Tefal Unlimited ON review: a non-stick frying pan that's cheap and will keep you cheerful

Tefal’s Unlimited ON fryer has a lot going for it – not least the price – but there are build issues to consider before you buy.

Tefal Unlimited ON
(Image credit: Tefal)
T3 Verdict

Tefal is like Le Creuset for the rest of us, with reliably good-quality products at more-than-reasonable prices. The Tefal Unlimited On non-stick pan is no exception…

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Dependable and versatile

  • +

    Helpful features for chefs with less skill and/or less time

  • +

    Excellent non-stick

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    A few minor build quality niggles

  • -

    Thermo Signal could be easier to view

Tefal always seems to be in the mix when it comes to cookware – the French kitchenware giant offers a massive range of different pots and pans, many of which appear to be more or less the same. Give yourself 5 minutes to browse the pots and pans section of the Tefal site and you’ll come across a bewildering range of options. There’s Tefal Ingenio, Ingenio Thermocoach, Tefal Extra, Tefal Pleasure, Tefal Emotion, and Tefal Assisted, for starters. Tefal Hero is ‘designed to last’, but Tefal Hard Titanium ‘lasts 2x longer’! Tefal Expertise ‘lasts 3x longer’! That’s not to mention a variety of Jamie Oliver collaboration pan sets, and plenty more that I’d rather not bore you with.

Many of these pan sets feature different technologies, like ‘Powerglide’, ‘Titanium Force’, ‘Titanium Pro’, ‘Thermo-Fusion’. The names come thick and fast but, aside from the odd detaching handle, I can’t really make out much different between most of them. I suppose my point is that the ON Titanium range is the latest to join this embarrassment of riches, but is it much different from the Tefal Pleasure, Hard Titanium, Extra or Intensive ranges? It’s honestly very hard to tell. 

But, let’s cut to the chase. Tefal reckons the non-stick Titanium Anti-Scratch coating on the Unlimited ON range is its most durable and effective ever, so much so that you can scratch away with metal utensils if you like. On top of that, the Unlimited ON works on all hob types and is both dishwasher and oven safe, albeit only up to a temperature of 175ºC. That’s not a bad set up for a pan that retails at such a low price, and puts it firmly in the hot zone of our guide to the best non-stick frying pans.

Tefal Unlimited ON

(Image credit: Future)

Tefal Unlimited ON non-stick frying pan: Build

Tefal’s Unlimited ON range is made from a food-safe aluminium alloy, which is then coated with the Titanium Anti-Scratch to seal the pan. Aluminium is a common choice for cookware – it’s light, cheap, and a very effective and stable heat conductor. Some people avoid aluminium cookware because aluminium is very reactive in its raw state and can leach into food. That isn’t a problem with Tefal’s food-grade alloy, and the aluminium is coated by the ultra-tough Titanium Anti-Scratch non-stick as well. 

The other big problem with aluminium cookware is that aluminium is not magnetic, and therefore, aluminium pans will not work on induction without some sort of additional magnetic layer. Tefal circumvents this by adding a stainless steel baseplate to the pan, which it calls ‘Thermo-Fusion Plus’ technology. It’s a relatively simple and common way of making aluminium pans induction-compatible – stainless steel is magnetic, so it heats up on induction and consequently heats the aluminium. 

These solutions work fine but they’re usually not as effective as using a stainless steel or tri-ply pan – they’re generally slower to heat up than the aforementioned pans, and the baseplate only heats the base, so you get minimal radiant heat around the sides of the pan. The Thermo-Fusion Plus plate may be different, we’ll get to that later. It does at least mean that the Unlimited ON pan has a nice weight to it (about 1.5kg) and a reassuringly heavy bottom. 

A few other aspects of the build are worth noting. The sides are very high on the Unlimited ON frying pan – about 6cm compared to the usual 4cm. This is particularly useful when cooking larger meals and even more so if you are not the most skilled sauté-er or spatula wielder. 

