Electric skillets are making a comeback from their heyday in the 60s. An article published in 1955 by Good Housekeeping said,
“thermostatically controlled” electric griddle was the solution if you “turn out leather pancakes.”
Today, the popularity of these skillets has picked up enough that manufacturers like Faberware are releasing vintage-style models.
Why Own an Electric Skillet?
When it comes to cooking for a crowd or within the confines of a limited space, or if you’re just looking to obtain the perfect pancakes, the right electric skillet can be a great addition to your kitchen.
For a short time, my mother cooked on an electric skillet until there was enough in the budget for a new gas stove. While everyone was happy to get a stove back into the mix, the versatility of the electric skillet allowed her to choose from any dish in her arsenal of delicious dishes; we’re talking enchiladas, lasagna, fried chicken, amazing pan sauces, and desserts. There’s also something amazing about sitting down at the dinner table and finishing off the first course while the main dish remains on the table piping hot (or still cooking in the case of fajita night).
Now that you’re convinced that an electric skillet deserves a spot in your kitchen, we’ll break down all the aspects of what makes a good skillet and provide the results as we put their cooking abilities to the test.
A COMPLETE BUYERS GUIDE
4 Makings of a Great Electric Skillet
A good electric skillet is one that heats evenly; or as we discovered, a good skillet is one that mostly heats evenly. Throughout our testing of the 6 skillets, even heat is a rare commodity.
The heat from an electric skillet comes from a coil under the pan’s surface.
The problem with the coil style heating is it makes it very difficult to radiate even heat. What you’ll notice is that the area near the thermostat will be hotter than the far side.
Unfortunately, most of the electric skillets are designed along the same lines. The Zojirushi and the Copper Chef we tested had a variation of this design style: the heating element was underneath a separate plate which heated up a removable pan, resulting in more of an even heat.
Just like an oven or an induction cooktop, the heating element turns off and on to maintain the set temperature (or at least that’s the idea). It’s preferable to have a thermostat with a light that switches on and off as the heat does.
On average, the skillets’ listed heat range is from 175°F to 475°F. Most all skillets run hotter than the max temperature indicated on the thermostat, but not lower than the minimum temperature.
Tip: if you’re looking to do any low-temperature cooking (such as poaching) you’ll need to be sure the thermostat goes low enough.
2. Size Matters
How many pancakes do you want to cook at once? Fries for four, or fries for one? The size of the cooking surface determines a lot about how you use the skillet. Unless you have a specific goal of compact cooking, you generally want the largest possible cooking surface.
Buyer Beware: One tricky problem, the manufacturers tend to exaggerate their size. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, maybe it’s just cold, but (for example) the De’Longhi is advertised at 16”×12”, measures 15⅛”×11½” at the top of the skillet, and measures 13¾”×9¾” of actual cooking surface – 70% of advertised.
3. Easy Cleanup & Storage
The saddest part of cooking is the cleanup, but a good nonstick coating can make it less painful. Be on the lookout for an integrated pour spout, especially if you want to fry in your skillet. Some of the skillets come apart for easier cleaning, which is a bonus, since they are often quite large.
The overall size can be a problem for storage too – units that break down to a smaller size gain plaudits here.
Heat and size are important, but if the skillet is awkward to cook on, it won’t come out of the cupboard. Here are some factors to look at when shopping.
- Handles – Handles should be sturdy and easy to grip. The handles aren’t far away from the heating element, so they shouldn’t get too hot to handle in use.
- Thermostat – The thermostat should be easy to read, easy to set, and seat firmly in the socket. An indicator light should show you when the skillet is heating.
- Breakaway features – A breakaway connection can mean the difference between inconvenience and disaster if someone snags the cord.
- Length of cords – Are you limited to one spot on the counter, or can you take your choice without needing an extension cord? Safety tip: these units all draw 10-14 amps of power, so you need a beefy extension cord. Start with a 14-gauge cord up to 50 feet, 12-gauge to go to 100 feet.
- Aesthetics – Does this look like something you want in your kitchen? That judgement will have to be up to you.
Enough of this >> Jump me down to the results already
What You Should Know About Electric Skillets
How much should I spend on an electric skillet?
The top-selling electric skillets range from $25 to $110. We found that the sweet spot for an electric skillet is around $50.
