Whether you’re equipping a brand new kitchen or simply replacing a dated frying pan, the vessels made by Swedish home improvement store IKEA and French cookware manufacturer T-fal are two perfectly good and relatively affordable options.
I know because, for more years than I care to remember, I’ve been cooking with them. I also exchange emails with some of my readers, who help inform my opinion about the brands and products that live up to their promise and those that don’t.
When wondering between IKEA and T-fal for your cookware, buy IKEA pans and pots if you’re going for carbon steel or stainless steel, and T-fal for non-stick. Neither makes particularly good cast iron skillets or Dutch ovens and, when shopping for them, look elsewhere.
IKEA and T-fal both offer good quality frying pans (and cookware lines as a whole) with their own pros and cons. The decision of whether to buy a pan from one or the other comes down to what you are looking for in your purchase.
If you’re looking for a non-stick pan that gives you a no-frills cooking experience, but that also heats evenly, browns food relatively well, and lasts for 3-5 years, go for one made by T-fal.
If you’re looking for a carbon steel or stainless steel that can go from stovetop to oven that’s almost guaranteed to last you a lifetime, go for one of IKEA’s higher-priced VARDAGEN (carbon steel) or SENSUELL (stainless steel) cookware lines.
Which IKEA Pans Are Good?
At $3.49 a piece for a pan with a diameter of 9 inches, IKEA’s KAVALKAD non-stick pans are dirt-cheap. They’re made of aluminum with a non-stick coating and come with a plastic handle with thumb rests.
Light and easy to cook with, they’d be a good choice for equipping a beach house or college dorm, but not necessarily for day-to-day cooking in your first apartment. As with most non-stick pans, the coating lasts for a couple of years at best, then starts to peel off, requiring the pan to be replaced immediately.
IKEA’s non-stick pans are not my favorites, though. The cooking vessel is thin and doesn’t heat as evenly as I’d like it to, so it ends up burning sunny-side-up eggs in some spots (undercooking them in others).
To get the good IKEA cookware, you need to turn your head to its carbon steel and stainless steel lines, and go up in price a notch.
Carbon steel pans from IKEA’s VARDAGEN line:
In my experience, the 11-inch VARDAGEN carbon steel pan is IKEA’s best piece of cookware of all time.
Made from carbon steel, professional chefs’ go-to material for decades, this pan has thick bottom and sides that spread heat evenly and stay warm for a long time, giving your food a great browning.
With riveted-on steel handles, this pan feels sturdy and can be used on the stove, in the oven, and even on the outside grill or over the campfire. It’s sturdy enough for IKEA to back it with a 25-year (yes, you read that correctly; that’s more than a quarter of your life) limited warranty.
The downside to this pan is that carbon steel is a reactive metal, and it’s prone to corrosion and rust. So the pan itself must be seasoned before the first use, a technique I’ve described here, and can’t be cleaned in the dishwasher.
Stainless steel pans from IKEA’s SENSUELL line:
When you consider that IKEA’s core business is making furniture, not cookware, it’s kind of surprising just how functional and well-built the 11-inch SENSUELL stainless steel frying pan is.
Since stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, this pan takes a little longer to heat up than its carbon steel and non-stick counterparts (up to 5 minutes on the stove, in my experience). But, once it’s there, it spreads that heat well, without hot or cold patches.
The handle, also made from stainless steel, is riveted to the vessel for optimal durability. There are no plastic or silicone parts here, so the pan is perfectly safe to use in the oven. It’s compatible with induction stoves and can be cleaned in the dishwasher.
The SENSUELL line is built to last you a lifetime and, just like the VARDAGEN line, is backed by the home improvement store’s 25-year limited warranty.
T-fal also makes uncoated stainless steel cookware (this includes both round skillets and square grill pans), and they’re also really, really good. However, they’re higher priced and don’t have a warranty as good as that of IKEA, which is why I think you should go for the vessels made by the latter.
Which T-fal Pans Are Good?
When buying non-stick, you can hardly go wrong with any T-fal model. Still, not all lines are created equal, and some models give you more value for the money than others.
But, before we get to my pick, have you ever wondered why T-fal is such a popular choice for non-stick pans and pots?
In 1954, T-fal’s founder practically invented non-stick cookware when, after seeing his wife struggle with cooking eggs in a sticky pan, he had the crazy—at least at the time—idea to coat her cooking vessels with Teflon, just as he had done not that long ago with his fishing gear.
Today, T-fal, known as “Tefal” outside of the United States, continues to make some of the best non-stick fry pans on the market. The company is now part of Groupe SEB, the French cookware consortium that also owns All-Clad, Krups, and WFM Group.
Though higher-priced, I find the convenience and versatility of T-fal Ultimate Hard Anodized 2-Piece Set to be unrivaled by IKEA, and any other non-stick cookware line, for that matter.
These thick-bottomed pans heat quickly and distribute heat evenly, without hot or cold spots, browning your food in superior ways, creating an aromatic and flavorful crust, and cooking it evenly. The pans are safe to clean in the dishwasher and oven-friendly at temperatures of up to 400°F (≈200°C).
T-fal’s Thermo-Spot, the heat indicator at the center of the cooking surface, is a neat feature for beginner cooks that tells you exactly when your pan has gotten hot enough to cook in. Timing is of the essence with non-stick pans, you see, as overheating an empty cooking vessel can damage the non-stick coating, thereby shortening its useful life.
Use the 10-inch pan for preparing eggs and smaller pieces of fish and the larger, 12-inch pan for cooking steak or simmer sauces.
Remember that non-stick cookware should never be preheated without cooking oil, isn’t suitable for high-heat cooking, and is not compatible with metal utensils (use a wooden or silicone spatula instead).
Read through the customer reviews for each of my picks, and it won’t take you long to come across a recurring pattern: customers who hadn’t read the usage and care instructions claiming that their products were faulty.
Whether you opt-in for a T-fal non-stick pan or get an IKEA uncoated skillet, my best advice is to get familiar with the owner’s manual before you clean or start using your pan. That’s the best way to ensure that you’re cleaning and cooking with your cooking vessel properly.