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Whether/why use electric skillet

My wife and I were just given what appears to be a good electric skillet. 12" with non-stick surface and lid with vent. It also has a temp control which seems easy to use. Thing is, I have never used an electric skillet and it never occured to me that one might be useful. I am looking for ways in which others make use of theirs and reasons why it may be a preferable way to cook some dishes.

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  1. I've never had one and wondered the same thing.
    I did see one being used on a cooking demonstration on TV just the other night and did notice that they were checking the temperature of the oil before putting the food in - I thought - oh, well that's useful.
    Also, I think depending on your stovetop and cookware an electric skillet can give you
    a larger more consistently and evenly heated frying surface.
    Last, most frying pans have the lower sloped sides and that's what most of us have. A french skillet, or an electric skillet, are slightly taller with straighter sides making them more useful for frying in oil, say fried chicken, or larger quantities, or anything with a liquid sauce/ reduction.
    Just my thoughts.

    1. When your stovetop quits working it's a backup.
      When you're cooking a new stove top recipe and want to work on temperatures.
      When you've a house full of company and need to cook a lot of something (pancakes, bacon, anything that can be mass manufactured, but quickly and to spread out the area where the cooks are working.

      1. I don't know why this is, but I can only make great pancakes consistently in my electric skillet. Perfect every time. Every time I try to make them on the stove, no matter which pan I use, I have a hard time and end up ruining some ( read "a lot").

        And, as others have said, it's a good back up cooking source. I only have one oven and 4 burners. If I am having a crowd, I have to get creative with my cooking sources, which also include a good counter top toaster oven, microwave, large slow cooker and two electric skillets. So I have no problem cooking for a lot of people as long as I plan the menu carefully to be spread out over these different cooking (and warming) elements.

        1. i never wanted one, until i saw alton brown use it for low heat poaching. now that makes sense.

          1. My wife and I got one for a wedding present many years ago. I use it for skillet frying chicken and fish because it has the temp control and can be easily set to the desired frying temp. It seems pretty accurate as I’ve checked it with a digital thermometer. It’s convenient to use in that you just put the oil/shortening in, set the temp and when the light goes out, it’s ready to fry. It also recoups pretty quickly after adding the food. You can see this by watching the light again as it goes on when food is added and then goes off when the temp is back to the desired setting. The vent is nice in that you can put the cover on to keep the oil from splashing all over and yet let the steam out. I don’t know that I’d go out and buy one, but I have used it for frying with pretty good results.

            1. I don't have one but mom does. And all my life she's made the best eggplant
              and veal parmigiana in it, which I've never been able to reduplicate on a stovetop.
              The even temperature and precise control are pretty good for fried chicken and
              fish as well. And until we got the new stove with the built-in skillet, it was the
              traditional Sunday morning pancake machine too. Aside from those five things,
              I don't think it's ever been used for anything else. But it's good enough for them that
              I often think of getting one.

              2 Replies
              1. re: uh ... art

                "...the new stove with the built-in skillet" ...never heard of this ...do you mean a built in griddle? you know flat.....so it can't contain a few inches of oil to fry.....or is there really a stove with a built in skillet???!!...if so, a link or a name please...


                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                  "Griddle". Sorry, I'm bad with words.

              2. Like many who were married years ago, we got one as a wedding present. It's still with us and still gets used. While we have several very nice cast iron skillets, when it comes to frying chicken my wife always gets out the electric skillet. And believe me, her fried chicken is famous. That's actually about all it every gets used for. It's old, looks old, missing the knob of the lid, but it still works great.

                1. Shabu shabu and sukiyaki cooked on the table with guests.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Darn, Sam, you beat me to it! This is my number-one use of this appliance, so I have a rather pretty stainless steel one. Shabu Shabu really wows guests, none have whom have ever heard of it.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      Nearly all Japanese families have to have one. Cooking with guests at the table is so much fun. Does require lots of preliminary good knife work: all the ingredients are there in their uncooked state--uniform, bite sized, nicely arranged! And the evolution of the liquid as the meal runs its course. pika, you and should put on a shabu shabu dinner.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        What dipping sauces do you use? (This might get moved to Home Cooking.) I'd do a Shabu Shabu dinner with you anytime, Sam, even if it meant a long plane ride to Columbia! Perhaps we could do a virtual one. That would let chowhounds who don't know what they're missing in on the secret.

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          I don't respect tradition when it comes to the dipping sauces. I like to provide several, with each matched to different ingredients: starting with a light soy + stock; and moving to a light teriyaki; to a honey + soy + toasted sesame oil; to a fish sauce, chili, lime juice, cilantro. Different combos of salty, sweet, chili, oily, clean...