Wait, so what makes an electric skillet different from an electric griddle?
Skillets and griddles are not exactly the same.
- Griddles have no sides, or very low, 1/2″ at most.
- Skillets are a traditional pan, with sides from 2.5″ to 4″, and also have a lid.
- Griddles are for pancakes, eggs, bacon and the like.
Skillets are for grilling sausages, or making spaghetti sauce, lasagna, desserts like cakes, etc.
What can I do with an electric skillet?
As we mentioned earlier, electric skillets are practical, so here’s a quick look at their most common uses.
Short on kitchen space: Small spaces like apartments, dorms, tiny houses, or RVs are a great place to have one of these on hand. If you’re limited on kitchen space, the additional cooking surface can let you prepare dinner. If nothing else, it allows for you to have two people doing the cooking without being crammed in the kitchen.
The Entertainer: Honestly, for me, this is the practical use. We like to have people over. When we’re hosting large get-togethers, it’s so nice to have one or two skillets on hand.
The party can move outside at any given moment, since it sucks to be stuck in the kitchen when you can be sitting on the patio. Being able to do the cooking outside at a moments notice is a big plus.
Sometimes we don’t even use it for the initial food prep. It’s just to help keep the stove/oven freed up for guests who bring food. This way instead of having all the food piled up in and on the stove, we can easily have everything spread out.
Even if you’re not the hosting type, Thanksgiving and Christmas are two events a year that will give you a good reason to break out the skillet.
Efficiency: So we live in Arizona. Yup. Hot. So when it comes to summertime I (and I think I can speak for the entire State) tend to cook less indoors. An electric skillet is simpler and more versatile than the grill, and can do some oven jobs too.
Making home away from home: I always associate “home sweet home” with the smells and flavors of a home-cooked meal. Being able to make up a dish in a motel room, at the office, or any location that doesn’t have a stove is a game changer.
What not to do…
One downside to electric skillets is they take a good amount of power, 1400 watts on average. Don’t try to run more than one per circuit unless you feel like yelling at the breaker box (or starting a fire). If you plan on laying out more than one, you’re gonna need to run some beefy extension cords to ensure you’re running them on separate circuits.
THE TEST KITCHEN: How We Gathered Information
We gathered six top selling skillets based on several factors:
- Top-selling on Amazon
- Highest star rating
- Featured winners on editorial reviews
- Featured winners on Test Kitchen reviews
The skillets in our roundup ranged from $25 to $100. Since we purchased these with our own money, we are not influenced by one brand over the other.
Since most of the skillets we tested had a light on the thermostat to indicate when the heating element was on or off we used this feature to indicate when the skillet had reached the set temperature. So we set each of our skillets to 350°F and once we decided it had reached temperature we conducted our tests.
We looked for even heat by using an infrared thermometer to test how evenly the heat was distributed across the entire surface. We compared the measurements we took with the infrared thermometer to the thermostat setting to see how trustworthy the thermostat was.
Our testing showed that the thickness of the skillet defined its heating characteristics. The thicker skillets took longer to heat up, but were more even, and closer to the thermostat’s set temperature. Thinner skillets heated more quickly, but had more pronounced temperature variations in both location and time.
Ergonomics were evaluated throughout each of our tests. As we pushed the limits of each skillet we discovered the practical elements of functionality that faired better or worse than their competition. Most of the time it came down to how the skillets felt when cooking, maneuvering, their sturdiness and ultimately where they nailed it or fell short in overall design.
The first cooking test was to sauté vegetables. We set each thermostat to 300 degrees and waited for the skillets to come up to temperature. We added a little butter and waited for it to melt. Once foaming subsided, we added sliced onions, sliced bell peppers, sliced button mushrooms, and a big pinch of salt. We tossed the vegetables as needed until they were softened and beginning to brown.
We evaluated the test based on the amount of time needed to sauté the vegetables and on the quality and evenness of the browning.
The second cooking test was to double-fry french fries. We peeled russet potatoes and cut them into roughly ¼” square fries. We rinsed off the surface starch, then soaked them in ice water for at least 30 minutes while preparing the skillets.
