An electric skillet is a highly versatile appliance; great for adding a food-prep option when you're preparing a big meal, or just to use as a standalone appliance when you don't feel like heating up the kitchen. They're also perfect for preparing and transporting food, and then keeping it warm on a buffet.
Like traditional skillets, electric frying pans can be used for sautéing and pan frying, but some models also work for deep frying. The majority of electric frying pans have a nonstick coating on the interior and most include a glass lid, making it easy to monitor cooking. Most electric skillets are fairly large and deep, allowing cooks to prepare multiple foods at once, or enough servings for a family, although many models come in smaller or larger capacities.
Without a doubt, the Presto Electric Foldaway Skillet (Est. $50) is a top pick in this category. Versatile and reliable, this 16-inch skillet gets top reviews for being almost a replacement oven for some users. It roasts, braises, grills and fries as well as a traditional skillet, owners say, but its large capacity makes it ideal for preparing large casseroles, side dishes, and pasta dishes as well. Although it's large, the Presto Foldaway Skillet is also very portable. The built in holder for a spoon or spatula makes it even more convenient for serving food buffet-style.
The Presto electric skillet heats rapidly and evenly, and the nonstick coating is reported as very easy to clean. The skillet can be removed from its base, t and both the skillet and the lid are dishwasher safe. The outside cleans up nicely with just a wipe down, users say. The Foldaway Skillet's most popular feature, though, is in its name: The ability to pack all the pieces together and store it away in a fairly small space is a huge hit with owners. Those who bought the folding skillet to use in an RV or smaller vacation home are particularly pleased. When in use the skillet does have a fairly large footprint, so some who bought the Presto for their RV found that it was too big for the available space.
If you're looking for an electric skillet that's attractive enough to leave out on the counter, we highly recommend the Cuisinart CSK-150 (Est. $130). Editors at Fine Cooking magazine pick it as a favorite for its 5-quart capacity and "solid overall construction." Owners praise the Cuisinart's performance, saying it heats evenly and has a durable nonstick coating. Numerous users say they've prepared everything from fried chicken to pancakes to sautéed veggies without sticking. They also like its high temperature range, up to 450 degrees, compared to the Presto's upper limit of 400 degrees -- making the Cuisinart suitable for deep frying. We found a handful of complaints about durability with the CSK-150. Still, the vast majority of users are very pleased with this electric skillet, even if some of them do say it's overpriced. The manufacturer says it's dishwasher-safe and offers a three-year warranty.
The main differences between these two skillets are price, appearance and the fact that the Cuisinart is suitable for deep frying. If appearance isn't a factor and you don't need to deep fry, the Presto Foldaway is a great value for a great performer.
While traditional carbon-steel woks are wonderful, not everyone has a stove or cooktop appropriate for the high, sustained heat necessary for optimum performance, and many people simply don't want to deal with the higher learning curve and care factor of using a wok. However, if you love Asian food and would like to save money and create more healthful dishes in your own home, the Breville BEW600XL Hot Wok (Est. $130) is going to be your new favorite appliance.
This electric wok gets raves across the board from owners who say its butterfly shaped heating element mimics the way a traditional wok heats up the sides to create a perfect environment for turning out a delicious stir fried meal. However, it isn't just a one trick pony; users also say they use their Breville wok for making hash browns and other fried potatoes, risottos and rice dishes, and pasta and soup. Plenty of happy owners just leave it out on the counter or store it on top of the stove because they use it so often.
The Breville Hot Wok is very easy to use; just click the wok onto its sturdy base and plug it in. The wok bowl can't be removed with food in it, but does remove for cleaning (it has to be turned upside down to disengage). Although the wok has a very large capacity, some say it's as convenient for making small meals as it is for large ones. However, the large capacity translates to a large footprint as well -- be sure you have the space to store it. The glass lid and wok bowl are dishwasher safe, but some say that hand washing the wok will help the nonstick coating last longer.
There are few expert reviews of electric skillets, but we found one at Fine Cooking magazine, where editors pick three favorites after comparing a line-up of eight electric frying pans. CNET also has a brief write-up of a popular skillet, but seems to be based upon general culinary knowledge, rather than specific testing or use. However, user reviews at sites such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Cooking.com, ChefsCatalog.com and WilliamsSonoma.com are invaluable in gauging a skillet or wok's performance and convenience in everyday, real-world use.