                          We can and should do a virtual event...!

                      2. re: pikawicca

                        what is shabu shabu? I have enough electric skillets to sink a ship *:)

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          Since this thread has mysteriously been revived: Shabu Shabu is a one-dish Japanese meal. You start off with some kombu in water. Bring that to a boil and discard the kombu. Each diner then takes an ingredient, carefully prpped and laid out on a platter and swishes it through the liquid. Ingredients usually include thin slices of very fine beef, mushrooms, bok choy, spinach, bean sprouts, etc. Rice is, of course, present, and two or three dipping sauces are in front of each diner. (I like one very bright sauce made with ponzu, and one made with sesame.

                          After all of the solids have been consumed, the remaining liquid is eaten as soup.

                          I love to entertain with this dish. I only do one other couple, plus my husband and I, as I think 4 people around the skillet is just right. I actually have a cabinet in my kitchen reserved for my Shabu Shabu accouterments: stainless skillet, lovely Japanese table linens with a bamboo motif, tiny sauce dishes, rice bowls, and special lacquered chopsticks.

                          We spend a long evening at the table, eating as we go, and talking even more. (You'll have to replenish the liquid from a kettle from time to time.)

                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          My parents have a straight sided electric skillet that is nearly as old as I am and sukiyaki is its primary purpose in life. Just had it recently when I went to visit them in CA for dad's 80th.

                          Mom also uses it for pancakes.

                          It is item #2 on my "would like to inherit" list.

                        3. My MIL always gave these as Wedding gifts, always. Click on photo below. So I started too. They were around $65-90 depending on what it came with. I have 5 of them. My favorite dinner is Tender Meat using one of these. Always tender, always wonderful, always within arms reach to add more liquid. I've done everything from soup to nuts [okay, not really] in these wonders and am always happy but then, I can't speak for other brands, just this one.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: iL Divo

                            I have to say I just bought one of these, now I have 5 or 6 of them, what 'is' wrong with me? anyway, it's almost completely never used, a smaller version of the others I have that are also Farberware, and it was from a yard sale @9 bucks! LOVE IT!

                          2. The only big benefit of an electric skillet is the ability to maintain a set temperature. Useful at times

                            1. Thank you for all the helpful responses.
                              I have two questions in follow up. I am considering returning the skillet for a 16" model (instead of the 12"). Interestingly, several of those for which I have seen reviews don't seem all that great and those that are preferred don't have a lid with a vent. So, how important is a vent? Seems like it could be helpful but is it imperative? If the reviews on the one I have seem good, is going to 16" without a vent even worthwhile?

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: bananna slug

                                  My 16" doesn't have a vent either, but it put the lid on slightly askew when I need something vented. I really like mine because you can put so much into it, without crowding it.

                                  1. re: danhole

                                    I love mine! My electric fry pan is bigger than any skillet I own plus the sides are straight up and the heat is consistent. I use it especially when making potato latkes, pancakes, lots of bacon (yes, bacon), etc. If I ever attempt fried chicken, it is what I would use. Mine has a glass lid which I like as well.

                                2. My mother used to have one of those big square ones in the 1960s. It was used for fried chicken, mostly because it was easy to monitor/maintain the oil temperature and it held a lot of chicken.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: mlgb

                                    Someone gave us a big square one (w/vent) when my sister and i were going to school in Texas. Haven't used it much since. I almost threw it away a year ago but thought I'd give it to another kitchen-less hard working student if I should run into one...until..DUMPLING PARTY!

                                    I made hundreds of dumplings (yes, one skin at a time, and discovered that the best dumpling skins are NOT round) and flash froze them. When it came time to cook them for the tardy guests it was such a breeze to use the electric skillet instead of firing up the stove. This is a good tool to cook the dumplings as potsticker as it gives a great charred skin without needing too much oil. Although, it was tricky in that I only get good "first batches" , and so I'd unplug and clean and start over with the temperature thing each time. Still, the lid is so tall and roomy that each time I can make plenty.

                                    1. re: HLing

                                      I agree-the vent and temp control makes making a big batch of potstickers very easy!!

                                      1. re: HLing

                                        Well, over a year later, in the heat of the summer, I found another good use for this skillet.

                                        The skillet became the final step of my no knead, no butter summer time, No Air Conditioning bread project. It wasn't necessary to heat up the skillet as I would with an oven. From turning on the skillet to finished it was less than 25 mins.

                                        Soft, pillowy Guotie Mantou! The next step is to make baozi with them.

                                    2. I bought one when I needed a large fry pan but didn't have a whole lot of money. It's been a great investment as it heats up quicker than my stove does and cleans up very quickly too. I use it for stir frys, pancakes, potstickers and I even make spaghetti carbonara in it. I have wanted to make shabu shabu or sukiyaki.

