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How to Use a Deep Fryer

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Types of Deep Fryers
A deep fryer with a digital temperature display on the control panel.

The three main kinds of deep fryers use electricity, air or propane gas. Indoor deep fryers, sometimes called countertop deep fryers, run on electricity. Most outdoor deep fryers, like turkey fryers, use propane gas and must be used outside on a level surface, in an area that isn't enclosed or covered, away from combustibles. Some turkey fryers are available as electric tailgating fryers for small turkeys. 

Air fryers aren’t true deep fryers, because they work by circulating hot air around foods and don’t require oil. 

Be safe and keep children and pets away from deep fryers. Hot oil is dangerous, so never leave an indoor or outdoor deep fryer unattended while heating oil or cooking food. Be safe and read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for your model.

Types of Oils to Use in Deep Fryers
Two containers of deep frying oil with peanut oil.

The first step in learning how to use a deep fryer is choosing the right cooking oil for your needs. Use an oil with a high smoke point for your deep fryer. Smoke point is the temperature at which oil starts to break down. Oil that breaks down or that’s re-used too many times can become “dirty” and make your food taste off.

High smoke point oils include vegetable, peanut, soybean and grapeseed oils. Olive oils are not recommended for deep fryers because some, like extra virgin olive oil, have lower smoke points and are expensive. Oils with neutral flavors, like peanut and grapeseed oil, are good choices because they let the food’s true flavor come through.

Foods to Deep Fry

While many foods can be deep fried, popular choices are chicken, turkey, fish and potatoes. Vegetables like okra, mushrooms and onions also cook well. Use your deep fryer to make appetizers like mozzarella sticks and wontons and desserts like fried ice cream balls, doughnuts and sopapillas. 

Many foods will cook better in a deep fryer if they are first coated with an egg wash and then dredged in flour or breadcrumbs. To make an egg wash, beat together one egg yolk, one egg white or one entire egg with one tablespoon of milk, cream or water. Brush the egg wash on the food or dip the food in it. The egg wash helps the flour or breadcrumbs adhere to the food while it’s frying. 

If you’re cooking a turkey in an outdoor deep fryer, follow the directions for a trusted, outdoor deep fryer recipe.

How to Use a Deep Fryer
Some removing a basket of fried food from a countertop deep fryer.

Always read and follow the manufacturer's directions for using your indoor or outdoor deep fryer. These are general directions for using a deep fryer and may not apply to all models. 

Start by removing the fryer basket from the fryer. Then put the oil into the deep fryer while it's turned off and cool. Never add oil while the fryer is hot.   

 Add as much oil as the manufacturer instructs. Most deep fryers will have lines inside the unit to indicate the maximum and minimum amounts to use. If your fryer doesn’t have lines, don’t fill it more than half full.

Turn on or plug in the indoor deep fryer. Make sure cord is out of the way so you won’t accidentally snag it and overturn the fryer. For an outdoor deep fryer, follow the manufacturer's instructions to turn on the propane gas. 

Put on the lid, if the fryer has one, while the oil heats up. Depending on what you’re cooking, you’ll probably want to heat the oil between 350 to 400 degrees, or as the manufacturer or a trusted recipe directs. Some models have a temperature display or a light that comes on when the proper temperature is reached. If yours doesn’t, use a cooking thermometer made for deep containers that measures up to 500 degrees when you're heating oil. Open the lid carefully to avoid hot oil spatters and handle the thermometer with caution to avoid burns. 

If you ever see smoke coming from the fryer, reduce the temperature immediately, as it is too high. Be safe and keep a fire extinguisher made for oil and grease fires close at hand and know how to use it. If a fire occurs and you can’t handle it immediately, call 911 for help.

Adding Food to a Deep Fryer
A basket being used to deep fry French fries in hot oil.

If the food you’re cooking isn’t coated, pat it dry with paper towels before putting it in fryer. Wet, moist and frozen or partially frozen foods can cause hot oil to pop out and burn you.

Put the food in the basket and slowly lower it into the pre-heated oil. Stand back in case the hot oil spatters. Small pieces of food cook faster than big ones, so don’t crowd the basket. Crowding can also make the hot oil overflow and result in uneven cooking. If you have more food than you can put in the basket at one time, deep-fry it in small batches. 

If your indoor deep fryer doesn’t have a basket, use tongs or a slotted spoon to slowly lower pieces of food into the fryer one at a time. Don’t use plastic tools, which can melt. 

Put the lid back on the fryer, if it has one. 

Removing Food from a Deep Fryer
Pieces of fried chicken cooked in a deep fryer draining on paper towels.

When the food is done in an indoor deep fryer, lift out the basket and let the oil drain back into the oil tank. Gently shake basket to help remove the oil. To help absorb any remaining oil, put some paper towels on a baking sheet and put a cooling rack on top of them. Then place the food on rack to drain. 

Wait until the fryer is completely cool before you drain the oil and clean and store the fryer. 

Sone deep fryers filter the oil so you can re-use it. If yours doesn’t, strain the cooled oil through cheesecloth and store it in a dark, cool place. Never put oil down your sink, toilet or any other drain. If you want to discard it, soak it up with paper towels or put it in a sealed container and throw it in the trash.

Let the food cool to a safe temperature before serving it.

More on How to Use an Outdoor Deep Fryer
Someone lifting a fried turkey out of an outdoor turkey fryer.

Outdoor deep fryers hold more oil than indoor models and usually sit on sturdy stands made of steel or other materials. Because most run on propane gas, they should never be used in an enclosed or covered space. Use them only on a level surface, preferably made of concrete, at least 10 feet away from anything combustible, such as a tree or wooden deck. Read the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure you know how to use an outdoor deep fryer safely before you start cooking.  

As with an indoor model, never leave an outdoor deep fryer unattended, even if you’re cooking outside in cold weather, and keep children and pets away from them. If the oil starts to smoke, turn off the heat immediately. If a fire occurs, be ready with a fire extinguisher designed for fats, grease and oil fires, and know how to use it. Call  911 if you can’t immediately control a fire.

When using an outdoor deep fryer, wear shoes to protect your feet, with non-slip soles in case you step in oil. Wear heavy oven mitts and protective clothing so hot oil won't spatter on any exposed skin. 

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for filling and draining the oil in your outdoor deep fryer. Do not overfill the pot with oil or cook foods that are not completely thawed. Some manufacturers recommend turning off the burner before slowly lowering the food into the oil, so spillovers don’t occur. Turn off the burner before raising the food, too.

Have a heat-proof plate or tray ready to put the food on when it has cooled enough to serve.

The Home Depot carries many deep fryer accessories and replacement parts if you need them.