We filled each skillet to about 1½” with vegetable oil and heated them to 325 degrees. We dried each portion of fries on paper towels, then added them to the skillets. We let them fry, stirring occasionally, until the fries turned blonde in color. From there, we moved each portion to a covered bowl, and increased the temperature to 375 degrees. We added the fries back to their skillet, and fried until golden-brown, then removed the fries to a draining rack and salted them.
We evaluated the fry test on several factors. How long did it take the oil to reach each setting, how much did the temperature drop when the fries were added, and how quickly was it able to return to temperature? How long did it take to cook the fries in each phase? How good was the final product, specifically looking at taste, texture, and browning?
The third cooking test was to sear a steak. We cranked the skillets to max, then waited for them to reach temperature. Once there, we added a top sirloin steak seasoned with salt and pepper. We let it cook, moving as little as possible, until a good crust had formed on the bottom. We flipped it and reduced the heat to medium-low to finish the steaks as our testers desired.
We evaluated the sear test based first on the quality and evenness of browning. A secondary factor was the amount of time needed to reach maximum temperature, and the amount of time needed to get a quality sear.
Since different steaks were finished in different ways, we did not rigorously evaluate the medium-low cooking, but we did qualitatively note how well each steak finished.
After cleanup, day two of testing opened up with pancakes. We mixed up boxed pancake batter as directed, heated each skillet to medium, and made pancakes.
We evaluated the texture and browning of the pancakes. This was also the test where we made most of our observations about skillet size and ease of use.
7. Poached Fish
The fifth cooking test was tilapia poached in milk. We heated each skillet to 140 degrees, added a poaching liquid of milk, sliced onions, and seasonings, then a piece of tilapia. We left the skillets alone until the fish reached an internal temperature of 140 degrees.
We evaluated the ability of the skillets to maintain a low temperature. We paid close attention to the temperature swings of the thermostat’s cycle. We also considered the taste and texture of the fish, but temperature control was the primary focus.
The first cleanup test was conducted after letting the skillets sit out overnight after our sear test. This test primarily evaluated the nonstick cooking surface. Our top ranking skillets came clean using only hot water and a spray nozzle.
The second test was conducted after the poaching test. We examined how easy it was to clean the entire skillet, not just the cooking surface but the exterior, around the handles, thermostat area, and base.
Evaluation & Ranking
For each test, we rated each skillet on a 5-point scale, then combined the individual test ratings into an overall rating. We used these overall ratings, the prices, and our opinions based on two days of testing to produce a final ranking.
Best Electric Skillets for 2020 [Tested, Reviewed & Rated]
1. De’Longhi BG45 Electric Skillet
Overall Star Rating = ★★★★☆
Price = $$
Why It Was Included in Our Roundup
De’Longhi is among the top searched-for by brand name on Google. It was also featured in the top 5 across several online editorial reviews.
- Size: 16”×12” (actual cooking area 13¾”×9¾”)
- Wattage: 1500
- Material: Die Cast Aluminum
- Weight: 8.9lbs
Testing Review Results
Heat – ★★★★☆
Ergonomics – ★★★★★
Sauté – ★★★★★
Fry – ★★★★☆
Sear – ★★★☆
Pancakes – ★★★★★
Poached Fish – N/A
Cleaning – ★★★★★
The De’Longhi heated up among the quickest in the group and performed consistently well. Like many of the skillets inn our roundup, it ran over the thermostat setting by about 50 degrees – about average for the group.
The thermostat ranges from 200°F to 400°F. The lowest setting is MINN (warm), then it goes up by 50 degree increments from 200°F to 400°F.
Temperature consistency is good, with a spread of 20-30 degrees from the center to the edges.
Lots to like here. The De’Longhi has a solid sturdy design with ample cooking space. It’s nominally 16”×12”, but has 13¾”×9¾” of actual cooking surface.
The handles were the best in the bunch. They are comfortable and easy to grab, and never got hot, even set to maximum temperature. The cord is 36” long, which is not amazing, but will at least get you anywhere on the countertop.
Like sauté co-champ Elite, the De’Longhi heated up fast to a good heat level. It held temperature well when the veggies were introduced, and gave them a nice level of browning in a reasonable amount of time.
The De’Longhi got the oil up to temperature quickly, though not as fast as the Elite. Temperature drop was reasonable, but we would like to have seen a faster bounceback. The finished fries were very good – a little over-browned, but with a perfect interior.
