This is a gorgeous appliance that's terrific at deep frying a lot of food at once. Thanks to a feature that makes it easy to strain and pour out the oil and dishwasher-safe parts, it’s easy to clean.
There’s nothing as delectable as the shatteringly crisp crust on a piece of southern fried chicken or the crunch on a ring of cornmeal-coated calamari. And when you’re in the mood to indulge in these incomparably delicious dishes, there’s no way around it, you must cook in a big vat of hot oil.
The easiest way to do that is with an electric deep fryer that controls the heat while minimizing oil fumes and splatters from covering your kitchen countertops and walls. Sure, air fryers are great for heating convenience foods or crisping up breaded chicken nuggets, but they won’t envelop your food in a perfectly browned shell while keeping the inside moist and tender.
After frying up a whole load of crispy favorites in top-selling models, we’re convinced that Breville the Smart Fryer(available at Amazon for $149.90) is the best deep fryer you can buy. However, if you don’t want to spend a bundle on an appliance that you probably won’t use all the time, the Hamilton Beach Professional Grade Electric Deep Fryer (available at Amazon) is our best value pick.
These are the best deep fryers we tested ranked, in order:
Breville the Smart Fryer
Hamilton Beach Professional Grade Electric Deep Fryer
All-Clad Deep Fryer
Cuisinart 4-quart Deep Fryer
Cuisinart Compact Deep Fryer
T-Fal Ultimate EZ Clean Fryer
Presto Fry Daddy
Breville the Smart Fryer
The LCD screen on Breville the Smart Fryer distinguishes it from all the other fryers we tested, making it the most convenient model to use. It offers a choice of preprogrammed settings including fries, doughnuts, wings, fish, and calamari, as well as the option to select fresh or frozen for some of them. You can, of course, also set your own preferred time and temperature.
As it preheats, the fryer displays the temperature as it rises; that will let you gauge when to start dipping your chicken into batter and have it ready to be placed into the fryer as soon as the oil hits the ideal temperature. When the preheat time is over, the machine beeps. Then the cooking time counts down on the screen and the machine again dings when your food is ready.
We’re happy to say that the preset programs give perfect results. The oil heats to slightly higher than the selected temperature to compensate for the drop when you add cold food. Everything we cooked from frozen mozzarella sticks to Nashville-style chicken cooked at the recommended time and came out brown and crispy.
With its sophisticated technology, the Breville is pricey. It’s moderate in size but large enough to accommodate three doughnuts or large pieces of chicken at a time. Vents and a permanent filter in the lid help minimize the amount of steam and odors that escape into the kitchen. The basket and oil container can be cleaned in the dishwasher.
Hamilton Beach Professional Grade Electric Deep Fryer
Although the Hamilton Beach deep fryer has few frills, it excels at what it’s intended to do: create crunchy foods. It’s slow to preheat the oil, but it always brings it close to the target temperature, so that foods cook up quickly and evenly. With its large wide basket, the Hamilton Beach can fry up a half dozen doughnuts or four to six pieces of chicken at once.
On the control panel, there’s a ready light and dials to select the temperature and set the mechanical timer. Sometimes you have to approximate the temperature as there are settings for 300°F and 340°F but not 325°F and 350°. The oil container is made of enameled metal; it can go in the dishwasher but if you opt for washing it by hand, it’s easier to clean than stainless steel.
Hi, I'm Sharon Franke! After spending seven years as a chef in New York City restaurants, I became a professional kitchen equipment expert. Over many years, I’ve tested everything from silicone spatulas to cookware to ranges and refrigerators. I incorporate my experience as both a former professional chef and avid home cook in determining how well tools perform and how easy they are to use.
When I’m not timing preheat periods and measuring food temperatures and doneness times, you can find me cooking for family and friends on my vintage stove. Just like you, every once in a while, I have a yen for homemade French fries or tempura shrimp. In the past, I always pulled out a cast-iron skillet and a thermometer but from now on, there will be an electric fryer in my kitchen to satisfy my cravings.
I tested seven deep fryers. In each, I fried frozen mozzarella sticks and made doughnuts and battered chicken, both from scratch. In addition, I made French fries by frying them twice at two different temperatures, which experts agree is the best method.
For each fryer, I noted how easy it was to use the controls, how long it took to preheat the oil, and whether the oil was accurately heated to the set temperature. I took into consideration how much food each fryer could hold, how quickly it cooked, and most importantly, how well browned, crispy, and tender food came out. The ease of cleaning and storing the fryers were also factors in rating these appliances.
Tips for Buying a Deep Fryer
Deep fryers are relatively simple appliances that only perform one function: create delicious deep-fried food. They consist of a deep container to hold oil, a heating element, and a basket to hold the food. Most come with lids to prevent splatters as well as hold in fumes to minimize the smell of hot oil in your home kitchen.
However, if your kitchen has a vent hood, you will definitely want to turn it on while frying. All fryers are required to be sold with “break-away” power cords that attach to the fryer magnetically. They are designed to prevent the fryer from tipping over if a child pulls on it.
While there is some difference in the convenience offered by the controls, the main factor in determining the difference between fryers, is their ability to control the oil temperature. When at the end of the preheat period, the oil is below the set temperature, food takes longer to cook and is more likely to come out soggy rather than crispy.
On the other hand, when the oil is too hot, food can become too browned or even burnt on the outside before it’s fully cooked and tender inside. Some fryers have no indicator to tell when the oil is heated to temperature. If you opt for one of these models, we recommend equipping yourself with a probe thermometer to monitor the oil temperature.
