7 Cheap Tools That You Should Buy for Easy, At-Home Deep Frying
Because we all deserve to enjoy homemade, irresistibly crispy food without breaking the bank.
One of the most daunting culinary tasks for a home cook is deep frying. Am I going to light my kitchen on fire? Am I going to spill hot oil on myself? How am I going to clean up this mess? Listen, I get it. Setting up a safe, functional deep frying station in your home kitchen is no small undertaking. However, if you have the right tools, you can very easily set yourself up for success. Sure, you could buy a countertop deep fryer if you're a person who is wanting to make a lot of deep fried foods at home, but if you don't want to break the bank or you just don't have that kind of kitchen space to sacrifice, there are plenty of multi-use tools that will make deep frying at home much easier (and safer).
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
For starters, you'll need a vessel. If you already have a Dutch oven or any heavy-bottomed pot, that works great, but I like using a sturdy, cast iron skillet. The lower sides make it easy to maneuver the food, and the pan heats up quickly and evenly. However, if you're frying something large, like whole pieces of chicken, you may need something a bit deeper so that the items can be fully submerged, in which case I'd recommend a deeper cast iron, like this one. The great thing about investing in a cast iron pan is that you'll be able to use it for so much more than just deep frying, as well.
Buy it: Lodge Pre-seasoned 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet with Assist Handle Holder, $43.41; amazon.com
Having a tool that can fish out the food from the hot oil is imperative. A spider is typically made with a wooden handle (stays cool to the touch during cooking!) and a wire, mesh basket. They're not only cheap, but they can scoop just about anything up. If you have some burnt food bits in your oil that you're trying to scrape up, chances are, your spider can get it out. If you're in a pinch, you can use a slotted spoon, but spiders are safer because they won't push the hot oil around as much as a slotted spoon.
Buy it: Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen Stainless Steel Spider, $7.99; amazon.com
Tongs aren't essential to deep frying success, but they certainly help. If you want a tool that can help you maneuver smaller, harder-to-grab items like fried pickles, fried calamari, or chicken wings, tongs are great because they allow you to grab onto items one by one. It's also an easy way to flip items so that they can get an even, deep brown coating.
Buy it: Hotec Stainless Steel Kitchen Tongs (set of 2), $8.99; amazon.com
Operating with an organized set up is the key to deep frying success. Always keep a sheet pan nearby so that you can easily transfer cooked items to your pan. If you're tight on space, quarter sheet pans are a great way to maintain an orderly set up without using all your counter space.
Buy it: Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Baker's Half Sheet (2-pack), $27.50; amazon.com
Having a destination for your deep fried foods after they're out of the hot oil is a must. Now, some cooks like to set a cooling rack over their sheet pan to elevate the food and let it crisp up. However, I prefer to use paper towels because they soak up more oil than if the food was just resting on a rack. Keep in mind, the longer the food sits on a paper towel, the more likely it will become slightly soggy, so don't let it sit for too long. Should something need to sit for a while, you're better off using a cooling rack.
Buy it: Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towels (16 family rolls), $30.84; amazon.com
For a lot of cooks, the most difficult part of deep frying is wrapping their head around how much oil you need to use. I hate wasting food, so discarding all that oil (after letting it cool down and never disposing it in your drain or garbage disposal, of course) always drives me crazy. However, one thing that makes it easier for me is knowing that the oil I'm discarding was super inexpensive. Save your good stuff for another day and rely on flavorless, cheap oils with high smoke points like canola, vegetable, peanut, or grapeseed oil.
Buy it: Happy Belly Vegetable Oil (1 gallon), $6.68; amazon.com
If this is your first time setting up a deep-frying station, it's probably in your best interest to have a thermometer nearby so that you can know the exact temperature of your oil. Some people like to clip a candy thermometer to the side of their cooking pot so that they can easily gauge the oil temperature. You can also opt for a probe thermometer, which you can manually place in the oil and grab a temperature reading every few minutes. Either set up works fine — ultimately, it comes down to personal preference.
Keep in mind, you can pay anywhere from $15 to $100 on a new thermometer, so don't feel like you need to buy the fanciest thermometer out there (though, if you're doing a lot of deep frying and want the best thing out there, then maybe it's worth a bit of an investment). The probe thermometers are convenient because you can also use them to check the internal temperatures of cakes, breads, and meat.
Regardless, there are a handful of kitchen items that will not only make your at-home, deep frying experience better, but they'll also make them way safer. The great thing about most of these items is that you'll likely use them for more tasks beyond deep frying, unlike a countertop deep fryer, which is good for one task and one task only. You're not going to set your kitchen on fire, I promise. Especially not with a set up like this one.