How to Deep Fry

Deep frying: it’s not just for restaurants! Become a master of deep-fried foods like donuts and chicken wings with our breakdown of everything from equipment to safety tips.

Piece of Fried Chicken Removed from Dutch Oven Filled with Oil Using a Pair of Tongs for How to Deep Fry

Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

Deep frying can seem pretty intimidating. But once you break down the process, it’s as easy as any other recipe and the results are oh-so worth it. All you need is a little planning and the proper equipment, and you’re on your way to golden brown, crispy heaven.

Pan Frying Vs. Deep Frying

Before we dive right in, let’s break down the difference between shallow frying and deep frying. It’s all about the depth of oil in your cooking vessel. Shallow frying is typically done in a skillet where the oil reaches about halfway up the food with the food touching the bottom of the skillet the entire time. 

Deep frying fully submerges the food in oil, allowing it to float to the surface once cooked through. The hot oil constantly cooks the surface of the food, creating a seal around the interior. The moisture inside becomes steam which cooks the rest of the food, resulting in a crunchy exterior and soft interior. 

From the perfect French fries to crispy chicken wings to sultry donuts, this is your guide to creating all your favorite deep-fried recipes at home.

How to Deep Fry Set Up: a Thermometer in a Dutch Oven Filled with Hot Oil on a Portable Burner, and on Its Right, Two Trays (One Tray Lined with Paper Towels and Another Tray with a Wire Cooling Rack)

Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

What You Need to Deep Fry

By sorting out the equipment beforehand, you’ll relieve much of the stress that comes with frying. 

This doesn’t mean you need a deep fryer to fry at home, especially if you’re not frying on the regular. You can easily mimic the properties of this large appliance with the stovetop and tools you likely already have in the kitchen: a deep pot, a thermometer, and a spider or tongs—plus a few extras that make the process easier.

  • Deep, heavy-bottomed pot: You’ll fill the pot with a few inches of oil, so ensure your pot is deep with high sides. Set the pot on a steady, unobstructed area of the stove where you have plenty of space to work as oil may splatter as you fry. Avoid nonstick as this coating is not ideal for maintaining high temperatures. A Dutch oven is always a good choice for frying. 
  • Thermometer: Oil temperature is key to ensure your food doesn’t burn or end up soggy before it is fully cooked through. The temperature will fluctuate as you add items to the oil and take them out, so you’ll want a thermometer to monitor and adjust the heat as this happens. You can use a clip-on deep-frying thermometer or even an instant-read thermometer to keep track of the temperature.
  • Splatter Screen: Some swear by this tool, others view it as unnecessary, and we’re marking it down as optional. Much like the name suggests, this helps catch the splatter of oil from hitting the stovetop and your body. If your biggest barrier to entry for at-home frying is a (well-founded) fear of hot oil, then this is for you. It’s especially handy when frying inherently moist items with no breading, like Brussels sprouts.
Tools for Deep Frying (L to R): Two Spiders, Slotted Spoon, Chopsticks, and Tongs, All on a White Kitchen Linen

Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

  • Slotted spoon, spider, tongs, chopsticks, or fry basket: Depending on the size of the food you are frying, you will need different tools to fish out your fried goodies. For example, tongs are best for larger pieces of fried chicken, whereas a spider works well for scooping up little fried calamari. Long tongs or large chopsticks are helpful for flipping food.
  • Paper towel-lined sheet tray: Grease, grease, go away, we want that crunchy exterior to stay. Transferring your fried nuggets of joy from the hot oil to paper towels pulls away residual grease so it doesn’t reabsorb into the food.  
  • Wire rack: While the paper towels do the initial work of absorbing excess fat, the wire rack allows air to circulate around the fried food to prevent that crispy crust from going soggy. After a quick rest on paper towels, transfer your food to a rack to ensure it stays crispy.
  • Seasoning: Whether you’re simply salting your food or sprinkling with spices, you will want to have these handy while frying. Seasoning adheres best to freshly fried foods.

The Best Oil for Deep Frying

The best oil for deep frying is a neutral oil like vegetable, peanut, sunflower, canola, or rice bran. These oils have high smoke points, so they can reach high frying temperatures without filling your kitchen with smoke. Olive oil, butter, and shortening all have low smoke points and impart a strong taste to the food, so avoid these for deep frying. 

You’ll want to fill the pot about one-third to halfway full with oil, leaving at least few inches at the top of the pot. Avoid filling any higher since you’ll risk the oil boiling over once the food is added.

Dredged Chicken Drumstick Placed on a Lined Baking Tray with Other Dredged Chicken Pieces for How to Deep Fry

Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

The Best Foods for Deep Frying

First things first: bring the food to room temperature before breading and frying. This will help avoid excess moisture and maintain a steady oil temperature. Pat the food completely dry because, like the old saying goes, water and oil don’t mesh. Any extra moisture will cause the oil to spit, making things messy and potentially dangerous. 

You can fry just about anything that isn’t too wet, but depending on the final product you’re aiming for you’ll want to think about what coating is best.