Deep fryers are available in a wide range of sizes. Even if you have a large family and often cook up a large quantity of food, you don’t necessarily need a big one, unless you plan to make fried chicken. Small items like frozen onions rings and mozzarella sticks and homemade fries and doughnuts cook in under 5 minutes, so it’s easy to fry multiple batches in a relatively short time. However, chicken breasts and thighs generally take 15 minutes or even longer; in a small fryer, it could take a long time to fry up enough for a family meal.
In fact, even most large fryers don’t cook up enough chicken at once to feed 4 people. It’s the surface area of the bottom of the basket, not its capacity that determines how much food you can cook. You can’t pile up battered chicken parts or they’ll stick together and won’t cook quickly or evenly.
Most fryers have a viewing window in their lids. However, during cooking, they steam up making it impossible to see what’s going on inside.
After the cooking process, you will have to wait several hours for the oil to cool down before discarding it or straining it so you can reuse it. You can use the same oil up to three times. However, if you’ve fried poultry, fish, or meat, and won’t be frying again soon, we recommend not saving the oil.
The removable oil containers, baskets, and lids from all our test samples are dishwasher safe, but as many of these parts are large, they monopolize rack space. It’s fairly easy to clean the baskets and lids by hand, although it may take a few rounds with a soapy sponge to get them totally grease-free. However, some oil cooks onto the containers and it takes a bit of soaking and scrubbing to get them spotless.
Unless you plan on using a deep fryer regularly and keeping it on your counter, you’ll have to find room in a cabinet or closet to store it.
Other Deep Fryers We Reviewed
All-Clad Deep Fryer
The All-Clad Deep Fryer is a gorgeous gleaming stainless-steel appliance that does a terrific job at frying. However, it comes with a very steep price tag. If the way your appliance looks is one of your top priorities, you might find it worth the splurge. It requires less oil than some of the other models we tested and has a fry basket large enough to hold a half dozen doughnuts or four chicken pieces.
The appliance can preheat in under 10 minutes, but its ready light goes off before reaching the set temperature and it takes a few minutes longer to cook your food than the recommended frying times. However, this deep fryer will perfectly brown and evenly crisp food.
Surprisingly for such an expensive model, the temperatures are set with a dial rather than an electronic control. There are no settings for the most commonly used temperatures—325°F, 350°F, and 375°F—so you have to approximate them. While there is a digital timer on the fryer, there’s no mention of how to set it in the owner’s manual and it’s hard to see the numbers on the display. We found it easier to just use our own timer.
The All-Clad has a feature that makes it convenient to strain and pour off the oil. After the oil cools down, turn a lever and it will dispense through a small sieve into a plastic container that sits below the fryer. Another flip of the lever will then allow you to slide the container out of the appliance. There's a small pour spout inside the container that will then make it easy to discard the oil.
This system adds about 3 inches of height to the fryer. All of the removable parts except the heating element are dishwasher safe, too. On either side of the fryer, there are large handles that make it easy to move.
The Cuisinart 4-quart Deep Fryer is a large and dependable appliance. It heats oil up fairly quickly and brings it close to the selected temperature.
The rectangular fry basket can cook a half dozen doughnuts or four large chicken pieces at a time. It sports a ready light, a temperature dial, and a mechanical timer. Our only reservation is that it’s pricey for a model with no special features.
As it always does, Cuisinart includes an exceptionally helpful manual with enticing recipes.
Considerably smaller than the others we tested, the Cuisinart Compact Deep Fryer won’t hog counter space or in your cabinet. And since it uses less oil, that means a faster preheat time. In spite of its petite size, it can fry up a pound of French fries and three chicken legs. Unfortunately, the ready light consistently turned on when the oil was below the selected temperature. This resulted in longer cooking times than specified in recipes and less crispy results.
The minimum and maximum fill lines are exceptionally easy to see. The lid includes a removable charcoal filter to help trap odors. The oil container is not removable from the housing so it can’t be popped in the dishwasher. However, it has a nonstick coating that makes cleaning by hand very easy. And unlike on most fryers, the heating element is concealed so there’s one less part to remove, clean, and assemble.
Like the All-Clad, the T-Fal Ultimate EZ Clean Fryer has a system for straining and pouring off the oil. By turning a lever, the oil is strained into a plastic container sitting below the fryer. To slide out the container, just flip the lever to another position and then pour out the oil through a small spout.
However, the ease of draining the oil doesn’t make up for the fact that the T-Fal deep fryer heats oil below the selected temperature. Because of that, you have to cook foods longer and get less crispy results. French fries in particular came out paler and less crisp than from fryers with more accurate temperatures.
The fry basket is large enough for six doughnuts and a dozen shrimp. On this model, there’s no ready light or beep. Instead, you have to watch closely to see when the red “on” light goes off. In addition, there’s no timer on board.
The Presto Fry Daddy is a small bucket with a heating element that holds four cups of oil. There’s no fry basket, temperature setting, ready light, or timer. To figure out when the oil has reached your desired temperature, we suggest using a thermometer.
It’s also a good idea to have your food ready to hit the oil as soon as it reaches temperature as the oil continues to get hotter. As the temperature climbs, the food becomes way too browned and in the case of chicken, which takes a long time to cook, almost burnt.
In spite of its small size, we were able to cook a pound of French fries but only three doughnuts and two pieces of chicken.
The Fry Daddy includes a plastic slotted scoop and a plastic storage lid that lets you store oil in the fryer to use again. The bucket is coated on both sides with a nonstick finish which makes it easy to clean. Variations on the Fry Daddy that hold six and eight cups of oil are also available.
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