                                      1. I bought the cheap one available at wal-mart when our apartment building underwent repairs to the gas line. I love it: even heat, large surface: great for above-mentioned uses, and the low-heat poached catfish is delicious. It's better than any of my options for stir-fries, and I use it a lot during warmer months because it doesn't throw off heat the way the stove does: saves energy from the stove and esp. from the a/c (not needing to turn it up).

                                        I also put a rack inside and roast pork with a Chinese marinade. Works great, and so much better than running the whole oven for an hour.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: renz

                                          I have my mother's big old square one from the 60's and her best use of it was for frying fish, with a 50 foot outdoor extention cord on the picnic table in the backyard...no smelly house....just always wondered what the neighors thought 'cause her frying outfit was an old house coat and a shower cap. When I was yound I also used it for stir-frys alot cause of the size.

                                          1. re: Stuffed Monkey

                                            Great stuff. Sounds like you had a very colorful and interesting childhood. :)

                                            1. re: Stuffed Monkey

                                              Yup- the main use in my family was shallow-frying out side to avoid smells in the house. The temp control makes it even nicer because you don't have to stand there constantly once you get the hang of it. As a kid it was for schnitzel, for myself now it is for things like calamari, squash blossoms, egg rolls.

                                              1. re: Stuffed Monkey

                                                My husband sets our on top of the Weber grill and when he's done frying chicken, he can just closes the Weber top over the electric skillet -- no worries about hot oil spills or scavenging raccoons!

                                              2. re: renz

                                                I own an electric skillet and I was wondering if anybody knew if it was possible to steam fish with it? The only way I know is to fill the skillet with about an inch and a half with water and then place a bowl upside down in the water and then put another plate on top with the fish (whole fish). Is this safe enough to do?

                                                1. re: jshueh

                                                  Do you own a wire rack small enough to fit in your skillet to put over that inverted plate? That would be ideal.

                                                2. re: renz

                                                  Do you put any liquid underneath the rack to prevent the skillet from overheating? Or is that not neccessary. The biggest concern I have with electric skillets is safety. Are they safe?

                                                3. seeing the date this was written you probably love it by now and use it all the time.

                                                  I used my Farberware electric skillet last night to do the ground beef taco meat. I have two sizes of these Farberwares. My MIL used to always make the large sized one her go to gift for weddings. always appreciated too.

                                                  my two favorite things to do in electric skillet:
                                                  tender meat
                                                  poached chicken.

                                                  tender meat: mallet bang several pieces of round steak, rub into each flattened slice seasoned flour, using butter and olive oil that is heated up, place each slice of meat in there and sear. then turn way down, add liquid to cover meat, and on about a slow simmer, cook all day, continuing to add liquid when it's just about gone. serve over mashed potatoes.

                                                  poached chicken: boneless skinless chicken breasts, seasoned both sides place in electric skillet. add half water and half white wine to cover the breasts, now turn on skillet and set to 350. when liquid gets to a rolling boil, cover the skillet and turn off heat. don't peek and leave for 45 minutes. take out, discard liquid, and freeze individually for later use. this recipe is on a lady's web site that does a radio cooking show so I did it. great and worked well.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                                    I like the chicken method a lot (how many breasts?).
                                                    I've always had an electric skillet (my mom and MIL were/are heavy users, I even got one to use in my dorm room) but haven't been using it as much lately. Must get it revved up again!
                                                    Have never heard of safety issues with them, has anyone else?

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      let me tell you what. this lady, who's radio show it is, is the sweetest person. her hints are always wonderful and she's just charming on her show.

                                                      no issues with safety on mine ever. if you walk away and it's simmering and you forget about it being on, there could be a problem. :)

                                                      what I do, how I measure the amount of liquid to split up, is put the amount of breasts in there, then fill will water, take breasts out measure the water and split that in half that way knowing how much wine and how much water.
                                                      I buy 2 packages of 6 breasts each. when I use the big Farberware, I'll do 8 or 9 breasts at a time, depending on how big they are, and when done and cool, put them in their own seal a meals and drop in the freezer.

                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                        Great tip, thanks for the additional info - I'm definitely going to do this once I unearth the ol' electric fp (not unpacked yet).

                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                          well get busy, what kind do you have? as I mentioned I have 4 large and 1 smaller Farberware

                                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                                            I think it's either a Sunbeam or a West Bend. It's gold! it's '80s!!!

                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                              should be fine, I know I've used several brands over all these years, but not recently at all, just the FW.

                                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                                I've never worried about any safety issues with these.