Deep fryers offer restaurant-style cooking at home
Onion rings. French fries. Chicken wings. These are a few of everyone's favorite things, but cooks are often challenged to get that classic, restaurant-quality deep-fried texture and flavor at home. The good news is that today's home deep fryers perform almost as well as the professional models used in restaurants, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars on restaurant food -- not to mention tips, gas and time.
The best deep fryers are easy to use and clean, come up to the right temperature within a reasonable time (although some large oil fryers can take up to 30 minutes), and quickly come back to that temperature after the food is lowered into the oil, to crisp the outside of the food, without the inside becoming soggy or absorbing too much oil. As for oil-less fryers -- the best give you that fried-in-oil taste and texture, without the hassle of dealing with oil.
Capacity is one of the main considerations when buying a deep fryer. Most standard models have a capacity of 2 to 9 cups, while some larger fryers can cook up to 12 cups of food at a time. Families of three to four people generally prefer larger-capacity fryers so they don't have to prepare multiple, consecutive batches, which can make recovery time -- how quickly the fryer can return to the proper cooking temperature after foods are introduced -- an issue.
Common types of deep fryers
Electric deep fryers are a convenient alternative to the old-fashioned method of using a large pot filled with oil on the stovetop. The best models have enclosed heating elements that are safer than using a substantial amount of oil over an open flame, and many electric deep fryers come with lids that prevent splatters from creating a mess and causing burns. Most of the home deep fryers in this report are electric models.
Propane deep fryers are meant to be used outdoors. They either have a dedicated propane hook-up that can be used with a tank or natural gas line, or they are meant to be used over a propane stove. The latter type are merely large stockpots that include fryer kits -- usually a thermometer, poultry rack and lid.
Oil-less deep fryers can be powered by electricity or propane. This type of home deep fryer is a versatile cooking unit designed to produce the same restaurant-style fried taste without the hassle, expense and mess of dealing with large amounts of cooking oil. Many of these also steam or perform other cooking tasks, like stir-frying.
About turkey deep fryers
Deep frying has become a popular way to cook turkeys, particularly at large holiday gatherings when the stove and oven are filled to capacity with side dishes and desserts. Turkey deep fryers come in all configurations -- electric or propane, oil or oil-less. The only difference between a turkey deep fryer and other home deep fryers is that you need to have the interior capacity for a large bird. However, many people don't like to deep fry a large turkey, even if the manufacturer says the deep fryer has the ability to do so; they prefer frying two smaller birds of about 10 to 12 pounds, saying they get better results.
Many turkey fryers must be used outside, but we found a great indoor turkey fryer as well. The prices for turkey fryers have come down in recent years, and won't bust a hole in your wallet; however, if you're using oil, be sure to budget for that.
Finding the best deep fryers
There aren't many professional tests of deep fryers -- we found one roundup of nine models at Saveur.com -- but those done by editors at ConsumerReports.com and TheSweetHome.com are extremely limited in scope. Because of that, we turned to retail sites such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Macys.com, to name a few, analyzing thousands of reviews for long-term, real-world experiences with home deep fryers. Owners tend to be passionate about their cookers, and the reviews we read were detailed -- some were even updated after several years of the owner using his or her deep fryer. The result of that research is our recommendations for the home deep fryers with the best combination of performance, ease of use and durability.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Deep Fryers: There's a deep fryer in every size and for every price range. These are the best home deep fryers -- including a few that don't even use oil!
Best Turkey Fryers: Plenty of folks say there's nothing like the delicious taste and moist, succulent texture of a deep-fried turkey. We found a traditional turkey fryer that uses oil, one that uses about a third less oil, and one that uses no oil at all.
Buying Guide: What kind of home deep fryer is best suited to what you like to eat and whether you want to cook indoors or out? Here is your guide to finding the best deep fryer to satisfy your taste buds.
Our Sources: We used these professional and user review sites to find the best turkey fryers. They are ranked in order of their expertise and helpfulness.