Every small appliance has its moment, and the deep fryer’s moment might just be now. Even Thanksgiving turkeys are getting tossed (quite carefully-hot oil, you know) into the deep fryer. The Los Angeles Times reviewed six new deep fryers, of which, the smaller models could fry about one cup of, say, mushrooms; the larger models could handle about as much as four cups of, for example, hand-cut fries at a time. They range in price from $20 to $130. The machines were assessed based on the quality of fried food each made (In this case, battered zucchini sticks using canola oil.) , the ease of use and cleanup, safety, whether special features were useful and effective and whether the fryer was a good value.
“All six machines offered up crispy zucchini in three minutes or less and were easy to assemble and operate. But some had safety and/or cleaning issues. And choosing the right machine for your kitchen depends on how much room you have and how many servings you want to prepare at one time.”
The fryers are listed in order of preference:
The favorite fryer was one of the mid-size, mid-price models, the Presto CoolDaddy cool-touch deep fryer. It has a sleek, modern look, and its oil tub is nonstick and removable, making cleanup a breeze. Zucchini fried in it for two minutes was tender and moist, tucked inside a light, crispy crust. The mid-size Presto CoolDaddy deep fryer, with its sleek black plastic “cool-touch” exterior and nonstick interior, has a 1,500-watt heating element housed under the removable oil tub. There’s a charcoal antiodor filter in the lid. A large window lets you keep an eye on the food. A clever mechanism allows an exterior handle to lower the basket into the oil when the fryer lid is closed, to prevent splattering. When the cooking is done, the handle raises the basket back up so the excess oil can drain off. It retails for about $50.
Though it’s not much bigger than a toddler’s shoe box, the Cuisinart Compact Deep Fryer has a 1,000-watt heating element, which is permanently affixed to the underside of the die-cast frying tub. The housing unit is brushed stainless steel, with black plastic cool-touch handles. The lid and cooking basket are dishwasher-safe.
The square oil tub has a spout to pour out the used oil. The tub is not removable; to clean, you fill the unit with water and baking soda and boil. Great results in a machine that takes up very little counter space. A nice design feature allows the oil to drain from the elevated basket before it is removed. Warning: Be careful to touch only the handles; other surfaces get hot enough to burn a finger. This also retails for about $50.
The T-Fal Family Deep Fryer has a 1,500-watt heating element housed under the removable, nonstick oil bowl. There’s a large odor-control filter and a viewing window.
This is a mid-size machine, but it can handle as much food as some larger models. Like the Presto, it has the same clever basket-lowering and -raising mechanism. The entire exterior remains cool. Smooth operation and easy cleanup. The only drawback was that when the lid was popped open after cooking, the steam that had collected on the inside splattered into the oil below. About $50.
The large Waring Pro machine can fry more than 2 pounds of food in its 1-gallon removable stainless steel oil container. The 1,800-watt heating element is inside the cooking unit. Three mesh frying baskets are included, with collapsible handles for storage. There’s an on/off toggle switch and a built-in timer.
If your goal is to fry large quantities of food, then this machine gets the job done. The immersion-style heating element makes for quick oil temperature recovery time, a good feature if you’re cooking for a crowd. But you can’t wash the heating element. Larger is pricier at about $130.
The stainless steel Euro-Pro can fry about 1 1/2 pounds of food at a time. The 1,800-watt heating element is inside the oil container, with the food. The control panel is an easy-to-use digital display. After you set the desired temperature, the machine beeps to let you know when it’s ready to start frying.
For such a high-tech machine, there should be a safer way to lower the frying basket into the hot oil. You have to manually maneuver it, prompting this warning from the manufacturer: “Lowering the frying basket too quickly can result in the oil overflowing and splashing.” About $80.
Rival’s Cool Touch Deep Fryer looks like a mini rice cooker. Its 1,000-watt heating element is under the permanently affixed fry tub. There are dual filters to reduce cooking odors, and the lid can be removed for cleaning. This fryer does not come with a food basket. Instead, there’s a heat-resistant slotted spoon for putting in and taking out the food.
This is a basic, no-frills machine. The small price and size are nice, but cleaning the nonremovable bowl was challenging. Following the temperature guidelines in the owner’s guide produced overcooked food. You may have to experiment to find the right temperature and frying time. About $25.
All deep fryers come with many warnings about the dangers of cooking with hot oil. You have more control with a deep fryer than you would on the stove, so read the directions, be careful of hot fryers (and oil), then enjoy some crispy fried treats.