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Analyzing Heat Distribution Test for Electric Skillets

Analyzing heat distribution in electric skillets through our rigorous testing process. Explore how we utilize oil absorbent sheets, saturated sugar-water, and infrared thermometers to assess performance!

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This test is part of How We Test Electric Skillets v1.0

Analyzing Heat Distribution is the first thing we do when assessing an electric skillet’s performance. This test takes up 20% of the performance score and gives an indication of what to expect in the two follow-up cooking tests. Check out how we do this with oil absorbent sheets, sugar-water, and two infrared thermometers!

A person in a gray shirt holding an oil absorbent sheet with dark caramelized circles.

Using Sugar as Our Surface Heat Indicator

Sugar changes color very noticeably when exposed to heat, so it’s an excellent indicator of heat distribution on the surface of a skillet. One can also use flour but it’s messier, plus flour isn’t translucent like sugar.

However, just spreading sugar on the pan can result in unevenness. In addition, it’s  very difficult to capture consistent data, not to mention the cleaning afterwards.

A measuring cup with 1 liter of water and a bowl of 363 g of sugar on a digital scale.
Measuring the amount of sugar to saturate 1 liter of 25 °C water.

Therefore, we take room temperature water (77°F / 25 °C), saturate it with sugar (1.8 kg of sugar to 1 liter of 25 °C water), and use an oil absorbent sheet to soak up the mixture. 

Much more resilient than paper towels, we use these sheets to cover the pan’s entire surface. This produces a uniform surface impression which can be used as a fair assessment for any skillet.

Throughout the process, we used up less than half a liter (< 17 oz) of saturated sugar water for twenty 8 x 8 inches (20 x 20 cm) sheets. For the large electric skillets (> 14 inches), we had to add half a sheet to a full sheet and place them as close to one another as possible.

Preparing the Infrared Thermometer for Measuring Temperature

An oil absorbent sheet laid on a skillet’s surface. An infrared thermometer reads 87.6°F.
Preparing the infrared thermometer for measuring temperature.

We use infrared thermometers for measuring temperature. They are calibrated following our testing procedures. The sheets ensure consistent emissivity, and we make sure to keep the proper distance to spot ratio.

An oil absorbent sheet with dark caramelized rectangles laid on a skillet’s surface. An infrared thermometer reads 390°F.
The infrared thermometer reads the temperature at the center of the Presto Electric Skillet 06852 to be 390°F.

We have one infrared thermometer fixed on a stand and point it at the center of the skillet. Once the temperature there reaches 400°F, we use another thermometer to measure the temperatures of 5 points on the skillet’s surface to get the average for the final scoring.

An oil absorbent sheet with dark caramelized rectangles laid on a skillet’s surface. An infrared thermometer reads 422°F.
The infrared thermometer reads the temperature at the heating element away from its socket of the Presto Electric Skillet 06852 to be 422°F.

We decided the points would include the center, halfway to one edge towards the heating element socket, one edge towards the heating element socket but not touching the pan’s wall. Likewise, we measure halfway to one edge away from the heating element socket, and one edge away from the heating element socket but not touching the pan’s wall.

An oil absorbent sheet with dark caramelized rectangles laid on a skillet’s surface. An infrared thermometer reads 387°F.
The infrared thermometer reads the temperature at the heating element towards its socket of the Presto Electric Skillet 06852 to be 387°F.

We noticed during our testing that the temperature at the edges towards the heating element socket are usually lower than away from it. This is because the two ends of the heating element are closer to one another and, therefore, further away from the edges of the pan.

Testing Steps

These are all the steps we followed in testing each and every electric skillet we purchased:

1. Prepare one infrared thermometer, fix it on a stand, and point it at the center of and 12 inches away from the subject skillet.

An infrared thermometer fixed on a stand, the Bella Non-Stick Electric Skillet 14607, a person adjusting a digital thermometer, another person holding a pen.

2. Prepare a mixture of saturated sugar water (1800 g sugar to 1 liter of 25 ℃ water) in a shallow, fitting container like a baking pan.

A measuring cup with 1 liter of water and a bowl of sugar on a digital scale.

3. Lay an oil absorbent sheet flat into the sugar water.

Two hands soaking an oil absorbent sheet into a tray of sugar water. Next to the tray is a measuring cup of sugar water.

4. Lift up the sheet to drain the excess liquid. Be careful not to fold the sheet into itself.

Two hands lifting up an oil absorbent sheet soaked in sugar water.

5. Lay the sheet onto the pan surface. Make sure to cover the entire surface of the pan.

The Hamilton Beach Ceramic Non-Stick Electric Skillet 38529K with a soaked oil absorbent sheet laid on its surface.

6. Use your hands or a roller to flatten the sheet out evenly.

Turn on the thermometer and the subject skillet until you get a 400°F reading on the thermometer.

7. Turn on the thermometer and the subject skillet until you get a 400°F reading on the thermometer.

An oil absorbent sheet with dark caramelized rectangles laid on a skillet’s surface. An infrared thermometer reads 402°F.

8. Immediately turn off the electric skillet so the temperature stops rising.

9. Quickly use another thermometer to check the temperatures of 5 designated points.

An oil absorbent sheet with dark caramelized rectangles laid on a skillet’s surface. An infrared thermometer reads 423°F.

10. Record the numbers to get the average for the final scoring.

A person holding sheets of paper writing down scores and notes with a pen.

11. Once everything cools down, remove the sheet and clean the pan.

How We Score

A camera, an infrared thermometer, an electric skillet, and four people discussing.
Our team at Healthy Kitchen 101 discussing the heat distribution evaluation of the Bella Non-Stick Electric Skillet 14607.

The heat distribution score is calculated based on the average temperature difference (%) between the 5 designated points.

For theoretical accuracy, a skillet can only get a 10/10 by having 100% even heat distribution. Based on our collected data, we decided to subtract 1 point for each 5% difference. We felt no skillet should show over 25% uneven heat distribution, which is also our limit for a 0/10 failed product.

Additionally, the color pattern of the caramelized sugar gives us a visual representation—the higher the temperature, the darker the caramel gets in that area. 

As you can see in the photos below, the center of the skillet is 400°F with a golden brown color. It gets gradually darker until it’s completely dark as when the heating element reaches 420°F, and sometimes even more. Towards the edges of the pan however, the temperature gets exponentially lighter where it’s only around 320°F.

  • 10/10: 0% difference between the 5 points
  • 9/10: 5% difference
  • 8/10: 10% difference
  • 7/10: 15% difference
  • 6/10: 20% difference
  • 5/10: 25% difference
  • 0/10: > 25% difference

Test Developers

Headshot of Alan Nguyen
Alan NguyenReviewer

Alan Nguyen is a writer and product reviewer at HealthyKitchen101. His major in English language teaching taught him to present concise information. In addition to his cooking hobby, he values the practical aspects of household appliances.

Headshot of Lap Vo
Lap VoTest Lead

Lap is Head of the Research, Testing, and Review Team (RTR Team) at HealthyKitchen101.com, where he directs and supervises the testing of kitchen gadgets and appliances.

Headshot of Nguyen Ntk
Nguyen NtkVisual Specialist

Nguyen Ntk is a graphic designer, photographer, and videographer whose philosophy centers around respecting and celebrating the beauty of reality. Through his lenses, Nguyen strives to capture the true essence of objects and events, showcasing and highlighting authentic features without distortion or exaggeration.

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