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There's a deep fryer at every size and price range -- even some that use no oil

Deep fryers allow you to make restaurant quality foods in your home without having to get dressed up and go out -- or to pay restaurant prices. Most deep fryers have a capacity of about two to 12 cups, and those are the deep fryers that we cover in this section of our report. We offer capacity guidelines as we discuss each fryer, but the size of the group that you cook for should guide your purchase. If you need something even larger, for whole chickens, large batches of wings or seafood, or for your Thanksgiving turkey, see our discussion of the best turkey fryers.

If you don't plan to deep-fry a lot of food or you need just a side dish for a couple of people, Presto 05442 CoolDaddy Cool-touch Deep Fryer (Est. $40) has a 6-cup capacity that owners say generally satisfies about two people, depending on your serving size preferences. With 1,600 watts of power, this small deep fryer heats up quickly and recovers fast after foods are added, resulting in crisp, evenly cooked foods.

The Presto CoolDaddy has a useful feature that eliminates the annoying -- and sometimes painful -- grease splatters common when adding foods to a heated pot of oil. The basket has an exterior handle that's used to lower the basket into the oil with the lid closed, which then prevents grease from splattering outside the unit when it comes in contact with cold or frozen foods. The lid also contains a charcoal air filter, which reduces the unpleasant frying odors that tend to infiltrate kitchens where deep fryers are used.

There are no fancy digital controls on the CoolDaddy, just a simple knob that adjusts the desired oil temperature up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. The non-stick interior pot is removable for cleaning, although it's not dishwasher-safe. Overall, reviewers are pleased with this home deep fryer's performance, noting that it doesn't take up a lot of storage space, but serves the purpose when they have a craving for fried food.

The Presto 05462 Digital ProFry Immersion-Element 9-Cup Deep Fryer (Est. $50) offers a slightly larger capacity than the Presto 05442 CoolDaddy Cool-touch Deep Fryer. It's also a bit more powerful for faster cooking with a 1,800-watt heating element. The heating element and pot both remove for easy cleaning but must be hand-washed.

If you need less capacity than the 6-cup Presto 05442, the 4-cup Presto 05420 FryDaddy Electric Deep Fryer (Est. $35) earns solid owner feedback on consumer review sites. A few users say this deep fryer is basically a glorified pan of oil, but some features make it more convenient than do-it-yourself frying, such as a snap on lid that enables you to refrigerate the oil right in the pot to reuse later -- just be sure the oil has cooled first. One thing owners like is that the basket can be lowered with the lid in place from outside the pot, eliminating messy grease splatters. The nonstick pot removes for easy cleaning, but it's not dishwasher-safe.

If you want an oil-free alternative to deep-frying but don't want to give up the authentic deep-fried taste, the T-fal FZ700251 ActiFry (Est. $180) is more expensive but well worth it if you're trying to cut back on your fat consumption or just don't want the hassle of dealing with large quantities of cooking oil. This versatile deep fryer can cook more than just fried foods; you can use it to create risotto, stir-fry dishes and more. Its paddle automatically stirs food and a digital timer buzzes to alert you when time is up, so cooking is practically hands-free.

The ActiFry generally requires about 1 tablespoon of oil to moisten foods and reduce sticking, but users say it produces great-tasting French fries and many other foods. In fact, some owners say they can't tell the difference between foods made with the ActiFry and those made with a traditional deep fryer. The T-fal ActiFry has a capacity of about 2.2 pounds and is backed by a one-year limited warranty.

Large deep fryers are best for bigger families

Owners say the Waring Pro DF280 Professional Deep Fryer (Est. $80) is a great choice for larger serving sizes. It has a generous, 12-cup capacity and a handy three-basket design that makes it possible to cook either two smaller quantities of different foods or a larger quantity of one type of food. Its 1,800-watt heating element heats up the fryer quickly and maintains the ideal frying temperature. It does require a lot of oil, about 1 gallon per use, but oil can be reused a few times depending on how well it's filtered. A pour spout drains the oil quickly and easily, so you can strain it through a filter and store it for reuse. The Waring Pro has a removable, dishwasher-safe bowl for easy cleaning, and stay-cool handles so you can move it around without burning your hands or wearing bulky oven mitts.

If you use a deep fryer for only one food item a time and don't need a multi-basket design, the T-fal FR7008 Ultimate EZ Clean 2.65-Pound / 3.3-Liter Stainless Steel Immersion Deep Fryer ((Est. $100)) also gets positive feedback from owners. It costs a bit more than the Waring Pro, but has a built-in filtration system that reduces the work involved in draining and filtering oil for reuse. It also has a 12-cup capacity, but with just a single basket. A locking lid with a built-in filter keeps smoke and odors from filling the room, and most of its parts are dishwasher-safe.

Elsewhere in this Report:

Best Reviewed Deep Fryers: Deep fryers can prepare restaurant-quality fried foods, without the restaurant prices. Here are the top oil and oil-free deep fryers, as well as the top turkey deep fryers. Some are even multitaskers, capable of steaming or stir-frying.

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.

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Presto 05442 CoolDaddy Cool-touch Deep Fryer - Black
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New: $99.99 $34.89   
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T-fal FZ700251 ActiFry Low-Fat Healthy Dishwasher Safe Multi-Cooker with nonstick interior, Black
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New: $249.99 $174.95   
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Waring Pro DF280 Professional Deep Fryer, Brushed Stainless
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New: $190.00   
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Presto 05462 Digital ProFry Immersion-Element 9-Cup Deep Fryer
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New: $69.99 $46.99   
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Average Customer Review:  
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Presto 05420 FryDaddy Electric Deep Fryer
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New: $29.99 $27.27   
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Average Customer Review:  
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T-fal FR7008 Ultimate EZ Clean 2.65-Pound / 3.3-Liter Stainless Steel Immersion Deep Fryer, Silver
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from Amazon.com
New: $129.99 $85.49   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

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