If you're looking to make tasty deep-fried food at home, first read our review of the best deep-fat fryers and health fryers. Homemade chips, anyone?
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VonShef Compact 1.5L
Best bits: neat, non-stick bowl, easy to clean
Here's a stainless steel, cube-shaped fryer (25 x 22 x 21cm) that looks smart and is just the right size for two portions of chips. The oil temperature does drop quickly if overloaded so avoid overfilling the basket. When empty, the handle can be removed and tucked into the basket making it easy to stow away in a cupboard. For draining, the basket sits easily clear of the oil ensuring chips have a good crunch to them. The bowl isn’t detachable but the fryer is small so it’s simple enough to tip the oil out once cooled. A decent non-stick coating means the inside can be cleaned just with kitchen paper and a soapy sponge. Even better, the basket is dishwasher safe. There was some condensation on the viewing window during frying, but it stayed mostly clear for peeking inside. Reasonably priced compared to other brands of this size.
Available from Domu (£22.99)
Magimix Pro 350
Best bits: easy to clean, maintains temperature, quick frying
With a dishwasher-safe basket, bowl and lid, the Magimix was the easiest fryer to clean by far. The heating element and stainless steel casing just needs wiping down with a soft cloth after use. It has a generous three-litre oil capacity and was one of the best in our test for temperature maintenance, producing chips with a seriously impressive crunch. When the control panel is attached, the handles aren’t quite in the right position for the fryer's weight distribution and should be used with caution, but overall the build is solid. For safety, the heating element will only operate when the fryer is correctly assembled and the timer is switched on. There is a useful cord storage compartment and the handle can be folded into the basket when it’s empty. The fryer also comes with a three-year guarantee.
Available from John Lewis (£129.95)
Best... for families
Russell Hobbs digital deep-fat fryer
Best bits: large capacity, accurate thermostat, quick frying
This fryer has an accurate thermostat and was one of the fastest to come up to temperature in our test. It holds up to 3.3 litres of oil and instructions say it will cook 1.2kg of food at a time (though we found it was more efficient with 1kg). It comes back up to temperature quickly after food is added. Though large in capacity, it has a neat rectangular shape and a handle that tucks tidily into a recess during frying and for storage. The lid keeps in oil splatters, reduces odours during cooking and pops up with the press of a button. The lid can be unclipped for cleaning and the filters washed separately in soapy water. The bowl is removable which makes it easier to tip the cooled oil out of the fryer. None of the parts are dishwasher-safe but the bowl is non-stick and straightforward to clean afterwards with soapy water.
Best... budget buy
Swan 2.5L fryer
Best bits: dishwashable lid, efficient, quick to reach temperature
This medium-sized and budget-friendly fryer is ideal for serving two or three people. The bowl of the fryer is fixed so the whole machine has to be tilted to pour out the cooled, used oil but the size of the fryer means this isn’t too difficult a task. Helpfully, the lid is detachable and can be put in the dishwasher for cleaning. A soft, soapy sponge will deal with the rest. The basket handle folds down neatly and there is a useful tip in the instructions to smear the viewing window with a little oil to stop droplets collecting during frying. Overall, an efficient machine that’s good value for money.
Philips Viva Airfryer
Best bits: healthier alternative, little oil needed, fast, easy to use
One of the faster air-fryers on the market, this popular model produced crunchy chips using only a tablespoon of oil in 16 minutes. The chips do need stirring two or three times to ensure even cooking and though not authentically deep-fried in texture, the chips were very crisp on the outside and fluffy at the centre. The manual wasn't clear but there was a helpful app with instructions and recipes, and the fryer is easy to operate with one dial to set the temperature and another to set the time. It can also be used as a miniature oven to bake, grill and roast. We baked coconut cupcakes in silicone moulds using a recipe from the app and they were impressively light in the middle with a subtly crunchy exterior. The fryer heats up very rapidly, too, so there is no need to preheat for baking. If a low-fat, versatile fryer is what you’re after, the Philips Viva is a good option, but be aware that for full functionality you may have to buy extra accessories.
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Using a thermostat-controlled electric fryer is the safest way to deep-fat fry as the thermostat helps stop the oil from overheating and burning. Many electric fryers come with lockable lids to minimise hot oil splashes and some fryers switch themselves off when their timer runs out. Although safer than chip pans, electric fryers still need to be watched while they're on and the fryer’s manual should come with a list of safety instructions – for example, keeping the oil between minimum and maximum marks, positioning the fryer away from overhanging cupboards and not frying wet foods.
What should I buy?
Should you buy a deep-fat fryer or an air-fryer? If you want to cook golden, crunchy, chip-shop-style chips or authentic fried chicken at home then only a deep-fat fryer will do. They are generally straightforward to use and are cheaper on average than air-fryers.
Air-fryers are marketed as a healthy alternative to deep-frying. They use a little oil and very hot circulating air to cook food. While they do make chips very crunchy, the texture is closer to oven-baked than deep-fried. However, air-fryers are increasingly popular for their versatility as they can be used as a mini oven to bake, roast or grill. They use much less oil than deep-fat fryers so they can indeed be healthier as well as being safer to use and some can cook food more quickly than a conventional oven. They're more expensive than deep-fat fryers and can be quite noisy, but if you’re looking for multifunctionality, then one of these may be the better buy for you.
What we looked for:
Temperature: We tested the calibration of each fryer using probe thermometers. We checked how quickly the oil came up to temperature and how well temperature was maintained during frying.
Safety: We checked sturdiness, how hot the sides became during cooking, how rigid the handles were and noted safety features like lockable lids and timer cut-outs.
Cleaning: We checked how easy it was to pour out the used, cooled oil and whether any parts could be detached and, if so, whether they were dishwashable. We looked for filters in lids and checked if they could be cleaned. Fryers with non-stick easy-to-wipe interiors were preferred.
Capacity: We tested whether the fryers could hold as much food and oil as they claimed while maintaining temperature and cooking food evenly.
Taste and texture: We cooked chips in both the deep-fat fryers and air-fryer, looking for golden crunchy exteriors and soft, fluffy middles. Fryers of soggy chips didn’t make the cut.
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In the mood for deep-fried food? Check out our recipe collection, or try these suggestions:
This review was last updated in October 2018. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you love your deep-fat fryer or prefer an air-fryer? Leave a comment below…