While deep-fried food is always popular, cooking using this method leaves a margin for error that can be disastrous. By following a few simple rules, you can deep-fry safely and confidently.
1. Use oil with a high smoke point. This is the temperature an oil can be heated to before it smokes and burns. Saturated and monounsaturated oils are the most stable for frying. Oils that are rich in polyphenols or antioxidants are also easier to work with, because they appear to become less damaged at high temperatures – these include olive oil and rapeseed oil.
2. Use a large, wide, sturdy pan. Never fill the pan more than two-thirds full with oil as it may bubble up when food is added, and could spill over.
3. Make sure you have a well-fitting lid close to hand in case the oil catches fire. If your pan doesn’t have a lid that fits, a large, flat baking sheet will do the job.
4. Check the temperature of your oil. If you have a food thermometer heat the oil to 160C for low, 180C for moderate and 190C for high. Avoid heating the oil any higher than this, as it may catch fire. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil with a cube of bread. It should brown in 30-40 seconds when the oil is at a moderate heat.
5. Never put wet food in the fryer. Excess liquid will cause the oil to splutter which can cause injuries. Particularly wet foods should be patted dry with kitchen paper before frying.
6. Never leave a pan of hot oil unattended; it can take just a minute or two for the oil to overheat and catch fire.
7. Turn pan handles away from the front of the cooker to avoid knocking the pan off the hob.
8. Keep the kitchen a child-free zone while deep-frying. Little hands can cause catastrophes when dealing with hot oil.
9. Remove food with a large slotted spoon or sturdy tongs, something that allows the oil to drain as you lift the food out.
10. To dispose of the oil safely, leave to cool completely, pour into a jug, then back into its original bottle. Never pour the oil down the sink, unless you want blocked pipes!
What to do when deep-frying goes wrong
- If the oil starts to smoke, turn off the heat and leave the oil to cool down.
- If the oil catches fire, turn off the heat and smother the flames with a lid, large baking tray or a fire blanket – or use a fire extinguisher, if you have one.
- Never spray the fire with water; this will cause the flames to spread.
- Call the fire brigade as soon as it is safe to do so.
Watch the deep-frying technique in action with our video on how to make scotch eggs:
Watch more videos on deep-frying:
See our deep-fried recipes for more inspiration.