We test nonstick durability with a machine that rubs steel wool over the nonstick coating until it has worn through or up to 2,000 strokes, whichever comes first. A big part of nonstick’s appeal is easy cleanup, so we note how difficult it is to wash away a sticky bechamel sauce.  

Cookware Brands in Our Tests

You’ll find 21 nonstick and 9 uncoated pans in our frying pan ratings from such familiar brands as All-Clad, Circulon, Cuisinart, Faberware, KitchenAid, Le Creuset, and Lodge. Rachael Ray, Copper Chef, and Red Copper—as seen on TV—are in our ratings, too. 

You may know Zwilling for its knives, but this brand appears in our ratings of nonstick frying pans for the first time, and testers were impressed. We shop where you shop, so Daily Chef, from Sam’s Club, has been added to the mix, along with frying pans from Gotham Steel, GreenPan, Orgreenic, Scanpan, Swiss Diamond, and Tramontina.

Below are detailed test results for seven high-performing frying pans that made our recommended list, including the Cuisinart CastLite, $40, and two pans that sell for $20 or less. All come with a lifetime warranty.

Frying Pans for $40 or Less

Three winners for cooking breakfast or dinner.

Red Copper Nonstick
Price: $20
Overall score: 81
Ranking: 2 out of 21
CR's take: This 10-inch pan is made of stainless with an inner layer of aluminum. It scored Excellent overall in our tests, and like most nonstick pans is a cinch to clean. Food cooks evenly and easily slides out. The nonstick coating withstood all 2,000 strokes in our durability test, but food needs nudging out of the pan once the coating starts to wear. The handle stays cool to the touch, but like the handle on all three pans in this price range, it isn’t very sturdy. 

Daily Chef 
Price: $17
Overall score: 81
Ranking: 3 out of 21
CR's take: A Sam’s Club exclusive, this nonstick aluminum pan scored Excellent overall, and the nonstick coating proved just as durable as the Red Copper’s. Food cooks evenly and easily slides out of this 10-inch pan, but it needs nudging once the nonstick coating begins to wear. The handle remains cool but isn’t very sturdy. Sam’s Club offers members a satisfaction-guaranteed policy.  

Cuisinart CastLight Non-Stick CIL22-26RN
Price: $40
Overall score: 75
Rank: 7 of 21
CR's take: Made of lightweight cast iron covered in porcelain enamel, this 10-inch Cuisinart frying pan scored Very Good overall. Food cooks evenly (although the pans above were even better in this test) and easily slides out of the pan, even once the nonstick coating starts to wear. The handle remains cool to the touch but isn’t very sturdy. This pan contains magnetic materials so it can be used on electric induction cooktops.