On the fry test, we really admired the quality of the handles. Even full of hot oil, the handles were basically room temperature.
The De’Longhi’s steak sear was among the best in the group. It heated quickly, and stayed fiery while putting a nice sear on our sirloin.
While that was the focus of the test, we found a flaw when reducing the heat for the second side: the heat dropped too far when the thermostat temperature went down. This gave us a steak with a great sear, but an overcooked layer below the surface. So, if you purchase the De’Longhi and are looking for the perfect steak, we recommend kicking it up to max and leaving it there while cooking the steak about 3 minutes on each side.
Nothing to say here but yum. The De’Longhi turned out perfect pancakes, matching the Presto. This was another spot where we appreciated how easy the De’Longhi was to work with. The whole thing sits solidly on the table and it’s easy to work on the cooking surface.
Fish Poaching N/A
Here’s a thing the De’Longhi doesn’t do well, or at all. The thermostat goes down to 200 degrees, and while something is happening below that level, it’s not consistent or repeatable. If you’re looking for a skillet that will hold low temperatures, the De’Longhi is not for you, and we would recommend the Elite.
The De’Longhi cleaned up nice and easy with a rinse in hot water. The nonstick coating did its job well, and the handles and exterior cleaned up easily too. The skillet is advertised as dishwasher-safe, but examining that aspect is a long-term thing.
The De’Longhi BG45 finished in the top tier in every one of our tests except for the fish poaching test, where it failed completely at holding a low temperature. Moreover, the design was the best in the group and was the only skillet we felt comfortable handling and maneuvering when it was running at its maximum temperature. If you need low-temperature ability, go with the Elite, but otherwise our WINNER, the De’Longhi, is RECOMMENDED as our Best Electric Skillet.
What We Liked
- Quality design
- Big cooking area
- Great sauté and sear
- Great handles
- Easy to clean
What We Didn’t Like
- Doesn’t work below 200 degrees
- Drops too much temperature when turned down
2. Elite Platinum EG-6203
Overall Star Rating = ★★★★☆
Price = $$
Why It Was Included in Our Roundup
Elite was ranked in the top three spots on Amazon by both user reviews and top sellers. That high ranking pushed it to be one of the top editorial reviewed products in the category.
- Size: Advertised at: 16”×13”
- Wattage: 1500
- Material: Die Cast Aluminum
- Weight: 9.9lbs
Heat – ★★★★☆
Ergonomics – ★★★★☆
Sauté – ★★★★★
Fry – ★★★★☆
Sear – ★★★★☆
Pancakes – ★★★☆☆
Poached Fish – ★★★★☆
Cleaning – ★★☆☆☆
The Elite finished in our top tier and would have finished as #1 if not for the fact that it ran hot almost all the time.
The nominal range of the thermostat is 200°F to 400°F in 50°F increments. It heats up among the quickest of all the skillets. Unfortunately, when set to anything above 300°F, it starts to run over by 50 to 130 degrees. Running consistently hot isn’t too big a problem since you can plan for it. Another issue is that the thermostat side runs 10-25% hotter than the far side.
The Elite is a traditional rectangular electric skillet, nominally 13”×16”, that boasts a honeycomb pebbled surface. The actual cooking surface is a bit smaller, about 12”×15”, which is above average for this group.
The honeycomb surface proved to be both good and bad. It was nice when trying to flip and stir things like the veggies in the sauté test. The surface had a bit of tooth that helped get a spatula under the food. It seemed to be a bit of a drawback, though, when it came to searing and cleanup. It features a notched-out corner that the manufacturer says is a pour spout, but it’s a terrible spout for pouring; you’re better off using one of the other 3 corners.
The handles felt sturdy and comfortable to grip. Unfortunately, the handle on the thermostat side got noticeably hot when the skillet was running at high temperatures.
The cord is 27½” long, which is a bit short. The thermostat features a trigger release mechanism, which was not that useful. We didn’t have any trouble removing the thermostats from any of the other skillets.
This is where the honeycomb surface – unique to the Elite – really shined.
The pebbled surface allowed us to easily stir and flip the veggies to get even browning. The high heat of the Elite also helped here – it was the fastest to heat up, and the fastest to brown the vegetables. The Elite was in the top tear of the sauté test.
