Good Question: Buying A Deep Fryer

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Dear The Kitchen,

Inspired by the article in today's NYTimes about frying things at Hanukkah, I'm thinking of getting [my husband] a deep fryer. It's fun, not too expensive, and is perfect for the kind of Jew he is (non-observant, likes fried food). The garlic pictured and recipied was the kicker - he looooooves garlic. In fact, we're growing 4 varieties of garlic in a 16-square-foot plot in our backyard.

So, my question is what are the features I should look for in a deep fryer? What manufacturers are the best? At both the low and high end of the price spectrum?

Thanks, A Desperate Wife

P.S. What kind of oil should I use for health and taste? Got any good frying recipes?

Dear Desperate Wife,

We don't know a whole lot about fryers (the frying we've done is in a big sauce pan or cast iron skillet using canola oil and tongs or the frying baskets you can get in Chinatown) - but we did a little research and learned a few things about what to look for in a fryer.

Capacity

An average sized ‘compact’ fryer holds around 1.5lbs of oil

Safety

A “cool-wall”body will help prevent you from burning yourself on the fryer. A viewing window will allow you to monitor the progress of the frying without having to open the lid. A rise and fall basket will make it easier to add food to the oil. An auto-switch-off will ensure that the heating element will turn off if the oil becomes too hot. A locking lid will keep your hands away from hot oil and steam.

Cleaning

Fryers with more removable parts will be easier to clean. Some fryers have drainage tubes, which enable you to simply drain the oil away. Dishwasher safe parts will also make cleaning simple. Some fryers have a permanent filter, which is washable and only needs to be changed if damaged.

We found most fryers to be in the $100 - $200 range. The Waring Brushed Stainless 3.75lb Fryer takes a gallon of oil, has many safety features, and retails at Cooking.com for $128.95. For about the same price, the DeLonghi Cool-Touch Roto Deep Fryer is also available and comes highly rated. In fact, Cooking.com has a rather extensive array of fryers from $49.95.

My only advice in buying a fryer is that if you don't want to spend the $129., go low-tech and get a Deep Fry Kit from Lodge instead. It comes with a fry pot, fry basket, thermometer and recipes, and it will last forever.

As for frying oil, the most important thing is to use an oil with a high smoking point, meaning it won't burn until it gets really hot. Olive oil has a low smoking point, so do not use it for frying. The plant-based oil with the highest smoking point is avocado oil, however it is way to expensive to use for frying! Coconut oil and palm oils also have high smoke points, although they are not the healthiest because they are highly saturated. Your best bet is canola and sunflower oils.

Note, though, that deep frying food starves it of nutrients and loads it with high fat and extra calories, so by deep-frying in the first place you are not exactly making health food. Of course, every so often, it is fine to indulge, so enjoy!

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Sara Kate is the founding editor of The Kitchn. She co-founded the site in 2005 and has since written three cookbooks. She is most recently the co-author of The Kitchn Cookbook, to be published in October 2014 by Clarkson Potter.