How to Use an Electric Skillet
Have you ever wondered what you would do without your oven and range top? For some of us, this is not a question at all, but an everyday part of life. I have been using an electric skillet frequently for the last several years, because it cooks more evenly than my stove top frying pan, and cleaning it is a breeze.
As such, I am here to teach you how to use an electric skillet. Believe it or not, there is almost nothing that you cannot cook with one of these things! Whether you're an occasional user of electric skillets or a hardcore user like myself, this little tutorial should help you to increase your skills and thus become a true electric skillet master!
What You Will Need To Follow This Tutorial:
A standard-size electric skillet: Some manufacturers make models that are exceptionally large or small, but these are special tools for special purposes. This tutorial will focus on the standard-size device, which will be roughly 1 foot by 1 foot. Don't worry if yours is off by an inch or two, as this will make very little difference.
A thick extension cord (optional): Like any appliance that contains a heating element, these devices can be a fire hazard if used improperly. Unless you situate them right next to an electrical outlet, you will probably need an extension cord. The cord needs to be good and thick to handle the power load without heating up. I recommend a 14-gauge cord. Many a cheap extension cord has been melted because it wasn't up to the job of running an e-skillet.
A well-stocked kitchen: We will be making various things in this tutorial, so you'll need to have some basic ingredients handy. These ingredients will include: beef, bell peppers, white onions, mushrooms, salt, pepper, spices, garlic, flour, squash, tomatoes, Parmesan, eggs, cooking oil and potatoes.
A heat-resistant slab: This will be used underneath the skillet to protect the surfaces of your kitchen from heat damage. A wide ceramic tile is a good choice, as is a block of stone such as a granite cutting board. A small, square piece of steel would also be sufficient. Ideally, your heat slab should be at least one square foot.
The standard temperature controls on electric skillets range from simmer to 450°F on a dial, depending on the model. Because of this, you will have more control over the temperature than you would using a frying pan on a stovetop. To learn all about electric skillet temperatures, read this article.
Most electric skillet models available today have a non-stick coating, whether it be teflon or ceramic. As such, it is important to stay clear of metal utensils. Instead, opt for wooden, plastic or silicone cooking utensils.
A Simple Sautee
Here is a good example of a simple rice dish you can quickly cook up in an electric frying pan:
Ok, we're going to start with something very easy. You will need some steak (or pork chops), a green pepper or two, a white onion or two, and some mushrooms. I recommend portabellas for their rich, meaty flavor but any kind will do. Any of these ingredients (except the meat) can be omitted if you choose.
Begin by chopping up your beef into thin strips that are about 2-3 inches in length. No, you won't need a ruler...just get it somewhere in the ballpark. Now add a light sprinkling of salt to your pile of chopped meat. I also recommend a little sprinkle of garlic powder and/or pepper.
PRO TIP: If your beef is a thick slab, you may need to slice it in half first.
Add the meat to your clean e-skillet and cook at about 300°F. You will need to stir the meat from time to time so that it cooks evenly. As you wait for your beef to cook, chop the peppers, onions and mushrooms. Don't worry about seasoning them. Once your beef is beginning to brown, put your vegetable mix into the skillet and continue cooking.
From here, you just let it all cook together as you stir frequently. When the beef is cooked all the way through and the vegetables are nice and tender, you are done. Now you can sit down and enjoy your first e-skillet meal.
I Believe I can Fry
Yes, that was a 90's pop music reference. If you didn't get it, don't worry. Anyway, this won't be much different from step one. Electric frying pans are great for frying foods! We will be making a dish of my own invention called "Squash Cakes". Don't worry, it's easy.
First, get a small bowl and fill it about halfway with all-purpose white flour. Add a pinch of salt and a little bit of lemon pepper, then add a little bit of water and stir. It is important to get the consistency right, so add your water a little bit at a time until you have something that is about the consistency of pudding. Here's another of those cooking videos to help you get the right idea.
Next, take a nice big squash (I recommend yellow squash but any kind will do), and slice it, making sure to discard the end pieces. Each slice should be about twice as thick as a quarter, but don't worry if you can't get it exactly right. Add a little oil or butter to the electric frying pan and turn the dial to 350°F.
Now add just one or two drops of water from your fingertips. This water will tell you when the oil is ready. Be sure not to use too much oil, as it is wasteful and results in a greasy and unhealthy meal.