The Elite did a solid job in the fry test. Its high heat brought the oil up to temperature quickly, and, more importantly, bounced back quickly after adding the ice-cold potatoes. The Elite’s tendency to run caused us some trouble in the second fry. It ran too hot, so the fries browned too fast, and we had to pull them before they got the perfect texture on the exterior.
This was also where we discovered the “pour spout” did not work; luckily there were no casualties.
One of the keys to a great sear is high heat over a short period of time. Too long, and you end up with overcooked steak, or worse, the heat is too low and you end up with an overcooked steak without a delicious crust. Since the Elite runs hot, it completed its sear fastest of all the skillets. However, the sear was only about 3rd best.
The honeycomb surface proved to be less than ideal for searing, since less of the steak was in direct contact with the skillet.
The heat strikes again! While pancakes finished quickly, they were overcooked – a bit leathery on the outside while the inside was underdone. Again, we expect this issue can be rectified by fidgeting with the thermostat to anticipate the overshoot.
Fish Poaching ★★★★☆
Surprise! The rocket-hot Elite was able to maintain a low enough heat to keep our fish on hold at 140 degrees for upwards of 20 minutes. The only reason we didn’t award the Elite a 5 on this test was because the first thermostat reading is 200, so we had to play around with the “warm” reading to get our liquid down to 140 degrees.
Cleaning was a bit of a drag because of the honeycomb surface. Instead of coming clean with hot water, or hot water and a simple wipedown, it required the use of a scrubber and constant scrubs in circular motions to get it cleaned.
Overall, the Elite is a very good skillet. It heats up fast and hot with low-temperature versatility too. The downside is that it runs too hot, and needs a careful eye and maybe a thermometer to get to the right temperature. The honeycomb surface texture is a mixed blessing: good for the sauté and pancakes, but not good for searing or cleaning. The Elite Platinum EG-6203 is RECOMMENDED, but keep an eye on that thermostat.
What We Liked
- Quality design
- Big cooking area
- Heats up fast
- Sautés well
- Dishwasher safe
What We Didn’t Like
- Runs excessively hot
- Tough to clean the honeycomb surface
- Takes longer to reach set temperature
3. Presto 06857 16” Electric Foldaway Skillet
The multifunctional Presto 06857 electric foldaway skillet can roast, stew, fry, bake, and grill your delicious food. It can perform all the pretty things with proper heat control that retains desired level of temperature. There is virtually no risk of burns. Despite having non-stick surface, you still need to be careful and use a bit of butter and oil. You can cook virtually anything you like in its 16” surface.
You can also use it for buffet serving. The handles always stay cool for easy handling. It covers very little space and you can easily detach it from the base and store the handles inside.
- Heat control is fully automatic
- Dishwasher safe for easy cleanup
- Comes with spatula and spoon holder
- Includes spout to pour liquid dishes
- It takes very small space to store
- Cooks well under regular temperature
- It can reach up to 400 degree Fahrenheit
- Non-stick coating is not much better. It starts to peel off from the sides in some cases.
4. Hamilton Beach 38528 Ceramic Skillet
Hamilton Beach is one of the leading kitchen appliance brands. Hamilton Beach 38528 Deep Dish ceramic skillet is another great choice for your daily cooking. Its nonstick ceramic coating requires less oil to yield delicious and low-fat meals within minutes. It has guaranteed that it won’t peel or crack. So, it is a must-have appliance for your kitchen.
- Fit variety of recipes in its 3” depth
- Enough of cooking area to serve large number of guests
- Durathon ceramic coating which is 4 times more durable than other non-stick cookware
- Temperature settings are not much accurate
- Makes loud humming noise on the controller
5. Oster CKSTSKFM05 16-Inch Electric Skillet
It is another welcome addition to this list of multi use electric skillets. The best thing about this pan probably is its stainless steel body, especially when you don’t like aluminum. Steel electric pans are known to be very durable as compared to other skillets. Despite the fact that it is made of steel, it weighs just 4 or 5 pounds.
It has smooth non-stick surface inside as it is the magic of Teflon coating. But the problem is that it is likely to flake off over time and it also has hot spots. So, you need to be mindful while cooking. Another thing you may not like is that it cannot be detached off the fleet and base. Make sure to have enough space before buying it. Though it is dishwasher safe after removing the probe, it gets stuck somewhere in it.
