Home deep fryers come in a few shapes and capacities, but the judging criteria are the same for all: In order to make great fried foods, experts recommend an oil temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit. And once a deep fryer reaches that temperature, it needs to recover quickly -- that is, it needs to quickly regain that temperature after you add foods to the oil.
Deep fryers have one reservoir for oil; some units include two baskets, so you can fry two different foods at once. Every electric deep fryer has a heating element, although they vary in power, ranging from 1,000 to 1,800 watts. The sophistication of temperature controls also varies; some more expensive models include a digital thermostat, while cheaper models may simply have an on-off setting. Additionally, many deep fryers allow users to drain and store oil for re-use in an included receptacle; the cooled leftover oil runs through a rubber tube, through a mesh filter and into a clip-on plastic container, which can be covered and stored in the refrigerator. Other common features include anti-odor and anti-vapor filters, indicator lights and alarms that let users know when oil has reached the desired temperature, non-stick interiors that make for easier cleaning, and cool-touch exteriors that can reduce the threat of burns.
In order to prevent hot oil from splashing, some deep fryers are also equipped with magnetized power cords (also known as breakaway cords). This safety feature easily disconnects in the event that the fryer is bumped or tripped over. While this creates a solid safety benefit, the wrong design can prompt this feature to become problematic. For instance, one common reviewer complaint about both the Waring Pro DF250B (*Est. $100) and T-Fal Ultimate EZ Clean Pro (*Est. $120) is that their breakaway cords fall out too easily.
Many standard fryers also possess windows that let users see their food as it cooks. However, several reviewers and some experts say that these features have a tendency to fog over and aren't truly useful. Rusting can also be an issue; we found several reviews citing this problem. While many manufacturers say that their larger models are dishwasher safe (except for the heating elements), dozens of owners continue to contradict this claim, citing rusted baskets and bases.
Smaller deep fryers can typically accommodate between 4 and 6 cups of food. They're compact, but bigger families may find them too small. Among smaller models, the DeLonghi D895UX Roto (*Est. $100) receives the best reviews. Equipped with a 1,500-watt heating element, it can cook up to 1.5 pounds of food in its rotating basket, which is set at an angle and spins like a turntable, quickly dipping food in and out of the oil. The Roto also requires half as much oil as comparably sized fryers (5 cups instead of 10 to 12 cups). Other product features include a cleaning system that lets users drain oil into a separate container for storage and reuse and replaceable anti-odor filters. The Roto features an adjustable thermostat that lets users fine-tune its temperature from 300 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit; a light indicates when the oil has reached the desired temperature. It also has a breakaway cord, as well as a digital timer and signal bell. The DeLonghi D895UX Roto comes with a one-year warranty.
Although we encountered a few complaints about the Roto's filter basket, which can fail to rotate if not situated properly, owners generally love this fryer, saying that it's safe, sturdy and easy to use and clean. In the only professional comparison we found, reviewers found that it exceeded its maximum temperature setting but still delivered crispy french fries. One owner review on Amazon.com says that the Roto "still performs flawlessly" after four years of heavy use; other reviewers posting on Cooking.com praise its drainage system, saying it makes oil very easy to store.
Another smaller model, the Presto GranPappy (*Est. $40) may not be as flashy as the DeLonghi Roto in terms of design and features, but reviewers still say this fryer does a solid job. A rather plain-looking bucket of a fryer, the 6-cup capacity GranPappy lacks a fry basket, odor filter and thermostat -- it's either on or off. Still, it does possess a snap-on lid, so users can store their oil right in the fryer. This fryer also has a reputation for becoming hot to the touch during use, and many users say that it can take an hour or more for the unit to cool down. Reviewers at Walmart.com also say its plastic lid and power cord can get so hot they can melt. These drawbacks aside, dozens of reviewers on Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Epinions.com praise the Presto GranPappy. They say it gets the job done, is perfectly capable of heating oil to 375 degrees, and produces crispy food. In fact, one reviewer on Walmart.com claims his GranPappy fryer has performed well for more than 18 years. The Presto GranPappy comes with a one-year warranty.
Presto also makes a similar but smaller 4-cup capacity unit called the Presto FryDaddy (*Est. $25), which earns the best reviews among deep fryers under $30. The FryDaddy comes equipped with a 1,200-watt heating element and requires only 4 cups of oil to cook four servings of food. It lacks temperature settings -- you just plug it in to turn it on and unplug it to turn it off. It doesn't come with many extra features, only a snap-on lid and a scoop. Although it's not dishwasher-safe, all of its surfaces are non-stick, which owners say makes for easier cleaning. The Presto FryDaddy garners very good reviews at Walmart.com, with owners praising its compact design, ability to heat up and recover quickly, and capacity to turn out perfectly fried food; users there give it more than 150 4- and 5-star ratings (out of roughly 165 total reviews). However, some owners do warn that the exterior of the FryDaddy gets extremely hot during cooking. The Presto FryDaddy comes with a one-year warranty.
