How hot does a skillet get?

  • By: Emma
  • Date: May 19, 2022
  • Time to read: 8 min.

Table of Contents

How hot does a skillet get?

Ever wonder how hot a skillet gets? If you’ve ever used one, it’s probably not something that comes to mind. But if you’re one of those who love cooking with cast iron, then this is the blog post for you! 

The short answer to your question is that most skillets can easily withstand 300°. However, it is advisable to avoid a temperature this high if you have a skillet that has a non-stick coating. It is also important to note that for small-sized skillets (less than 12 inches in diameter), most of the heat will be concentrated at the bottom of the skillet.

If you are interested in learning more on this subject, we have sorted out a detailed answer for you below. Let’s begin!

What does a skillet look like?

But what is a skillet? How does it look? Let’s answer these questions before anything else.

A skillet looks like a deep frying pan, but slightly taller and with sturdier handles. It also has a flat bottom and sloping sides, so that material cooked in it does not spill out easily.

In other words, a skillet is simply a metal vessel that has low, sloping sides and a flat bottom. It’s great for frying foods, especially meats! It can be used to sauté too by dragging the food around it while it cooks over an open flame.

For many of you, cast iron skillets are the first thing that comes to mind when you think of skillets. Probably because they’re very inexpensive as compared to most others or because they can be used on top of an open flame if needed due to their high thermal mass characteristics.

Now that you know what a skillet looks like, let’s begin with our main question ”how hot does a skillet gets?”

How hot does a skillet gets?

To answer the question that how hot a skillet gets, we must first define what “hot” means for skillets.

The temperature at which something is considered to be “hot” varies depending on who you ask, but an average general consensus would be that anything over 500°F (260°C) is considered to be “hot.” 

Measuring thee temperature of skillet

The temperature of a skillet can be measured using various methods. The most common method is the oven thermometer test. This involves placing an oven-safe thermometer into the center of the pan and then turning on the stove to heat it up until it reaches about 400°F (200°C). Since that point, we will just leave it until the time is up and see what the thermometer reads.

What did we read from the oven thermometer test? If at this point, you’re wondering why we need to leave a skillet on for so long just to reach 400°F (200°C), then here’s your answer:

Although cast iron skillets have tremendous thermal mass, it will still take time for them to heat up at first. The longer the skillet is on the stove, the more thermally even it becomes. That being said, your pan will not read exactly 400°F (200°C) right after turning on the stove.

The measurement range

If you turn off the burner as soon as you see the thermometer reach 400°F (200°C), then it is likely that your skillet will heat up only to about 375°F (190°C) after a few minutes.

On the other hand, if you leave it on for 30-minutes or more, then the temperature of the pan could go up to 430° F (220°C) or more.

Why does the temperature of a skillet go up with time?

The reason is simple.

The longer it stays on, the more heat gets absorbed and this makes its temperature rise exponentially.

Temperature figure

To put it in simple words, a skillet can get as hot as 400°F (200°C) in just a few minutes and by the time 30 minutes is reached, it can heat up to about 430°F (220°C).

Can a cast Iron skillet gets too hot?

The answer is yes, but not for too long.

A cast-iron skillet can get extremely hot, much hotter than a stainless steel or aluminum skillet. However, keep in mind that it will not stay hot for too long and reach a temperature of 500°F (260°C).

In other words, there is no chance your food will burn inside the pan because your heat source simply won’t allow it to be that hot.

On the other hand, you can leave it on an open flame if you want because cast iron skillets are more than capable of withstanding high temperatures!

What’s the highest temperature ever recorded for a cast iron skillet?

The highest temperature ever recorded for a cast iron skillet was 525° F (274 C) which was achieved by placing it directly on an open flame.

Just remember that they lose their heat quickly once taken off the fire so turn off the stove right after you’re done cooking.

How much heat can a cast iron skillet take?

