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Cheap vs expensive frypans: the $16 Kmart frypan that impressed our experts

Do you really need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a great frypan? 

nonstick frying pans on a stovetop lead
Last updated: 28 May 2020

Need to know

  • Our experts gave the $16 Kmart stainless-steel non-stick frypan one of the top scores in our recent review of frypans from leading brands Tefal, Scanpan, Jamie Oliver and more
  • Premium brands also performed well in our tests, while another Kmart frypan performed poorly. Our experts recommend checking our reviews before you buy
  • The best type of frypan for you will depend on your personal preference and what you'll be using it for

A good frypan is a must for every cook's kitchen, for everything from scrambling eggs to cooking a golden batch of pancakes or searing a steak. You might be using it every day so it's important to find one that you love to cook with and that will last the distance. 

But, for what seems like a simple, straightforward purchase, there's an eye-watering amount of options to choose from, all at wildly different prices. With options ranging from as little as $10 or $15 up to more than $350 (for a premium brand such as Scanpan), how do you know how much you really need to spend? 

It's important to find one that you love to cook with and that will last the distance 

Our CHOICE experts put 28 frying pans from leading brands to the test (a mix of non-stick pans, stainless steel and cast-iron pans), and they found one budget buy that outperformed other pans that cost hundreds of dollars more. 

The $16 Kmart Anko stainless-steel non-stick 24cm frying pan was our low-cost standout, scoring higher on performance, ease of use and durability than brands such as Scanpan, Jamie Oliver, Tefal and Swiss Diamond.

The difference between a $16 frypan and a $300 frypan

Much like your favourite knife or appliance, your idea of what makes 'the best' frying pan can differ from the next person. 

Different materials, styles or features may be more important to you than others: do you like a heavy or a light feel, for example, a stainless-steel finish or a heat-resistant handle? 

Is it important to you if you can chuck it in the dishwasher, or are you more concerned about how perfectly it distributes heat to fry your eggs? 

High-end brands generally have more premium features that may be important to you

And when we're talking differences of hundreds of dollars – is it really worth splashing the cash? 

If you look at factors such as performance for everyday cooking, general ease of use and durability, our experts say that some cheaper models do stack up.  

"All of the frying pans we tested in our labs performed quite well across the board, despite what they cost," says CHOICE kitchen expert, Chantelle Dart. "The aspects that separated the best and worst models mostly came down to their durability and things like how easy they are to clean, the ergonomics of the handles and how well-balanced the pan is." 

High-end brands generally have more premium features that may be important to you. Scanpan pans, for example, are made from 100% recycled aluminium for a greener production process. 

Some cheaper frying pans may have a thinner base, which can create a concave over time

Frying pans at the top of the price scale may use a higher quality of stainless steel, which can protect them for longer against rust or corrosion, or the non-stick coating may last longer than cheaper brands. 

Some cheaper frying pans also may have a thinner base, which can create a concave over time (affecting the pan's ability to evenly distribute heat, particularly if it's being used on an induction cooktop). 

kmart anko 24cm frypan

The 24cm Kmart Anko frypan that performed as well as leading brands in our tests.

Should you buy a frypan from Kmart?

At just $16, the 24cm stainless steel Kmart Anko frypan impressed our testers who gave it one of our highest scores, proving yet again that price is not always an indicator of performance. 

Pros

"It's a lightweight, well-balanced pan that's easy to clean," says Chantelle. "In our tests, it scored well for evenness of heating and durability. Even though it's only $16, it's comparable with other brands that are significantly more expensive." 

If pancakes are a regular on your breakfast menu, this pan delivers the goods. It has excellent distribution of heat, making evenly cooked, golden-brown pancakes in our tests. 

Even though it's only $16, it's comparable with other brands that are significantly more expensive

And it rated well in our durability test, where we scrub one section of the pan surface 10,000 times with a scourer attached to a mechanical scrubbing arm.

It's also oven-safe, as well as being suitable to use on any type of cooktop. The product says that it's dishwasher safe, but our experts recommend against putting any non-stick pan in the dishwasher as it will damage the coating over time. 

Cons

On the downside, our testers were less than impressed with the pan's non-stick capabilities. They noted that a little oil was needed to fry an egg in it without sticking (an issue that may be avoided if you opt for a more expensive pan).

"While it did receive a high CHOICE Expert Rating, this pan has a thin base so it will continue to heat as you cook," says Chantelle. "This means you need to adjust your heat settings as you cook to prevent burning or sticking." 

Its stainless-steel handle is fairly comfortable to hold, but it doesn't have a non-slip grip. The frypan has straight sides which can make it difficult to lift or flip food. And exposed rivets inside the pan and the stainless-steel exterior and base can discolour and require extra cleaning attention.

A tale of two frypans

If you're hot-footing it to Kmart already, be wary. You need to be sure you're picking up the right pan, because another Kmart buy was panned (sorry) by our expert critics. 

The Kmart Anko 24cm aluminium 3-layer non-stick frypan ($13) totally bombed in our tests, with an overall score of just 54%. It scored very poorly in our durability test, which means it's more prone to damage after prolonged use, and it scored 'only OK' on evenness of heating.

Read our full frypan review to find out how the Kmart frying pans stack up against other brands.

frypan on induction cooktop

Which type of frypan should I choose?

When buying a new frypan you need to consider what you'll be using it for. CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair breaks down the differences between cast iron, stainless steel, copper, non-stick and aluminium frying pans to help you decide which one you should opt for.

Cast-iron frying pans

Cast iron is a great conductor of heat. It's slow to warm up but once heated, the pan will retain the temperature very well. This means it can be used to get a very high even temperature, which is great for things such as searing meat. It can also be placed in a high-temperature oven or used over an open flame such as on a barbecue. Regular TLC is essential to prevent rust and to create that non-stick surface. Follow the manufacturer's seasoning instructions before use and avoid dishwashers and harsh soaps when cleaning. Always wipe over the surface with a neutral oil before storing. Cast-iron frypans can be very heavy to handle, but they can last a lifetime.

Non-stick frypans

Non-stick frypans are best for cooking eggs, omelettes and pancakes. There are varying grades of non-stick coating and some are better than others. Look for a non-stick frypan that has a sandwich base: this helps to create an even heat distribution as it enables the pan to sit flat when used on a ceramic or induction cooktop. Non-stick pans aren't suitable for searing because you should only use them on a medium heat (using them on a high heat will cause damage over time). They're generally easy to clean, although our experts don't recommend putting in the dishwasher. Some are suitable for use in ovens at certain temperature, and you shouldn't use metal utensils with them.

Stainless-steel frying pans

Stainless steel is a great conductor of heat, particularly with a stainless steel, copper and or aluminium layered base. Stainless steel frypans are suitable for sautéing, simmering and searing on high temperatures. The pan needs to be heated correctly and oiled once heated to stop food from sticking. You can use them with metal utensils and, depending on the handle type, they're usually oven-compatible. A downside is they can be difficult to clean if there's baked-on residue.

Copper frying pans

Fancy a kitchen adorned with rows and rows of gleaming copper frypans? Copper frypans are usually quite pricey, but they're great conductors of heat and are suitable for sauces and simmering. Copper is very reactive to foods with acid so they're usually lined with stainless steel. They need to be maintained well and polished regularly to avoid corrosion.

Aluminium frypans

Aluminium frypans are relatively cheap, lightweight and usually treated with a non-stick coating. Look for a frypan that has a sandwich base so it can conduct heat evenly and not warp on a ceramic or induction cooktop. Avoid using it to cook acidic foods as it can cause a reaction between the metal and the food. Aluminium is not recommended for cleaning in a dishwasher.