I don't deep fry food that often, mostly because it uses a ton of oil, which is expensive, and the cleanup is a son of a mother. (That oil really splatters everywhere.) Plus, no matter how careful you are, you will get hit by hot oil at some point and it will not be pleasant.
I tend to default to using my cast-iron skillet because it's a great way to season the pan, and having a heavy skillet is best for conducting heat evenly. Plus, as users over at Chowhound point out, the temperature of cooking oil drops once you add food, but cast iron retains heat like almost nothing else.
However, as great as cast iron is, it's hefty and unwieldy, especially when it comes time to drain and store or dispose of said cooking oil. So I'm always on the lookout for an alternative that doesn't involve buying an actual deep fryer because who needs to have that kind of temptation lying around?
The Kitchn votes yes on enamel or stainless steel pans for frying if cast-iron isn't available. You just want to be sure to avoid anything nonstick—you don't know what kind of chemicals are being loosened with that much hot oil bubbling above it.
Modernist Cuisine recommends using a deep pot and a stainless steel strainer for fishing out the deep-fried items. This mimics the abilities of the deep fryers they have in professional kitchens—but man, talk about using a lot of oil!
However, the resounding recommendation among professionals and experienced home cooks for the best deep-frying vessel surprised me. Serious Eats, Cook's Illustrated, and the users at The Kitchn and Chowhound agree that the wok is the perfect vehicle for deep frying food.
Its sloped sides minimize splatters and contact with oil while its funnel shape requires less oil than Western cooking pans. Meanwhile, you can still fry a lot of food in a wok because of the amount of surface area available at the top of the pan.
These pans used to be fairly common but have fallen out of vogue as it became less common to deep fry food at home. However, their long handles are supposed to make it easy to maneuver the pans and avoid oil splatters, while the heavy lids are designed to help keep the frying food moist (although some might argue it'll keep them from getting crispy).
What kind of pan do you think is best for deep frying food?
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