Like traditional skillets, electric frying pans can be used for sautéing and pan frying, but some models also work for deep frying. Some adventurous cooks even use them as a mini-oven for baking. Electric skillets have a range of temperature settings, some as high as 450 degrees Fahrenheit (high enough for deep frying), as well as a keep-warm setting for serving. The majority of electric frying pans have a nonstick coating on the interior, and many 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.
Among reviews we read, the stainless-steel Cuisinart Electric Skillet CSK-150 (*Est. $120) is a standout. Editors at Fine Cooking magazine pick it as a favorite for its 5-quart capacity and "solid overall construction." Owners posting reviews to Cooking.com and Amazon.com also praise the Cuisinart electric skillet's large capacity, saying it heats evenly and has a durable nonstick coating. Numerous owners say they've prepared everything from fried chicken to pancakes and sautéed veggies without sticking. They also like its high temperature range (up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit) and the glass lid, which has a steam vent. We found a handful of complaints about durability, but the vast majority of users are very pleased with the Cuisinart 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.
Although we read excellent owner-written reviews for the good-looking Cuisinart electric skillet, we read equally great user reviews for a much less expensive electric frying pan, the Presto 16-inch Electric Skillet with Glass Cover (*Est. $40). This skillet earns rave reviews from owners at several retailers, including Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Macys.com and Target.com. Users love the large cooking surface, and a number of them say it's big enough to cook a meal for a family of four or more. The Presto electric skillet heats rapidly and evenly, and it's got a nonstick coating, although we did read some complaints that the nonstick coating flaked off.
One difference (in addition to looks) between the Presto and Cuisinart skillets is that the Presto version has a max temperature of 400 degrees compared to 450; that makes the Presto skillet better for pan frying and sautéing than for deep frying. Although both have glass lids, the more expensive Cuisinart electric skillet also differs in that it has a vent in the lid to let a small amount of steam escape, preventing pressure build-up. Lastly, the Presto electric fry pan lacks rubber pads on the base, making it prone to sliding across the counter. The manufacturer says Presto electric skillets are dishwasher-safe, and they are covered under a one-year warranty.
Both the Cuisinart and Presto electric skillets have a standard nonstick coating on the interior. That means they both include a Teflon-like coating that includes some controversial chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), that have been linked to health risks (read more in our report on nonstick skillets and are being voluntarily phased out. If you want an electric skillet that doesn't use PFOA, Cuisinart makes an electric skillet with an alternative ceramic nonstick coating, the Cuisinart Green Gourmet Electric 14-inch Skillet CSK-250 (*Est. $150). We didn't find the same number of user reviews for this electric fry pan as for the standard Cuisinart model, but what we did read were good thus far.
Most electric skillets are fairly large -- 15 or 16 inches on their longer side -- but there are a few smaller fry pans available. These electric skillets are less common and don't earn nearly the number of user reviews that their larger counterparts do, but two models do stand out. The Rival 11-inch Square Electric Skillet (*Est. $25) earns very positive reviews from users at Walmart.com, while Amazon.com user reviews praise the Oster 3000 12-inch Electric Skillet. In both instances, owners say these electric skillets are reliable and heat evenly. However, we read scattered complaints about the nonstick coatings wearing off, and a few Oster owners say the numbers quickly rubbed off of the heating element, making it hard to gauge temperature.
We found the best expert review of electric skillets at Fine Cooking magazine, where editors pick three favorites after comparing a line-up of eight electric frying pans. ConsumerGuide.com offers two older reviews, which appear to be based on features rather than actual testing. Amazon.com sells about 50 models of electric skillets and is the best source of owner reviews. Cooking.com. Walmart.com, Target.com and Macys.com are other online retailers that offer helpful insight from owners. You might also read through message boards, like the one at Chowhound.com, to see what positive remarks owners have about their electric skillets.