Electric deep fryers promise to make it safe and easy to deep-fry your favorite foods at home. Which one is best?
Last Updated Oct. 7, 2022. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 14: Fried Bites
Electric deep-fryers promise to take the fear out of deep frying. They are purported to make frying easier, safer, and less messy than frying in a Dutch oven with a probe thermometer attached, which is how we typically deep-fry foods in the test kitchen. The machines are essentially metal bins with an electrical heating element suspended inside: You pour oil up to a maximum fill line, turn the machine on, and, in most cases, set the desired temperature for the oil. Once the oil is ready, you lower the food into the oil (usually via a basket) and often stick on a lid, which helps contain any messes and supposedly contains unwanted odors.
Still, most of these fryers are fairly big—about the size of a toaster oven. Do any of us really need to spend more money on another space-hogging appliance? To find out if any of these machines had advantages over our tried-and-true Dutch oven, we bought six models, priced from about $37 to about $130, and put them to work, using them to cook frozen mozzarella sticks, Classic French Fries, North Carolina Dipped Fried Chicken, vegetable tempura, and cider doughnuts.
To our surprise, we found that there was a lot to like about these fryers. In almost every test, every model performed well, making crispy, well-browned, evenly cooked food. The only time they faltered was when making vegetable tempura: Because none of the models can heat above 380 degrees, tempura that emerged from the fryers was a little greasier than tempura that had been fried at the correct temperature of 400 degrees in a Dutch oven. In most cases, however, we fry at temperatures that are well within the limits of these machines (325 to 375 degrees), so unless you plan on doing a lot of high-heat frying, this won’t be too much of a problem.
Using probe thermometers to check the temperature of the oil, we were pleased to find that most of the machines heated to within 5 degrees of the temperature we had selected on their dials or digital consoles. And most models did a good job of letting us know when the temperature had been reached, either with a beep or by turning an indicator light on or off. Only one machine had no temperature control or indicator, heating to a single temperature of around 375 degrees and giving us no sign when the oil was ready; as with a Dutch oven, we had to use a probe thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature. The controls on the other machines were all easy to use, though some had non-standard temperature benchmarks (e.g., 374 degrees), since the temperatures had been converted to Fahrenheit from Celsius. Fortunately, it isn’t...
We tested additional deep fryers by All-Clad and Hamilton Beach. Our favorite remains the T-Fal Ultimate EZ-Clean Fryer.
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Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.