  • As-is: You can fry just about anything as is, but most items will turn into dried, unpleasant leather if not handled right. Foods with a lower moisture content, natural starches, or that have set out to dry beforehand will cook best. Examples: Potato chips, french fries, donuts, chicken wings
  • Flour dredge: Some fried food is brined or marinated, then coated in seasoned flour, cornstarch, and/or cornmeal. You can mix in a small amount of liquid in the flour to create little nuggets that cling to the food for extra crunch. Examples: Onion rings, fried chicken, fried fish
  • Breading: Items are coated in flour or cornstarch, dipped in egg wash, then coated in a breadcrumb mixture to create a thicker, crunchy coating. Examples: Schnitzel, katsu, chicken-fried steak
  • Beer batter: This thick batter is comprised of a light beer, flour, and sometimes egg and leavener. The alcohol in the beer evaporates faster than water, so the crust is able to dry out fast, ensuring the food does not overcook. Examples: Fish for fish and chips, beer-battered onion rings
  • Tempura: Most often associated with Japanese cuisine, tempura batter is made up of flour, egg, and ice water. Some tempura batters utilize soda water and leavening, which react to create tiny air bubbles in the coating for a light, crispy crust. Examples: Tempura vegetables and seafood

When breading, shake off any excess coating, then transfer the prepared items to a clean parchment-lined sheet tray. Avoid laying items on top of each other so that the batter doesn’t clump and promote moisture. Let’s hear it one more time: moisture is not our friend! 

Thermometer in a Dutch Oven with Hot Oil for How to Deep Fry

Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

The Right Oil Temperature

Maintaining the right temperature is one of the most important parts of your frying journey. Too high and you risk browning the outside of food before the interior is cooked. Too low and the food will absorb pockets of oil, becoming too greasy.

The most convenient solution is to use a clip-on thermometer like a deep frying or candy thermometer for tracking and maintaining temperature, but an instant-read thermometer works just as well if you don’t want to invest in another kitchen tool. Just ensure you keep your fingers and hand far away from the hot oil when testing the temperature.

Most food deep fries between 350°F and 375°F. Overcrowding the pot and adding cold food are the biggest culprits of dropping the oil temperature below the preferred range. Don’t add too many items to the pot—the food should float in a single layer, not stacked on top of each other—and let the oil come back to its original temperature between each batch.

Piece of Fried Chicken Removed from Dutch Oven Filled with Hot Oil Using a Pair of Tongs for How to Deep Fry

Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

How to Deep Fry

You’ve come a long way from preparing the food to setting up your cooking station—now is your time to shine. But don’t get ahead of yourself and rush this part. Deep frying takes time between cooking in batches and adjusting the oil temperature.

  1. Preheat the oil: Bring the oil to the desired temperature over medium heat, uncovered.
  2. Add the food: Once the oil hits the target temperature, gently lower the food into the oil away from your body using tongs or a spider.
  3. Flip: Turn and flip the food occasionally to ensure even cooking. 
  4. Check for doneness: Generally, if you are working at the right temperature, you can gauge doneness just by looking at it. For most fried foods, this happens when the outside turns golden brown. However, a delicate tempura batter should never brown like the skin of fried chicken does. Instead, use another visual cue from the bubbles around the food (this is moisture escaping). Once the bubbles mostly subside and the food floats to the top of the oil, it should be done. You should also use a meat thermometer to ensure foods like chicken are fully cooked through and safe to eat.
  5. Remove: Use your slotted spoon, tongs, or spider to transfer the food to the paper towel-lined sheet tray to drain. Once drained, I like to move items to a wire rack set over a separate sheet tray to create room for my next batch. This also helps prevent the food from becoming soggy.
  6. Stay organized: Between batches, reset your station. Clean out any floating nuggets of fried batter or loose pieces, then allow the temperature to come back up. Make sure you have enough space on the sheet tray to transfer your next batch so you’re not scrambling. You may need to change out paper towels for fresh, dry ones about halfway through.
  7. Keep warm: If you are frying a lot of items, you can hold finished batches in the oven at 200°F until ready to serve.
Fried Chicken on a Wire Rack over a Baking Tray on a Kitchen Towel for How to Deep Fry

Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

Safety Tips for Frying

  • Ensure the pot is dry before adding oil and all tools are wiped down to avoid oil splatter.
  • Now is not the time to multitask, especially if you’re new to frying. If you’re not focused you can create dangerous situations.
  • Keep the kiddos out of the kitchen while frying. Crowding the kitchen can be just as bad as crowding your pot. 
  • Don’t place the lid on the pot when frying. This may be tempting to avoid oil splatter, but condensation will form on the underside of the lid, dripping into the oil, and creating that moisture we fear so dearly.
  • Turn the pot handle away from the front of the stove to avoid knocking it as you work.
  • Don’t over-fill the pot. This can lead to hot oil overflowing and/or soggy food.
Frying Oil Poured into a Sieve to Separate Oil from Leftover Fried Bits for How to Deep Fry

Simply Recipes / Frank Tiu

How to Store and Dispose of Frying Oil

Don’t toss your used oil! I like to reuse frying oil 3 or 4 times before properly discarding it. To save frying oil, let it fully cool to room temperature in the pot, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve back into its original container or another airtight container. 

The oil will retain the flavor of the fried food, so don’t fry donuts in the same oil you used to fry fish. Consider labeling the bottle for ease. Store the oil in a cool, dark place—if your kitchen is warm, stash it in the fridge. 

You can use frying oil up to 4 more times. To extend its life, add some fresh oil each time. When it comes time to toss the oil, transfer the old oil to a container and discard it with the regular trash. Do not pour oil down your drain (unless you really like your plumber).