Fried foods are probably the most popular foods on the planet, at least in the industrialized countries. Could you really imagine life without French Fries? Chicken Fingers? Fried fish? Without fryers, there would probably be no fast food industry at all. It’s sort of love-hate relationship. We love fried foods, but we hate the calories and other things that detractors are so eager to communicate. But, is fried food really that bad for us? How do we deep fry at home? And how can we find the best deep fryer? The answers to these, and more questions follow…
|Quality Deep Fryers||Brand||Features|
|Waring pro deep fryer||Waring||Great timer and temperature control|
|Presto cooldaddy||Presto||Really good for fish|
|Presto 06003||Presto||Good price|
What is Deep Frying?
Deep frying is different from pan frying. Deep frying requires that the food be completely submerged, or at least, floating in very hot oil, without touching the bottom of the pan. Deep Frying cooks food quickly, on all sides evenly, although you may have to flip floating food over a few times to accomplish this. Very hot oil can dehydrate the surface layers of food, so to protect it, some sort of coating, like bread crumbs or batter, is normally used as an extra layer, which also adds to the texture and flavor. The exceptions are noodles, potatoes, and similar foods with high starch contents. The starch holds moisture in, and prevent dehydration.
There are those who claim that deep fried foods are greasy, have more fat, and are somehow nutritionally compromised. This is not exactly correct. When done properly, at the correct temperature, deep fried foods have no more fat, grease, or oil than when pan fried. If the oil is hot enough, the outside sears immediately, preventing oil from penetrating to the inner layers. Oil that is too hot will burn the outside before the inside gets done. Deep frying works best with thinner food items, such as chicken thighs, legs, breasts, wings, pork chops, thin steaks, sliced and whole vegetables, etc…usually things that are under 2” thick. This is because the proper temperature for oil is 350ºF – 375ºF. There are a few exceptions to this, such as whole fried turkeys. Some people like them, but I have always found them to be dry and tasteless. But that is just my opinion. If you like them, feel free to indulge yourself, by all means…
Some oils, such as peanut oil can be heated to a higher temperature, but this is not recommended. All oils have a property called a ‘smoke point’. This is the temperature at which the oil begins to break down, and much hotter could cause the oil to reach its ‘flash point’, which is the temperature at which it will ignite, and catch fire. This can be dangerous. Some oils have a higher smoke point than others, peanut oil being one of the highest, but regardless of what oil you use, I do not recommend heating oil beyond 375ºF, because it is just too risky.
Like all cooking, deep frying has its special hazards. Most deep fryers get very hot while in use, so touching the sides can result in some serious burns. Sometimes, hot oil can splash, and ‘pop’, usually as a result of water being introduced to the hot oil. This can splash hot oil on your skin, or into your eyes. To make matters worse, the oil sticks to the skin much like napalm, and can cause deep burns. Never over-fill the pot. Most have a line or other indicator to show the proper fill level. Over-filling can cause the oil to boil over when food is added. You should always use oven mitts and a lid when deep frying. Another hazard is a fire. If oil does ignite, put it out by first turning off the unit and unplugging it. Then, try to smother it by placing the lid on top. If this does not work, use baking soda, or a fire extinguisher rated for type B, and C fires to extinguish the flames. Never, repeat never use water. It will super-heat and create dangerous clouds of steam, as well as making the oil pop and splash.
Another safety concern is to change the oil frequently. Any time the oil looks dark, develops any kind of smell, gets thicker, thinner or starts to smoke, change it. Old oil can develop carcinogens, so don’t take any chances. Change the oil often. Besides, they need old oil for making the new biodiesel fuels…
Used properly, deep fryers are safe, and great for making some memorable meals at home.
What To Look For In A Deep Fryer
You do not have to have a specialty deep fryer to fry foods at home. You can make perfectly acceptable French Fires, fried fish, chicken, etc… using nothing more than a dutch oven and a fry basket on top of your existing stove. However, stoves use a lot more electricity, or gas. It may be harder to gauge the oil temperature. Deep fryers are more convenient.
A deep fryer is not a complicated piece of equipment. In it’s most basic form, it is simply a pot with heating elements and a thermostat to control the temperature. It will have a basket to drain cooked food, and a lid. Some fancier models may have a timer. Here is a diagram:
The first thing you need to decide is what size you need. If you have the space, bigger is always better. Figure out what size you want, then get the next size up, or maybe even two sizes up. Next, check for safety features. Some newer models are designed so that the sides do not get hot. And you always want to be sure to get a model with a magnetic quick-detach electrical cord. If the unit gets bumped, the cord will detach rather than dumping the oil.
