Electric deep fryers offer a few advantages over the traditional practice of frying food on the stovetop. First, a deep fryer's enclosed heating element offers a safer alternative to putting large amounts of oil near a range's open flame. Plus, many models today come with lids to reduce spilling and splattering and possess other parts that can go right into the dishwasher after use.
Among magazines and sites that compare deep fryers, editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine offer the most credible review; their testing methodology takes into account a deep fryer's ability to turn out crisp french fries with an eye on temperature accuracy as well as ease of use, ease of cleaning, safety and fryer capacity. Ultimately, none of the deep fryers that Cook's Illustrated test are able to dependably reach and sustain what editors say is the optimal temperature for deep frying: 375 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, the editors end up recommending two fryers "with reservations" while concluding that none of the models tested equal the effectiveness of frying foods the old-fashioned way on the stovetop.
To supplement these findings, we read owner feedback at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Cooking.com and Sears.com. Unlike expert reviewers, consumers at these sites have the ability to more intimately comment on a deep fryers' daily and long-term performance, We also found an older deep fryer review from the Los Angeles Times and encountered insightful user feedback from consumers at Chowhound.com, a site for food and cooking enthusiasts.
Temperature consistency and accuracy are the major complaints in professional reviews, and this issue rears its head in user ratings. While many deep fryers claim to heat oil to 375 degrees, many don't, and others might get there, but they can't maintain that temperature. The Rival Cool Touch Cool Zone Deep Fryer (*Est. $50) is an example: This deep fryer gets dinged for inaccurate temperature readings in a professional review, and owners agree. At Amazon.com, a number of owners measure the temperature of the oil with a separate thermometer, finding that oil never got hotter than 320 or 325 degrees -- not hot enough to create the best french fries. Furthermore, several reviewers report that their fryers stopped working altogether after just a few months. Two owners say that the product manual instructed them to reset their fryers, but there was no such button for doing so