- Easy to adjust temperature
- Made of stainless steel
- After removing the probe, it is dishwasher safe
- Weighs just 4 to 5 pounds
- Teflon non-stick coating requires less fat
- It does has hot spots. So, be careful while cooking
- Pan is not detachable off the feet and base
- Teflon coating could peel off
- Comes with just limited 1-year warranty
6. Oster CKSTSKFM12-ECO DuraCeramic 12-inch Electric Skillet
Make cooking time even more fun and simple using Oster CKSTSKFM12-ECO DuraCeramic non-stick electric skillet. It comes with industry-grade nonstick coating which is 4 times more durable and is PTFE and PFOA free. It resists peeling and scratches and is the best choice to prepare stir fries or even fry your delicious meat. It is also a great deal as it comes at low price. It is a multi-purpose and affordable appliance for your kitchen.
It has got cool touch handles and durable nonstick coating with glass lid and vent. It is both versatile and usable for your kitchen.
- Duraceramic nonstick coating which is 4 times more durable
- Tempered glass lid that comes with steam vent
- Cool touch handles for easy movement safely
- A bit less durable than other items
7. Proctor Silex 38526 Electric Skillet
Proctor Silex 38526 Electric Skillet truly deserves to be the treasured kitchenware for you. Proctor Silex is known to exceed its customers’ expectations. You can easily style your kitchen and prepare your food very conveniently as it needs far less washing after cooking.
- Best multipurpose electric skillet for grilling, stewing, and frying
- Comes with cool touch handles
- Indicator light notifies when it reaches the needed temperature range
- Use only plastic or wood serving or cooking utensils with it as it is prone to scratching
8. Cuisinart CSK150 1500W Nonstick Oval Electric Skillet
Make well-cooked breakfast to start your day with Cuisinart CSK150 1500W nonstick oval electric skillet that fits well to the countertop. It has proper surface area for eggs, sausage, and hash browns. It is easy to adjust temperature that is enough to fry your favorite chicken. It also has a recipe book for some inspiration and a glass lid to keep an eye on your meals. All in all, this Cuisinart CSK150 skillet is appealing and large enough to serve food.
- Weighs just 4 pounds and has enough room to cook a delicious meal
- Glass lid is transparent to keep an eye on food once covered
- Comes with 3 years of warranty
- It has non-stick black coating and you can easily clean it
- Wide handles on sides for easy food transfer
- Supports standard wall outlet
- Some complaints reveal that it doesn’t reach the required 420F temperature and maintains it
- It doesn’t cook food evenly and have a few cold spots in skillets
- Not suitable for metal utensils as it is prone to scratching non-stick surface
9. Nesco ES-08 8-inch Electric Skillet
With diameter of 12 inches, Nesco ES-12 is an extra deep skillet which doesn’t take up much space on counter. It is extra deep for some serious cooking. All in all, it is a well designed product if you want to deep fry some dishes.
- It’s a petite skillet which fits easily in small countertops and is a good bet for traveling
- You can easily have a look on your cooking process
- It is deep enough for deep frying some dishes
- Made of non-stick die-cast aluminum to avoid burning and sticking foods
- Little small to prepare large dishes.
- Small surface and deep design makes it a bit awkward when it comes to pan-fry the items
Precautions While Using Electric Skillet
When it comes to use electric item which produces heat with a power source, be careful by using few tips –
- Always turn off the skillet and unplug it when your food is cooked. Don’t leave it plugged in or turned on to avoid fire.
- Surface shouldn’t be shaky while cooking or hot food may spill off and cause burns
- Don’t use it as a slow cooker. Don’t leave your food and go anywhere else.
- It heats up when it cooks food. Handle the lid with oven mitts and when moving it.
- Use electric skillet with wood utensils to avoid scratches
- Choose dishwasher safe skillet for easy cleanup
- Electric skillet should be deeper if you are worried about oil spillage
- Choose skillet with glass lid to see your food along the process. This way, you don’t have to open it up to see the food and let heat to come out.
These electric skillets are the best examples of modern cooking as they can save you a lot of energy and time to cook delicious and healthy food with less oil. These skillets are literally worth every cent as they make your cooking whole lot easier. Which one to choose is totally up to your needs. We hope you enjoyed the buyers guide and our reviews on top skillets to make food faster.