As usual, Tefal's Thermo-Signal sits in the middle of the pan. The idea here is that you’re encouraged to preheat the pan to the right temperature before using it; the Thermo-Signal will turn solid red when the pan is the right temperature. I’m fully in support of the motives here – preheating a pan is an important part of the cooking process – but i still find Tefal’s Thermo-Signal technology isn’t quite as clear as it could be. I often find myself staring at the hotspot trying to tell if it has reached the right temperature or not.

The handle is plastic with a metal inlay and fixed to the body of the pan via a single screw. Usually I would avoid putting plastic handles in the oven, but Tefal claims that this pan is oven-safe to 175ºC and I had no problems with it. That said, 175ºC isn’t an ideal temperature to be limited to, as most of us cook at 180ºC by default. The handle feels solid enough otherwise, but I generally still prefer riveted metal handles as they’re durable and reliable.

On the whole, Tefal’s Unlimited ON is solid if unspectacular, but the most important factor is the toughness of that non-stick Titanium Anti-Scratch, which we’ll look at now. 

Tefal Unlimited ON

(Image credit: Future)

Tefal Unlimited ON non-stick frying pan: Non-stick

The Unlimited ON range is Tefal’s answer to a high-performance line, and the foundation of that is in the non-stick coating, which it reckons is 6 times tougher than the original Titanium non-stick it developed some years ago. 

Like other non-stick applications, Titanium Anti-Scratch uses multiple layers to increase durability and wear-resistance, which includes a thick crystal-reinforced layer. The big difference here is that you can use metal utensils with Titanium Anti-Scratch, in fact, Tefal encourages it in all their promotional material. That’s a big step for non-stick cookware. 

Tefal’s standard warranty covers non-stick cookware for 2 years, but as usual, doesn’t cover standard wear and tear. The latter part obviously makes things tricky with non-stick – it’s very hard to negotiate what constitutes wear and tear and what doesn’t, so always be aware of that before you buy.

Tefal Unlimited ON

(Image credit: Future)

Tefal Unlimited ON non-stick frying pan: Performance

I have to say, albeit for a week or so of daily use, the non-stick coating on the Unlimited ON frying pan is incredibly robust. I’ve rattled this pan around various hobs, scraped and dinged it with spatulas, chucked it in the dishwasher numerous times and it barely shows any wear and tear. 

Less surprising but still important, the non-stick works very well. The heavy bottom of the pan heats evenly and reasonably quickly when tested on a gas hob. The pancakes I tested came out evenly cooked with no obvious hot spots. The pan has a nice weight to it and feels solid, though I feel it would feel much more so with a metal handle rather than a plastic one. All in all though, it’s a really enjoyable pan to use.

Though the Thermo-Fusion Plus plate does a great job on gas and electric hobs, I did find it the performance noticeably dropped off on an induction hob. The pancakes I cooked on the induction hob took longer to cook at the equivalent temperature. This isn’t a total surprise – as I mentioned before, these induction baseplates are often a workaround solution rather than offering equivalent performance to a stainless steel pan. As the induction heats the steel and then the steel heats the aluminium, there’s always going to be somewhat of a decrease in performance. For that reason I’d still suggest that Tefal’s aluminium pans aren’t ideal if all you have at home is induction. 

Tefal Unlimited ON

(Image credit: Future)

Tefal Unlimited ON non-stick frying pan: Verdict

Aside from a few minor quibbles, I was really pleasantly surprised by how well the Tefal Unlimited ON performed. The handle is a little bit on the cheap side and I’m disappointed that it’s only oven safe up to 175ºC as that puts a ceiling on its flexibility. I also wouldn’t recommend this pan for anyone cooking on induction, but aside from that it’s remarkably good value for what it is. 

Most impressive of all, Tefal’s new Titanium Anti-Scratch non-stick coating really does seem to be the real deal. There’s no way of quite knowing without spending a few years with it, but for the moment, it certainly seems to be among the toughest, most durable non-sticks I’ve come across.