Think of an electric skillet as a pan with its own built-in heating element. When company is coming and you just don’t have enough room on the stovetop for all the pots and pans needed to cook up a meal, an electric skillet expands your cooking capabilities.
Or if you don’t have access to a stove but do have an electric outlet (perhaps in an RV, school or church, or a community rec room), an electric skillet offers a great way to toss a hot meal together.
Most electric skillets are generously sized, so they’re useful for entertaining. They’re also helpful for bringing a family-sized meal straight to the table or if left plugged in at a low temperature, keeping food hot on a buffet table.
To find our top picks, we put popular models through a battery of cooking tests and found the best electric skillet is the beautiful stainless-steel Cuisinart Electric Skillet(available at Amazon). But if you don’t want to spend much and aren’t too concerned about how it looks, our best value pick is the Black and Decker 12-by-15-inch Electric Skillet (available at Amazon).
Here are the best electric skillets we tested ranked, in order:
Cuisinart Electric Skillet
Zojirushi Gourmet d’Expert Electric Skillet EP-PBC10
Black and Decker 12-by-15 Electric Skillet
Presto Foldaway Skillet
Presto Electric Skillet
Bella 12-by-2 Ceramic Copper Titanium Skillet
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While the Cuisinart Electric Skillet is considerably more expensive than most models on the market, it gives superior performance and thanks to its stainless-steel finish and oval shape is elegant enough to use as a buffet server at fancy dinner parties. Of all the skillets we tested, it was the only one that maintained a steady simmer, rather than a near boil, at a medium-low heat setting.
It’s large enough to cook eight hamburgers at once without crowding and the patties and come out browned and crusty as if they were cooked on the grill or in a cast-iron pan. On the warm setting, the Cuisinart maintained a temperature that kept chicken cacciatore hot without overcooking it.
Unlike most, this skillet is dishwasher safe, although because it’s so large and will take up a lot of room, you may prefer to wash it by hand. In addition to being very thorough, the manual that comes with it contains lots of appealing recipes. I have only one minor quibble: The stainless-steel lid knob gets too hot to lift without a potholder.
The Black and Decker 12-by-15-inhc Electric Skillet is a workhorse. In appearance it’s utilitarian, but it’s large enough to easily accommodate eight chicken pieces or hamburgers. It cooks evenly, which means you won’t have to move chops around in the skillet or remove some sooner than the others to make sure they’re all done at the same time, nor will you have to stir frequently for even heat distribution in a tomato sauce. When the control is turned down to the warm setting, foods stay at serving temperatures.
The base is constructed of black plastic and the cooking vessel has a nonstick finish that makes it easy to clean. Even after cooking stew for half an hour, the lid knob stayed cool enough to lift off without a potholder.
Hi, I'm Sharon Franke and I test kitchen equipment for a living, putting everything from apple corers to zoodle makers through their paces. I use my experience as a former professional chef in considering how well tools perform and how easy they are to use.
When I’m not scientifically evaluating gadgets, cookware, or appliances, you can find me cooking for family and friends on my vintage stove. And too often, especially around the holidays, my range top can’t accommodate all the pieces of cookware I want to use at once. That’s when I pull out an electric skillet!
I tested six electric skillets. In each, I heated flour to see the skillet’s cooking pattern. Next, I made hamburgers to see how well the skillet pan-grilled them, and then potatoes to check for even cooking and crispy surfaces. Lastly, I cooked up chicken cacciatore in each skillet, to evaluate how it browned chicken pieces, sautéed onions, and mushrooms, and simmered tomato sauce.
As I cooked, I noted how easy it was to use the controls, the amount of food that each skillet could hold, if the handles became hot, and how easy it was to serve from each one. Not least importantly, I also considered how much effort was needed to clean each model and how much space it would require in a cabinet or closet.
What to Know About Buying Electric Skillets
An electric skillet is a great tool when you don’t have enough room for everything you need to cook or don’t have access to another cooking method. It can be particularly useful during the holidays or any time you’re entertaining. When it comes to browning and sautéing, this appliance gives you a nice wide surface for pan-frying, sautéing, or stir-frying items like eggs, pancakes, vegetables, steaks, and chops.
