Six Steps for Deep-Frying Without a Deep Fryer

MC / April 4, 2013

We’re big fans of deep-frying as a finishing technique after cooking sous vide. You don’t need to own a dedicated fryer. You just need a deep pot and the proper tools to insert and retrieve the food from a safe distance: long tongs, a slotted deep-fry spoon, or a frying basket. Follow the steps below for deep-frying success.

  1. Choose an appropriate frying oil, one that has a higher smoke point than the desired cooking temperature. Peanut, soybean, and sunflower oils are our favorites for frying at high temperatures. For a list of smoke and flash points of different oils, see page xxii of Modernist Cuisine at Home or 2·126 of Modernist Cuisine.
  2. Add the oil to a deep pot, but fill it no more than half full. Generally the walls of the pot should rise at least 10 cm / 4 in above the oil so that there are no spillovers. This also helps contain splattering and makes cleanup easier. Use enough oil so that you can submerge a small batch of food completely.
  3. Preheat the oil to the cooking temperature. Use a probe thermometer held upright in the center of the pan of oil to check the temperature (see the picture below). Our recipes call for frying at temperatures between 190 °C / 375 °F and 225 °C / 440 °F. That’s hot! Make sure your thermometer can display temperatures up to 260 °C / 500 °F. Frying, candy, and thermocouple thermometers usually have this much range. For consistent results, cook in small batches to minimize the cooling that occurs when you add food, and warm the food to room temperature before frying it. Allow the oil temperature to recover between batches.
  4. Pat food dry with paper towels before frying. The presence of external moisture on foods can cause oil to splatter violently. Don’t get too close to the oil. Use long tongs, a slotted deep-fry spoon, or a frying basket to insert and remove foods gently. Never use water, flour, or sugar to put out a grease fire. And do not try to carry a flaming pot outdoors. To suffocate a fire, use baking soda, a damp towel, or a fire extinguisher specifically designed for grease fires.
  5. Once food enters the hot oil, things happen fast. Just 30 seconds may be enough when you don’t want to cook the interior of the food further (for example, when deep-frying food after cooking it sous vide). Smaller pieces of food will cook faster and more evenly than larger pieces. For more on why size matters when deep-frying, see page 2·117 of Modernist Cuisine.
  6. Drain the cooked food on paper towels. Absorbing excess oil removes much of the fat associated with deep-frying. Most of the fat does not penetrate the food very far, coating only the surface. Simply blotting deep-fried food as soon as it emerges from the fryer will make it a lot less greasy. But take care that you don’t remove all of the oily coating. Oil is, after all, the source of much of the flavor, texture, and mouthfeel of deep-fried food.

Ready to try deep-frying? Check out our recipes for Starch-Infused Fries, Chicken Wings, and Cheese Puffs. And check back next week when we add another deep-fried recipe to our library.

—Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home and Modernist Cuisine

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31 Responses to “Six Steps for Deep-Frying Without a Deep Fryer”

  1. Travis

    Great tips for deep frying at home! A couple of questions:

    1. Is an IR thermometer sufficiently accurate for deep frying?

    2. Any tips for oil reuse and/or disposal?

    • As for your second question, we go into this in greater detail in volume 2 of Modernist Cuisine, but basically, you want to reuse oil up to a point. Once it smells fishy or foams, it’s time to get rid of it.

    • With oil once it is past using for re frying here are two good options:

      If you have chickens, you can mix the oil with their feed and give it to them. It is a treat and (especially) in the winter they appreciate the fat and energy.

      It is a great firestarter for a wood stove. Just soak some paper towels and use it that way. The papper towel acts as a wick and it burns long.

    • You can finish meat by deep-frying it briefly. In Modernist Cuisine at Home, we deep-fry some of our skewers. It’s really just an alternative to finishing food other ways (such as searing or using a blow torch).

  2. Moscool

    If you can’t serve immediately after frying, what’s the best hold temp/timing?

    Last week I made a tempura dinner and the quantity to fry meant I had to hold in the oven. I used 100C on fan but still got a certain degree of sogginess. I now understand that it’s best to remove paper towels (I have since purchased a handling tray with a pierced plaque) but I was wondering if anyone had experimented with holding temps and maximum holding times. After all plenty of places seem to hold fries for quite some time…

    • Johnny Zhu

      I would let it cool. But don’t salt it! That can make it soggy. Then either refresh the food in a 121 °C / 250 °F oven or refry it quickly for a few seconds.

  3. I am intrigued by the chicken wing recipe calling for an almost 50/50 of Wondra which because of the way it is made is gluten-less and potato starch. As we all know, potato starch shows up in a lot of Japanese recipes. My own experience it that it is too potato-ey, hence good if you are frying something that will be tossed with a sauce. I think tapioca starch, that also shows up in Korean fried foods is an alternative.

      • sabrina

        When browning appears too quickly with a certain coating it means the coating contains sugar. Do your own coating, without any sugar and it won’t brown before cooking the meat. Plus burned sugar is not what you want to eat.

  4. I always love the way deep frying can help me in my cooking, especially for any kinds of fried food.
    My french fries is one of the best dish which I can make. I often use 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
    for chips but for others such as vegetables or chicken wings I will not add any extra oil.

  5. bro, i just chuck the chips in the pot with some oil, dont know what type of pot it is, chuck it straight on high with the cheap oil from paknsave, their cheap as cuz, cook it up for 3 minutes, then bam.. chips

  6. john c

    Great article, but heating oil to over 400F is extremely dangerous, the oil can catch fire. All US Restaurant Equipment Manufacturers of deep fat fryers, have Hi Limit temperature shut offs that automatically shut off power to the fryer gas or Electric supply at 400F. Restaurants generally fry between 350F to a max temp of 375f. This may be because the volume of oil in a commercial fryer is large, 30- 40 ILs of oil ( not sure what that converts to in gallons), and so the heat recovery time is always being taken into account. By the way, when frying, always have a pan lid next to the stove, to put over the pan to extinguish the fat if it does catch fire.

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