Even on expensive units, the thermostats can be unreliable. I don’t know why in this age of digital electronics, computer-control, and precision circuitry, that no one seems to be able to make an accurate thermostat, but it seems to be an insurmountable problem. I have had units where the thermostats are off by as much as 40º. Use a kitchen thermometer to check the temperature of the oil, compared to what the thermostat says, and adjust as needed.
Larger deep fryers should have a drain spout to make cleaning easier, and filters are always nice to have. The basket, or baskets should set firmly in their holders, so as not to accidentally drop into the oil, and splash it everywhere.
More features are nice, but remember, more features also mean more things can go wrong, and more features usually cost more money. With proper care, a good deep fryer can last a lifetime.
The 3 Best Deep Fryers For Home Use
Here are 3 of my favorite deep fryers. I’ve used them extensively during the past years, and here are my opinions about them.
Waring Pro DF280 Review
This is one of the larger deep fryers available, and can hold a gallon or more of oil. It has 1 large basket, and 2 smaller ones, making it easy to fry two different foods with different cooking times, all at once. The powerful 1800 watt heating element is removable for easy cleaning of the unit. The Waring has a digital 60-minute timer and good temperature control. It may be a little on the big side for some people at 13” x 13” x 18-1/2”, and 12 pounds, but it more than makes up for the extra space in performance.
One of the features I really liked was that it has a digital temperature indicator, which was accurate to within +/- 3º. It heated the oil all the way up to 382ºF in just 15 minutes, and held it there for 45 minutes with less than 4º variation. This is as good as most commercial units. I used slightly more oil (32 oz more.) than the 1 gallon recommended, which only raised the level around 3/4”, leaving plenty of room for safety. I was able to fry around 3 lbs of chicken at a time, and the pieces cooked to perfection in just under 4 minutes at 375ºF indicated. It easily fried 5 potatoes at once as French Fries, and a extra-large chimichanga was perfect in just 3 minutes.
Clean up was easy. The heating element comes out (after allowing the unit to cool completely, of course….), and the oil pot is also removable, with a handy pour spout. The unit does not have a filter, but it is really not much trouble just to pour the oil through a fine mesh sieve, and return it to the pot. Most of the parts are dishwasher safe. After allowing the unit to cool for 2 hours, clean up took around 15 minutes. Of course, you don’t have to drain and filter the oil every time you use the unit, but its nice to know that it can be done quickly and easily.
The only thing I didn’t like was that the large basket only has one hook to hold it in the rack to drain. It really should have 2. I found that if the basket is not loaded evenly, it can tip and drop food, and the basket back into the oil, causing a splash hazard. I was able to correct this in about 5 minutes with some needle-nose pliers and a small length of wire coat hanger. I simply made two more hooks for a total of 3. Problem solved.
Considering the price, this is a great unit, and well worth the money.
Presto 05442 CoolDaddy Review
Presto is the big name in home deep fryers, and the creators of the first consumer models. The Cool Daddy lives up to the company’s reputation. The CoolDaddy is a compact unit that holds just shy of 2 quarts of oil. It has cool sides for safety, a 1500 watt heating element, and several neat safety features. The CoolDaddy has a locking lid that allows you to raise and lower the basket with the lid closed, virtually eliminating most splash hazards. The frying pot is removable and cleans up easily. And indicator light lets you know when the oil has reached cooking temperatures, and the temperature is adjustable from 250º to 375º ( so they say….). A viewing window lets you monitor the food without opening the lid. It is only 15” x 9” x 10” and weighs just 3-1/2 lbs. Everything stores in the unit (if you remove the oil…).
One thing I didn’t like was that the unit has no temperature gauge. When I checked the oil temperature against the settings, it was off by -22º, and the oil never got hotter than 353º, but that is hot enough. It took 14 minutes to reach the max temperature. It held the oil for 45 minutes with no more than a 10º variation…not too bad. The baskets raised and lowered easily with the lid closed, and the sides really do stay cool enough not to be uncomfortable to the touch. I thought the cord was a little short, but I think that about most appliances. I was able to fry 2 or 3 pieces of chicken at a time, and they cooked perfectly in around 4 minutes. Fish fillets took 3 minutes. I could do 3 medium potatoes worth of fries at a time. The one thing that impressed me with the CoolDaddy is that it did tater tots better than any other unit I tested, including my own. They were wonderfully crispy on the outside, and nice and tender on the inside. I could do a large chimichanga in less than 5 minutes, and tortilla chips came out perfect in just 2 minutes. Potato chips took less than 2 minutes. I even made a small funnel cake that came out beautiful.
The unit cooled down in less than 2 hours. Clean up was very easy, although none of the parts are dishwasher safe. Everything has to be hand washed, but even with draining and filtering the oil, clean up took less than 15 minutes.
