Do I want a deep fryer?
My husband has been bugging me for years to "let" him buy a deep fryer. I bought a new dishwasher over the weekend so now he is half-joking trying to guilt me into buying a deep fryer. Aside from French fries, potato chips and chicken wings (obvious stuff), what the heck do I deep fry?
Deep fryer owners: is it worth the investment?
I have one. It's about five or six years old. When I want to deep fry, what do I use? A sauce pan and a thermometer! MUCH easier to clean up, and on my induction burner, much faster to heat too. Especially when I use a deep cast iron fry pan.
However, I am -- once again -- looking at deep fryers! Specifically, I'm looking at the T-Fal/Emeril deep fryers with the immersion heating elements and the built in oil filter/storage container. I cook mostly just for me, but fairly often for me and my housekeeper, so I don't need a deep fryer that will cook enough French fries for a school lunch program. T-Fal does make a smaller unit under both their own and their Emeril brand, but...! They are way under-powered for a reasonably fast recovery after adding cold foods to the oil. So until they kick up the wattage on the smaller units, I'm not going to be one of their customers!
Meanwhile, age and arthritis have moved a housekeeper from the luxury class to MANDATORY! So for now, as least, I think I'll just stay with the oil spattering induction deep fry method, and let her deal with the mess. Bless her heart. And I have more control over how much oil I use this way as well. Smaller cast iron pans hold less oil than the big ones! Fried food is NOT diet food, so I don't need a big pan. Well,I really don't "need" fried foods, for that matter. But they do taste good...! And I AM self indulgent.
But meantime, my current deep fat fryer looks very efficient sitting on the pantry shelf! '-)
I have had several: Fry Daddy, DeLongi, West Bend, Commercial (fryolator?), and have used various pots.
I started (in high school) using pots on the stove, then in college a Fry Daddy and a West Bend fryer, then a DeLongi and an electric wok, then a used commercial unit that required 240V (garage/clothes dryer plug.), now either the stove or an outdoor gas burner (turker fryer).
How much food does he want to cook? I was in my early 20's, recent college grad when I purchased the commercial fryer, IIRC 5 gallons of oil, it was a big hit at BBQ/Sunday Football at my place. The home use electrics had their capacity limitations, 1-2 servings, electric wok maybe 1/2 serving. I now deep fry outside in a cast iron dutch oven, using ~2 qts of oil, on a propane burner, works fine for 4 servings. For a serving or two, inside on a stove using a saucepan.
Oil can be expensive, I have read/tried many ways to reuse/save oil, in my experience there is a time factor, doesn't matter what you cooked (e.g. no fish), how well it was strained, in time it will go rancid. Unless, one plans to cook often/large amounts, look for capacity and heat output, if you want to be known for your deep fat fryer, look for a used commercial unit. In 1982, I paid $250 vs ~$12 for a Fry Daddy.
Is it worth the investment, depends on the investment, ~$50 or $2,500?, but based on fries, chips and wings, No.
The DeLongi had smell filtration, but maybe it is like holding your breath, sooner or later, you have to exhale.
"My sister bought one when she and her husband lived in the South...gained 10 lbs in one year."
There are two unknowns with that statement:
1) How much did they eat (quantity)?
2) How did they cook (i.e. over cooked and greasy)?
Properly cooked and drained, fried food can be not nearly as bad as most home cooks make it. Have you ever had fried fish that was totally "greaseless"? How about fried chicken?
If you leave the food in the oil after it stops bubbling, that means the water has all boiled off and your now soaking up oil. Also, putting your fried food on a wire rack will keep it from soaking up oil as it cools to eating temperature.
Fried fish done properly is a real treat. Fried chicken in a skillet is something I haven't really mastered yet. You can always go crazy with Okra and other vegetables.
If this is just for special events like Superbowl Sunday, I would expect the stereotyped "normal" things a few times a year. If you really like fried things, you are only held back by your own imagination.
I'd suggest you consider getting a stand-alone induction hotplate for deep frying.
The ones I own have a special deep frying (or tempura) mode so you can set the desired oil temperature and the hotplate does the rest. You can use any old stainless steel or cast iron pot to hold the oil.
To minimize mess, put a couple of sheets of old newspaper between the hotplate and the pot to catch any drips or spatter -- this really does work! Cleanup is a snap.
Since the hotplate stays cool, there is no risk of an oil fire in the event of a spill.
You'll also have a handy induction hotplate in the house for many other uses: a put-it-anywhere extra burner in the kitchen, a safe hotplate for food cooked on the tabletop (like Japanese nabe or Korean grilled beef), a warming platter for buffet serving, etc., etc.
A lot easier to store than a dedicated deep fryer, too.
I'm looking forward to using my induction cooktop to make tempura shrimp this weekend. Yum!
re: tanuki soup
TanukiS, to the best of my knowledge, induction hot plates sold in the U.S.A. do NOT have a tempura setting. You guys have it all over us when it comes to induction! We have "Off" and "On" and a temperature setting. That's it! If I thought there was a chance of getting by with it, I'd ask you to mail one of your super-duper Japanese jobbies to me, I'd send the the money, then I'd bake you a lifetime supply of chocolate chip cookies. But alas, the Japanese government would be all over both of us, and then some!!!
However, your advice to get an induction hotplate for deep frying is excellent! I would add to that, get a deep cast iron pan to do the frying in. Cast iron on induction is MAGIC...!!! '-)
I deep fry a lot and tried four or five deep fryers (I forget how many because they were all pretty much the same) before I gave up and went back to a pot and thermometer. All the fryers had the same problems:
1. Low maximum temperature. They might claim 375 F, but they never get that hot. You'd be lucky to get to 340 F. Not a problem for some dishes, but no way to make decent french fries.
2. Inaccurate thermostat. Usually the oil temperature is 20-30 F lower than where you set it.
3. Slow temperature recovery. When you add food the temperature drops drastically and is slow to come back. Actually it never got there so it can't come back (see item 2 above), but it's still slow to get back to wherever it was.
4. Takes up counter or storage space and does not do anything other than deep fry.
5. Multiple parts to clean and you can't put the electronic part in the dishwasher.
Now I use a sauce pan and thermometer and now have none of problems 1 through 5. I was lucky enough to have been given a lovely copper sauce pan that is very deep relative to it's width (about 7" wide by 6" deep) so I don't need to worry so much about boilover and splattering, and a grease keeper like this:
And aside from fries, potato chips and chicken wings (if that's not enough) there's falafel, fish and chips, shrimp, donuts, other fried breads, and an almost infinite variety of fritters.
The only deep fryers I've ever seen that actually worked the way they ought to, that were properly calibrated and heated reliably to the desired temp, and recovered fast enough (temperature wise) after adding the food, were commercial floor models.
So no, a countertop home version of a deep fryer is a complete waste of time, money, and food, until you finally go back to doing your deep frying in a karhai or a wok on the stovetop with the help of a deep fry thermometer.
Also, those things are a pain *$*(@*#*@#!$*@ to clean.