On the highest setting, it produces the kind of browning that gives lots of flavor; and as it cycles the temperature on and off, it doesn’t easily overheat and burn foods.
While an electric skillet can handle a large volume of food for simmering chili, stew, or pot roast, our tests showed that even at lower temperature settings, most tend to cook food at higher than ideal temperatures for simmering. This means that food is ready quickly but may be less meltingly tender than if it was cooked in a Dutch oven on the stovetop or oven.
All of our test samples had a nonstick coating which made them easy to clean. Even though some manufacturers claimed their skillets could safely be run through the dishwasher, electric skillets are large and don’t easily fit into a machine. Their size also means they require a lot of storage space so if your cabinets and closets are already cluttered, make sure that an electric skillet is something you really need.
Can You Fry in an Electric Skillet?
You will see many recipes for deep frying in an electric skillet and many casually call these appliances electric frying pans. However, the user manual for every model we tested warned against this practice and we don’t recommend it either.
Electric skillets are wide and shallow; if you heat a significant amount of oil in one, the oil can easily spatter and boil over when you add something like battered chicken pieces. In addition, the interior finishes in the skillet may not be formulated to withstand the high heat of deep-frying.
Can an Electric Skillet Bake a Cake?
There are also an abundance of recipes for using an electric skillet to bake a cake. In several trials, all of our cakes came out with wet, gooey underbaked tops and thick crusty bottoms. Therefore, we don’t suggest using an electric skillet for baking.
Other Electric Skillets We Tested
Zojirushi Gourmet d'Expert Electric Skillet
Unlike the other appliances we tested, the Zojirushi Gourmet d’Expert Electric Skillet EP-PBC10 is relatively small, with an interior diameter of 10 ½ inches and a volume of only about 3 quarts. This makes it a great choice for small families but not ideal for entertaining. Depending on the size of your burgers, it can fry up four or five at once.
It’s only large enough for four to six chicken pieces, so if you like to buy a whole cut-up bird, you won’t be able to cook all the parts at once. However, the Zojirushi heats food very evenly, and with its round shape would be perfect for a frittata or crustless quiche.
This is an expensive item and although it’s not particularly attractive, it has a high-quality feel and some unique features. The cord attaches to the base magnetically so it’s super simple to set up the appliance for cooking. As the controls are on the front of the skillet, rather than on the cord, and each setting lights up, it’s very convenient to adjust the temperature.
On either side of the cooking pan, there’s a pouring spout, so when you lift the pan out of the base you can neatly pour off any sauce or juices. The pan can be used on the stovetop as well as in the appliance.
If you’re often cooking for a crowd, the Presto Electric Skillet is your best choice. You can load it up with nine burgers and a recipe for six quarts of gumbo. With its black plastic base, it won’t dress up your buffet table, but it will keep party dishes warm until guests come back for seconds. We found that preheating took longer than on other models. Although this skillet is dishwasher safe, Presto warns that the uncoated aluminum bottom will discolor. In view of that, as well as that it will monopolize space in your dishwasher, you may prefer to wash it by hand. Thanks to its nonstick coating it cleans up easily.
The Presto Foldaway Skillet is another choice with a large cooking space that can fry up a whole mess of hash browns or big batch of chili. Its unique feature is that the handles fold down so you can store the cooking pan in the base, reducing slightly the amount of storage space it requires.
As on the other Presto, we found that we had to be patient while it was preheating. This model can also be washed in the dishwasher if you have the space to spare and don’t mind if the bottom of the skillet turns gray. On one corner of the cooking vessel, there’s a spout which makes it convenient to pour out soups or sauces.
A family of four will find that the Bella 12-by-12-inch Ceramic Copper Titanium Skillet meets its needs. It can cook five to seven hamburgers, eight pieces of chicken, or Bolognese for a weekday dinner. The Bella cooks evenly but has trouble maintaining a low cooking temperature. However, it is able to hold foods at a serving temperature on the warm setting.
When the cord is plugged in, the control dial is obscured by the, making it hard to adjust the setting. The interior of the pan is coated with a copper-colored nonstick finish that’s very slick, so it releases food and cleans up easily.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.