One particularly compact deep fryer, the Cuisinart CDF-100 (*Est. $50), earns mixed reviews. Measuring 11.25 inches by 8.25 inches by 7.25 inches, the CDF-1000 features a 1,000-watt heating element and can fry up to three-quarters of a pound of food in 4 cups of oil. This deep fryer also features an adjustable thermostat that ranges from 325 to 375 degrees, a 30-minute timer, and a removable charcoal filter. Owners writing on Macys.com are mostly positive, awarding the fryer an average of 4.6 stars out of 5, and they praise the CDF-100's compact and easy-to-clean design. But owner reviews at Amazon.com are more mixed, with as many 1-star and 2-star reviews as 5-star scores. Quite a few owners say that they independently measured the temperature, and that the Cuisinart deep fryer wasn't able to make it over 325 degrees. Several owners also say that the lid and temperature control break easily and that the plug routinely comes loose from the unit; another review says that the CDF-100's non-stick coating began wearing off after one use. The Cuisinart CDF-100's warranty is more extensive than most other models', covering the unit for three years.
Larger deep fryers tend to look like scaled-down version of the fryers found in fast-food restaurants. Although dimensions can vary, these heftier units typically measure approximately 20 inches wide, 10 inches deep, and 12 inches tall, and can accommodate between 6 and 12 cups of food on average.
Among larger deep fryers, the Presto Digital ProFry (*Est. $60) receives the best reviews. It features an 1,800-watt heating element that's removable for easier cleaning; a large, removable basket (with foldable handle) that can accommodate up to 9 cups of food; and an oil capacity of 1 gallon. Other bells and whistles include its set of digital temperature controls, four thermostat presets (300, 325, 350 and 375 degrees), and a splatter-reducing lid. The ProFry also features an LED light and beep alert to signal users when preheating is complete; there's also a 30-minute timer and breakaway cord, which disconnects easily if the fryer is bumped or tripped over.
Overall, the ProFry earns consistent ratings for its ability to reach and maintain a high temperature (reviewers say it takes between 10 and 15 minutes to heat up), resulting in evenly cooked, crispy food. Many owners praise the ProFry's digital thermometer and loud, beeping timer. Some do complain that it lacks an oil drain, which would make it easier to empty, store and reuse oil. However, out of 84 total reviews on Walmart.com, 80 of the ratings are 4 or 5 stars. The feedback is also overwhelmingly positive on Amazon.com, where one reviewer calls it the best fryer he's come across in 20 years. The Presto Digital ProFry comes with a one-year warranty.
Another good option from Presto is the Dual ProFry (*Est. $80), which lacks the Digital edition's LED display but includes two fry baskets. Otherwise, it's essentially the same as the Digital model, featuring an 1,800-watt heating element, an adjustable thermostat, and a breakaway power cord. (Note that the Dual ProFry is no longer listed on Presto's website as a current model but remains widely available online.) This model gets an average of 4.5 stars in 115 Amazon.com customer reviews, and the more than 190 reviews on Walmart.com are nearly all glowing. A few reviewers do recount problems reaching 375 degrees with the Dual ProFry, but most say they are satisfied with the fryer's performance. The Presto Dual ProFry comes with a one-year warranty.
The T-Fal FR7008002 Ultimate EZ Clean Pro Deep Fryer (*Est. $150) comes equipped with a 1,700-watt heating element, can accommodate nearly 3 pounds of food and 14 cups of oil, and includes some handy features, such as handles that stay cool during cooking, a lid that locks, a detachable magnetic plug, and an oil draining and filtering system. Although the T-Fal deep fryer gets largely positive reviews on Amazon.com and Cooking.com, the one professional roundup we consulted says it was unable to reach a temperature above 350 degrees during testing, resulting in poorly cooked fries. The majority of the 15 1-star reviews on Amazon.com support this view, and many make note of the EZ Clean Pro's propensity for messy oil leaks. Note that T-Fal also makes the Emerilware Deep Fryer (*Est. $150), which is virtually identical to the EZ Clean Pro save for the addition of a digital thermostat; Amazon.com reviews of the Emerilware model touch on many of the same issues addressed in accounts of the T-Fal. Both T-Fal Ultimate EZ Clean Pro and the Emerilware edition are covered by a one-year warranty.
The Waring Pro DF250B (*Est. $100) has attracted reviews from both professionals and owners. It features an 1,800-watt heating element, three temperature presets (325, 350, and 375 degrees), a 30-minute timer, and a heavy mesh fry basket. Safety features include a breakaway cord and auto-shutoff protection, which turns the unit off when it exceeds 375 degrees. In a roundup of six deep fryers, editors at the Los Angeles Times conclude that the Waring Pro is good for delivering crispy results, but they don't like the fact that the heating element is not removable for cleaning. However, owner ratings on Amazon.com and Epinions.com are mixed: Some call the fryer an excellent value, while others say that its heating element is underpowered and that it's unable to crisp up food properly. Like the Presto Dual Basket ProFry, this fryer has dual baskets, but it lacks a system for draining and storing oil. The Waring Pro DF250B comes with a one-year warranty.