The one question that we get more than anything is, “So how do I start deep frying at home?” And it’s true: nothing is more intimidating than a vat of hot oil in your kitchen or the nightmare of soggy or blackened food. But in our opinion, the pros of deep frying far outweigh the cons. Crispy chicken wings, devilishly delicious Oreos, homemade potato chips, and more fantastic dishes reach their true potential with a little deep frying love. Still nervous? We’ll walk you through everything you need to know for success with our How to Deep Fry guide.
So…what IS a deep fryer, and how does deep frying work?
What’s the difference between regular frying and deep frying? Bear with us here, and imagine frying is like a beach.
On the shoreline, you have sautéing, which is just a tablespoon or so of oil. Use this method as a non-sticking agent for browning vegetables or searing meat.
If we go knee-deep into our deep frying ocean, you’ll find pan frying: about an inch or so of oil at the bottom of a frying pan.
This is great for fried chicken at home or chicken strips. And if we jump straight into the ocean so the water is above our head, that’s deep frying: a well of oil, which is great for frying a big volume of food, or when you want to evenly fry food on every single side.
The basics of deep frying are simple. You’ll cover food in a batter, dip the food into the oil, and let it sit for a certain amount of time. Then you just take the food out of the oil, let the excess oil drip off, and serve. For more on specific supplies and information on batters and oils, keep reading!
Your Essential Deep Frying Supplies
Prepare for deep frying success by picking up a few essentials before you get started.
1. Create the right workspace
Clear the area around your workspace. Create an assembly line: have your food to the left of the batter, have the batter sit next to the deep fryer, and keep a wire rack with paper towels underneath to dry for the deep fried food on the other side of the deep fryer.
2. Wear an apron
Even if you’re careful, oil might splatter. Don’t put your favorite shirt in the crossfire!
3. Find the perfect pot
We recommend using an actual deep fryer, especially for beginners. They come with min/max lines, temperature controls, and often come with wire frying baskets. Don’t want to invest in a deep fryer until you’ve had some experience with deep fried food? A Dutch oven conducts heat well and is high sided, so the oil stays in the pot. Depending on how much food, you’ll need between four to eight quarts, but never fill it past halfway.
4. Pick a winning thermometer
You want an oil/candy thermometer; bonus points for one that clips onto the side of the deep fryer.
5. Decide how you want to get the food out
Standard deep fryers come with wire fry basket. You just have to put the food in the fry basket, slowly lower the basket into the oil, and then lift it back out again when you’re done. Frying larger pieces of food? Try a wired scooper basket. A heatproof slotted spoon can also work in a pinch, though. Avoid plastic, though! Melted plastic will never taste as good as deep fried chicken.
HOT TIP: Need to deep fry on the fly but don’t have a candy thermometer on hand? You can substitute a wooden spoon handle. Dip it into the hot oil; if bubbles appear around the spoon, then the oil is hot and you can start frying. Keep in mind, this method is best for experienced fryers, and using a thermometer is always preferable!
Deep Frying Oil 101
It can be hard to keep information about oil straight—what oil do you use, and how do you know when you’re ready to start frying? Never fear—our Deep Frying Oil 101 tips are here to help.
1. Pick the right oil
You can use peanut, canola, or vegetable oil for frying. (Canola oil tends to be a little more inexpensive.) Avoid olive oil or sunflower oil, which burn more quickly.
2. Come prepared (for a big frying party)
You’ll need anywhere from 6 to 10 cups of oil. Make sure you have a little extra on hand; it’s better to have a little more than you need than to find you’ve run out! Try to make sure you never fill your fryer more than halfway; check for the fill line that most standard deep fryers have.
3. Keep your fry basket lowered into the oil
When you’re frying, make sure the basket stays lowered in the oil and carefully drop in the food with tongs, or else the food will stick directly to the basket. If battered items are heavier, they might sink to the bottom and stick. Use tongs to keep items floating on the top of the oil to start the frying process and keep the food from sticking. When they’ve started to cook, release them; this way, they won’t sink to the bottom, and will continue to float and fry.
HOT TIP: Keep an eye on the oil to avoid the smoke points and flash points. The smoke point is the temperature at which little wisps of smoke begin rising out of the oil. If this goes on for much longer, the oil will chemically break down and taste, frankly, gross. Medium smoke point oils include grape seed and peanut oil, which hit the point between 375 and 450 degrees. Looking for something a little less high maintenance? Canola oil has a smoke point between 470 and 485 degrees. The flash point is the temperature at which your oil starts to catch on fire; you’ll see little flames on the surface of the oil. This tends to happen around 600 degrees, which is why you NEVER walk away from boiling oil.
Let’s Pick Your Batter and Breading
1. Your batter or breading depends on your food
There are lots of different batters you can choose from: thick or thin, wet or dry…you get the idea! If your food has natural moisture, then a wet batter isn’t needed and you can use breading instead. Breading often involves bread crumbs or other dry, crumbly layers (think crackers or even crushed up cookies!) that add flavor. For most breading, you’ll also be using a batter in order to get the breading to stick—unless, of course, there’s lots of natural moisture involved. Use a wet batter for food that isn’t naturally moist, and food where you want to seal in moisture. You can also use batter and breading combined when you want a thicker coating on the food.
2. Use the right technique
Whisk your batter and don’t over mix it, or it might get too thick! Submerge one piece of food at a time, and let the extra batter drip off before you set it in the oil. For breading, the standard procedure tends to be as followed: dip the food in flour, then beaten eggs, then finally the bread crumbs. This way, the breading has something to stick to (though you can also dip in your batter first, and then into your breading, if you’ve decided to combine the techniques).
3. Learn how to dredge
Dredging is a term that refers to first dipping food in a wet egg batter and then dipping it in breading. The wet batter helps the breading stick. We recommend having a bowl of water handy to clean your fingertips!
HOT TIP: Keep your food warm and crispy in the oven with a warming tray set at 250.
With a vat of boiling oil in front of you, don’t be lax when it comes to safety. A few simple rules to follow so you can keep your cool:
1. Incase of fire
If a fire does start, never use water to put out a grease fire. Keep a fire extinguisher or a baking soda on hand.
2. The bigger the pot, the better.
Try to keep at least three or four inches between the top of the oil and the top of the pot. Ideally, you don’t want to fill your deep fryer over half full; most deep fryers will have minimum/maximum lines, so you can keep an eye on when your oil is headed into a danger zone.
3. Lower food S-L-O-W-L-Y into the oil.
Making a splash with hot oil is never a good idea. Along the same lines, you never want ice chunks on frozen food. Throwing ice into hot oil will cause severe splattering and possible burns. Let food defrost until you can’t see any ice or crystals, and pat it with a paper towel.
HOT TIP: Fry mesh nets help contain splatter!
Time to Clean Up
When the fun is done, you still have to do a bit of necessary clean up.
1. Completely cool for cleanup
Completely let the oil cool before getting started on clean up. Hot oil can burn you or melt plastic containers; enjoy your deep fried treats while the oil stands and cools.
2. Use empty container
Pour the oil into an empty container, like a milk carton or a takeout container, and throw it in the trash (or see our hot tip for storage advice!).
3. Clean with grease dissolving detergent
Clean the deep fryer with grease dissolving dish detergent to cut through the grease. Strong chemicals aren’t necessary here, especially since this is a pot you use for making food! A mild dish detergent works wonder on grease fighting.
HOT TIP: You can reuse deep fryer oil safely for three to four uses as long as you leave it in a cool, dark place. Just pour the oil into a sealable container and set it aside until your next deep fry!