The best deep fryer has
- The right capacity. Capacity may be the most important consideration when buying a deep fryer. If you don't get one large enough for the number of people you cook for, you may have to fry multiple batches, which takes more time. A 4-cup deep fryer will make two small servings, a 6-cup will make two generous or three small servings, and a 12-cup should make enough to feed most families. If you're planning to cook a whole chicken or turkey, you'll need a deep fryer with enough capacity to accommodate the largest size poultry that you intend to fry.
- High power. Electric deep fryers with higher wattage ratings have more powerful heating elements. This helps heat the oil to the desired temperature more quickly. Then, after you add the food, the oil comes back up to temperature more quickly as well. This is the key to performance: beginning the frying process more quickly so that the outside cooks crisply and the inside stays moist, yet without absorbing a lot of oil.
- An adjustable temperature. While the ideal frying temperature for most foods is 375 degrees Fahrenheit, adjustable temperature controls on an electric fryer provide versatility for cooking different types of food.
- Frying-basket hooks for draining foods. Home deep fryers that use oil have hooks for the frying basket that allow you to lift the food out of the oil and hang it on the side of the fryer, over the oil cavity, to drain.
- A nonstick interior. Deep fryers can be a pain to clean, nonstick interiors make it much easier. Also, look for stainless steel baskets that resist rusting and pitting. A few deep fryers have dishwasher safe accessories, but most need to be hand-washed.
- A detachable power cord. Oil is hot, and deep fryers get a lot of flak for safety issues due to the potential for splatters and spills. Some deep fryers have detachable cords that detach from the unit if snagged or accidentally pulled, preventing the hot oil-filled fryer from tipping over.
Know before you go
Where will you store your deep fryer? Deep fryers come in all sizes; if you use yours frequently, you may want to leave it on a countertop, but you need to consider how much space it will take up. If you use your deep fryer less often, you'll need to consider where to store it when it's not in use.
Do you enjoy different cooking methods? A few deep fryers have features that make them useful for multiple purposes. The T-fal ActiFry (Est. $150), for instance, can make risotto and a variety of other foods, while other fryers double as steamers or boilers. If you like to experiment, or just prefer multi-use appliances, choose a deep fryer with a little versatility.
Are you cutting back on fats? If you're on a low-fat diet for whatever reason, oil-less deep fryers cook food with no oil or very little oil, so the resulting cooked food will have less fat than a comparable serving cooked in oil. However, according to professional tests, foods that are properly cooked in standard deep fryers absorb very little oil anyway.
Will you reuse the oil? Whether you want to recycle or just save money, you'll probably want to use the same oil at least a few times. Opt for a deep fryer with built-in filtration or a drainage system that can be easily configured with your own filtration method, so you can store the oil for later use without too much hassle. Some home deep fryers have snap-on lids, making it possible to store the oil in the fryer itself for later reuse.
Do you cook with small children in the home? If you'll be frying foods in the vicinity of small children, consider a deep fryer that doesn't skimp on safety features, such as a detachable cord, a guard to prevent splatters and an automatic shutoff. Other models allow the basket to be lowered with the lid closed, which reduces splatters, and non-slip feet to keep the unit firmly in place during use.
Safety considerations when using a deep fryer
Home deep fryers are perfectly safe when used properly; however, they have the potential to do a lot of harm as well. Deep fryers are estimated to result in more than $28 million in property damage each year. You must be especially careful when using turkey fryers. Butterball has an excellent, very detailed guide to properly deep frying a turkey safely whether indoors or out. We urge you to study it before you attempt to deep fry your first turkey -- and then review it as a refresher each time you use the fryer for a turkey.
As for other types of deep fryers, follow all manufacturer's instructions to the letter, don't overfill your fryer, and always keep children away from these appliances. In addition, we recommend always placing the deep fryer on something like heavy cardboard or a grill mat just in case of spills, regardless of whether you use it indoors or out.