Obviously, it depends. It depends on numerous factors. Let’s see what factors dictate how much heat can a cast-iron skillet take.

Skillet’s surface area

The surface area of your cast iron skillet dictates how fast it will heat up and cool down. A larger pan with more surface area will take longer to reach maximum temperature than a smaller pot or frying pan.

This also makes sense when you consider that there is more metal touching the burner than if you were using a smaller pan. In other words, a larger vessel has more metal touching the burner per unit volume, so it will take longer to heat up.

Number of BTU’s being applied to your skillet

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. The number of BTUs (which is a measurement of heat) being applied to your iron skillet dictates how fast it will heat up and cool down.

This is why you might see two skillets on the same stovetop with one pan having food in it while the other pan sits empty. If both pans have the same surface area, then the empty skillet will reach maximum temperature faster than if it had food in it because there are fewer BTUs touching that surface area.

Burner stove temperature

The temperature of your stovetop burner dictates how much a skillet will heat up and how fast it cools down. Of course, if you’ve set your burner to maximum, your cast iron skillet will heat up and cool down twice as fast as if you had the burner at half power.

To put it simply, If you have a weaker burner, the pan will take longer to reach maximum temperature. If you have a stronger burner, it’s going to be faster. This is probably self-explanatory, but the hotter the surface of your stovetop burner, the faster your skillet will heat up.

Temperature differences between skillet and room

There is a difference in temperature between your cast iron skillet and the room that it is sitting in. That difference dictates how much or fast a pan will heat up or cool down depending on which one is hotter.

This may not be true depending on how you maintain your house, but if the air temperature in the room your iron skillet is sitting in is lower than the surface temperature of your pan, then it will take longer to heat up and vice versa. If they’re about equal (which would be rare), then there would be no difference.

The Food you’re cooking

The type of food you’re cooking also dictates how much your pan will heat up.

Since water absorbs more energy than oil, beef takes longer to cook in a pan than chicken (all other things being equal). Beef will absorb twice as much energy on average as chicken if they both start out at the same temperature.

Chicken is actually very similar to oil in how it absorbs energy. The reason why beef takes longer is because of the geometry involved with cooking a steak, i.e., the top surface of the meat makes less contact with the pan than when you’re cooking chicken.

Note that if both types of food start out at room temperature, then there are no questions about which one will heat up faster. Of course, since the average home kitchen does not maintain an even temperature throughout all parts of the room, there are other implications about how this relates to cooking.

Oil vs. no oil

Finally, if you cook food in oil (most of the time), then your pan will heat up faster because there is more thermal energy being exchanged between the pan and the hot oil than when you’re cooking with no oil. The more energy that’s being transferred, the faster both materials reach maximum temperature.

The science behind is that oil also has a higher specific heat capacity than water or steam, so it will take longer to boil off if you just add plain water without any oil to help get it started heating up.

Rate of stirring

Finally, the rate at which you stir your food will either heat it up or cool it down. Although it doesn’t affect too much it does matter.

If you stir or flip your food frequently, then it will heat up more than if you don’t. I know this sounds wrong but this is mostly because most people tend to do this when they’re cooking.

Spoon material

If you’re stirring a pot of frying oil with a wooden spoon, then the pan material will cool down from the amount of thermal energy being transferred to your spoon’s handle and from heating up your food instead of directly heating up the pan itself.

So, your cast iron skillet will take less heat, if the spoon doesn’t contribute to heat. This is how it works!

It is important to note that these factors listed above all contribute to how hot a skillet gets. If you changed just one factor and left everything else the same, then it would take less or more time for your skillet to heat up.


To sum up, it takes longer for a cast iron skillet to heat up if the burner is weaker, the room temperature is cooler, your food doesn’t have any oil, you don’t stir your food frequently, and if you’re stirring with a wooden spoon. If you did change just one of these factors (but not more than one), then it would take less or more time to get your pan hot enough for cooking.

So, what are waiting for? Use this guide before cooking!

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