PRO TIP: Use a large knife when cutting the squash. A smaller knife will bend and produce uneven cuts.
When the oil begins to pop, take your squash slices one at a time and dip them in the batter before putting them face-down in the skillet. Put the lid on and wait about ten minutes. Using a plastic or silicone spatula (for use on a non-stick skillet), carefully flip each piece and allow to cook for about five more minutes. When the breading is nice and brown, you are done, but one more step is needed to make it right.
Take some cherry tomatoes and cut out their centers, filling them instead with Parmesan cheese. Put one loaded tomato on top of each squash cake and it's ready to serve. Alternatively, you could just fry some chicken or a quick & tasty pizza!
PRO TIP: Cube steak can be used as a quick fry in the e-skillet as well.
Slow Cooking With Your Electric Skillet
This is probably the easiest step, as it involves a lot of down time. Thus, it might be a perfect opportunity to finish some other pressing task. For this step, we will be making a pot roast, and we will be making it the slow way. This process is called braising and it is meant to bring out the flavor while also softening the meat.
For this, it is recommended that you have a relatively deep skillet, as some of the more shallow ones are not well-suited for this recipe.
Anyway, you begin by browning the roast on all sides. All you have to do is preheat the skillet to 400°F with a little oil, place the roast in the empty skillet and sear the outside.
PRO TIP: Use the tongs at this point to easily maneuver the roast around in the skillet.
Next, chop some potatoes, celery, white onions and carrots. You can add other vegetables like corn or beans if you so desire. Do not add these vegetables yet, however. The vegetables will cook more quickly than the beef, so wait until the beef is almost done. Here, you will need your thermometer to figure out the right moment for adding the vegetables and water. If you throw them all in at once, your vegetables will be so soft that they turn into a mush.
Now for the simmering. All you need to do is set your skillet to 200°F or ‘SIMMER’ and let it cook nice and slow. This is where you add your seasonings and garnishes. Check the meat with a thermometer every thirty minutes, and you may also want to check the potatoes for softness. When it's done, you should have the best pot roast you ever thought possible.
Using Your Electric Frying Pan As An Oven
Most of you don't really need to do this, because you should have a standard oven in your house. However, you may still want to consider this method as a way to save electricity and avoid heating up the kitchen, as a full-size oven is a major power hog. The only things in your house that are likely to use more energy than an oven would be your hot water heater and your HVAC system.
If you think about it, the only real difference between a range top and an oven is confinement. By confining the heat, the entire surface of the food is cooked evenly and efficiently. Therefore, we just have to confine the heat. There is no special trick to this, as you just use the lid.
You can bake a lasagna in your electric skillet!
However, we still have one little difference between our e-skillet with a lid and our oven. The other difference is the rack. An oven cooks its payload by elevating it above the heat source. This keeps the bottom from burning as easily. To duplicate this effect in an electric skillet, you just need a small metal grate that will fit the floor of your e-skillet. Only an inch or two of elevation is needed.
If you don't have anything like this, you can line the bottom of the skillet with several layers of aluminum foil for a similar effect. Doing this will give you a skillet that can be used as an oven, though you will need to cook at slightly lower temperatures to get similar results. Try baking some potatoes in this way so that you can get a feel for the process and any differences that may arise.
Cool & Clean
Once you have finished cooking a delicious electric skillet meal, it is important to unplug the unit and let it cool before carrying on to the next step: cleaning. Here is a detailed tutorial on how to clean your electric skillet.
Was this tutorial helpful? I hope so, because I have tried very hard to impart my e-skillet wisdom to you in a way that is both informative and entertaining. As you can see, it is fully possible to cook nearly anything in your e-skillet. I believe it is important for people to be familiar with alternative methods for all of life's essential tasks, of which cooking is definitely one. After all, you never know when your standard methods might become unusable.
The electric skillet cooking possibilities do not end here. There are many recipes available to help familiarize yourself with how to use this handy tool.
Is that song still in your head? Feel free to leave your comments below, and to share this article with anyone else who might be interested.
I am Joss, the creator and editor of In the Kitch. I am inviting you on this food journey with me to learn, grow and bring out that inner chef in you. I hope to inspire you to get creative in your own kitchen!