Except for the lack of a temperature gauge, and the squirrelly thermostat, the CoolDaddy is a great compact deep fryer. Looking at the price, it has more features, and performs better than many units costing lots more money.
Presto 06003 Electric Multi-Cooker/Steamer Review
This is the unit I use at home. In fact, I have 2. One for cooking food, and another for making candles, soaps, and extracts. It is not fancy. It is a basic cooker with a clear acrylic (I think…) lid, a thermostat, basket, and little else. But , this is the most versatile unit you will ever find. Not only does it deep fry, but it can also be used as an electric soup pot for making stews, soups, and even steaming things. On the low settings, it can be used as a slow cooker, and a warmer for buns, biscuits, etc… It’s not fancy, but it works great. While not very compact at 13” x 13” x 10”, its is still not all that big. And it only weighs 6 lbs (about 13 lbs with oil or water in it…).
The Presto Options has a 1300 watt, totally enclosed heating element, and the entire thermostat and control unit detaches, making the unit safe to immerse while cleaning. It has one of the best thermostats available, and the temperature is adjustable from 150º, all the way to 400º. Both of my Prestos are accurate to within 3º, and they can hold oil all day with less than 5º variation. One of the neat things about the Presto Options is that if the control unit goes out, you don’t have to get another cooker. Replacement thermostats are inexpensive and readily available. The Options holds a whopping 6 quarts, more than enough to feed a lot of hungry guests. It can fry 16 pieces of chicken in less than 6 minutes, and I have even fried a whole chicken once (just to see if it would work…it did…).
The Presto has no temperature gauge, no little light that tells you when the oil is hot enough, and no locking lid. You just drop a little flour in the oil, and if it sizzles, the oil is ready. The aluminum basket is huge and clips to the rim securely. You cannot accidentally dislodge this basket once it is hooked. To use as a steamer, just remove the oil, clean out the inside with a good degreasing detergent (regular dishwashing soap is fine…), fill with around 2” of water, set a trivet, or something to hold the basket just above the water in the bottom, and set the temperature all the way up to 400º. Once the water starts to boil, lower the temperature to 250º, put the food you want to steam in the basket, and set it on the trivet. Put the lid on and steam until your food is done. Add water whenever necessary.
There is no filter or drain. To clean, just let it cool, remove the control unit, pour the oil through a filter, and wipe/rinse out the inside. Then just dry it well, or let it air dry, pour the oil back in if you want, and you are back in business.
The Options is even customizable. On the one I use for making soap and candles, I drilled a hole in the side, near the bottom, and put in a drain spigot that works perfectly. It took 15 minutes, and $8.00 worth of supplies from Ace Hardware to install.
The Presto Option is an incredibly tough unit. Both of mine are well over 15 years old, and have been used very hard. All I have ever had to do is replace the control unit on one, for around $12.00, and replace one of the plastic legs on the other one (I dropped it…empty, of course…), for around $1.00, I think. And the best part of all is that these units are still only around $30.00, brand new. The Presto Option may not be the best fryer for a complete novice cook to start out with, but once you get a little experience, this is the unit you want.
Frying Though The Ages…
Although the term, ‘deep fry’ is of fairly recent origin, dating back no farther than 1916, we have very strong archeological evidence that the Egyptians were deep frying foods as far back as 5000 BC. The Greeks were particularly fond of frying foods in olive oil around 500 BC, and a Roman cookbook dating from 100 BC, the “Apicuis”, lists Pullum Frontonianum (Frontier Chicken), a delicious fried and baked chicken dish, as one of its recipes. Over the years, the technique of deep frying spread across Europe and the Middle East. By the 14th century, deep fried foods were common in Northern Europe, and had spread to southern Europe and the Middle East by the 15th century. By the 16th and 17th centuries, thanks to the intrepid Portuguese, it had even spread to Asia.
With the discovery of the New World, by Europeans, one of the greatest fried foods ever,….the potato, became available. French Fries took the world by storm in the 1830s (yes, they really were invented by the French..Ooh La La…). In 1890, one of the great icons in deep frying history was born, Col. Harland Sanders…the creator of Kentucky Fried Chicken, possibly one of the greatest food in the world…. 1942 saw the advent of the world’s first corn dog, called the Crusty Cur, created by Neil Fletcher at the State Fair of Texas.
For home use, deep frying did not gain any real popularity until the advent of inexpensive cast iron pots. Before that, deep frying required expensive heavy caldrons, and a skill level that was beyond that of an average home cook. Various models of semi-automatic deep fryers were invented over the years, but the first successful deep fryer for consumer-use was crated in 1976… the Presto Fry Baby. The rest, as they say, is history…
I hope this guide helped you understand frying and deep fryers a bit more. If you have any doubts, or questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below the article. I’ll be happy to help you!