The kitchen is full of tools we use every day to prepare meals for ourselves and those we love. How do we decide which are right for us, and what will just sit in a cupboard till it makes its way to the next garage sale? The key is to answer a few questions first.
1. How does it work?
2. Is it multi purpose?
3. How much does it cost?
4. How do brands and features differ?
5. How much space does it require?
6. Will I actually use it?
How does an Electric Skillet work?
Rather than placing a pan on the stove, a cord provides the electricity needed to heat the coils that are located on the underside of the skillet. The coils provide direct heat to the cooking surface. A thermometer allows the user to regulate the temperature of the cooking surface on a consistent basis.
Is it multi purpose?
It serves the same purpose as any pot, skillet or wok. You can fry, deep fry, stir fry, braise, and boil many of the recipes in your cookbooks. You are limited mainly by the depth of the pan and the height of the lid. How well it does those tasks will depend on the particular version that you buy.
How much does it cost?
That depends on the size and features that you want to have. They can start as low as $20 and go over $300.
How do brands and features differ?
Now that you have picked yourself off the floor at hearing that high dollar amount, let me explain why. The downside of an electric skillet is that the hottest spots of the cooking surface are going to be directly above the coils. The more coils, the more consistent the cooking surface. The way the coils are spread out will make a big difference as well. A good test is to fill the skillet with water and crank up the heat. So you see specific areas that are boiling where the surrounding water is not? Those areas are directly over the coils. The more you pay for a skillet, the better it will be at preventing this from happening.
Consumers can choose nonstick varieties, stainless steel and surgical stainless. The claim is that only surgical stainless steel prevents metals from leaching into your foods.
A newer option is the oil core. Rather than the coils being on the bottom of the skillet as in the photo above, they are sandwiched between 2 pieces of metal with oil. The result is that the coils heat the oil, and the oil heats the cooking surface. This prevents those boiling spots mentioned previously.
Thermostats can be set for low/medium/high or actual temperatures ranging from 200 to 400 degrees. Obviously having temperatures allows for a lot more freedom in how you will use the electric skillet. Many have warm and simmer settings as well.
Warranty and guarantees are important if you are spending a good amount of money on any cookware. Most companies provide that information on the box or website.
How much space does it require?
Electric skillets come in both round and square shapes. Mine comes to about 15 inches across when you add in the handles on the side and 7 inches tall with the lids on.
Will I actually use it?
At the time of purchase my electric skillet was definitely a splurge. I had cheap pots and pans and we considered it an investment. I knew I could use it for a large portion of the cooking I do in the kitchen so it was worth it. Ours was purchased at a home party so we had the added benefit of seeing it in action before spending the money.
What I have.
We purchased a Salad Master, oil core, surgical stainless steel electric skillet about 13 years ago. I can cook a large beef roast that falls apart in 2 hours, deep fry elephant ears and make stew in the 1 appliance. I had a cheaper version for the previous 12 years that I used, but nowhere near as frequently as I do my Saladmaster.
Is the electric skillet a small appliance that will work for you? That depends on how you cook and the room in your kitchen. If you are still undecided, find a friend who will let you borrow on for a couple of weeks and see if you like it. better to return it to a friend then spend money on something that will end up at Goodwill.