Battered and fried shrimp with tails

Frying is not something most of us do often. Spoiler alert: t's not the healthiest method of cooking, but also, it's a little messy, it makes our houses smell like a fast food restaurant, and for some people, it can seem scary!

But deep frying does have its place in the kitchen, and even if you only do it once a year, it's a great skill to keep in your back pocket. Everyone deserves homemade potato chips once in awhile. Or falafel. Or fried chicken. Or onion rings. Or DONUTS!

There are two primary methods of frying: shallow and deep frying. Shallow frying is when food is cooked in a shallow pool of hot oil so that it is only partially submerged. It must be flipped to brown and cook both sides. You would use shallow frying to cook chicken cutlets or latkes, for example.

In deep frying—which is what we’ll be talking about today—the food is completely submerged in fat or oil to develop a crisp, brown exterior while maintaining a juicy interior. Food for deep frying is almost always coated with a breading, a batter such as a tempura or beer batter, or a simple flour coating. The coating acts as a barrier between the fat and the food and also contributes flavor and texture.

To cook rapidly and evenly, foods for deep frying must be trimmed and cut into a uniform size and shape. Select cuts that are naturally tender; some typical choices include poultry, seafood, and vegetables. Remove the skin and bones of poultry and fish fillets if necessary or desired. Be certain to season the food before adding a coating.

A batter or plain flour coating is applied immediately before deep frying the food. Ideally, breading should be done as close to the time you’re going to serve the food as possible, but if necessary, it can be done 20 to 25 minutes ahead and the items refrigerated before frying.

Fried foods are best served right away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy leftovers. For best results, reheat fried foods in a hot oven (about 375°F) until crisp.

Basic Equipment for Deep Frying

Electric or gas deep fryer. Versions for home cooking are made to be used on your countertop, with capacities ranging from 1 to 3 quarts. They have safety features, such as locking covers that protect you from the spattering of hot oil. They also come with thermostats for setting precise temperatures.

Pot. It is also possible to deep fry foods in a pot on the stovetop. Choose pot with sides high enough to prevent fat from foaming over or splashing out and wide enough to allow you to add and remove the food easily.

Deep-Fat Frying Thermometer. Maintaining the proper temperature is vital to success when deep frying. Whether using a fryer or a pot, use a deep-fat frying thermometer to frequently check the fat’s temperature.

Tongs or Frying Basket. Many fryers have a wire basket that fits inside to lower the food into the oil, hold the food as it deep fries, and easily remove it from the fryer. If you’re using a pot, you can use a skimmer or tongs to add and remove the food.

Paper Towels. Have clean paper towels ready to receive deep-fried foods as they come out of the fryer or pot. Use the paper towels to drain or blot away any excess fat on the food’s surface.


  1. Blot the food dry with a paper towel and coat it with the desired breading, batter, or other coating. Fill the pot or fryer with the cooking fat and heat to 325° to 375°F. The fat must maintain the proper temperature in order to prepare crisp, flavorful, non-greasy fried foods. Carefully add the main item to the hot fat. It should be completely submerged. Do not crowd the pan or fryer.

    The fat will lose temperature for a brief time when food is added. The more food, the more the temperature will drop and the longer it will take to come back to the proper level

  2. There are two methods of deep frying. The choice depends on the food, the coating, and the intended result. The swimming method of frying is generally used for battered food. Carefully lower the battered food into the hot oil using tongs. When the oil starts to bubble, release the food; it will not sink. If needed, flip the food during cooking to ensure even browning on all sides.

    The basket method is generally used for breaded items. Place the breaded food in a frying basket and then lower the basket into the hot fat. Once the food is cooked, lift the basket and the food back out of the fat. Foods that tend to rise to the surface too rapidly (like donuts, or other yeast-raised items) can be held down by setting a second basket on top of the food; this is known as the double-basket method.

    If frying in a pot (without a basket), you can use a slotted spoon or metal spider to keep any floating items submerged.

  3. Drain the fried food on paper towels or on a wire rack set over paper towels before serving. Foods served very hot, directly from the fryer, have a better, less greasy taste. If adding seasoning, like salt or spice blends (like for spicy fried chicken!), add them while the food is still very hot, fresh from the fryer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My frying oil is making loud, scary popping noises. Is that normal?

A: Yes, it’s scary, but also yes, it’s normal. Whether it’s from some residual water in the bottom of the pan or little droplets that ended up in your oil, that sound is just water droplets reacting with the oil at the bottom of your pot. If it doesn’t stop or slow down once the oil is up to temperature, you might want to evaluate your pot or heating element and make sure it isn’t another issue.

Q: What should I do if the fat gets too hot?

A: When fat is too hot, you risk burning the exterior before it’s fully cooked inside. You can handle this two ways. Ideally, you would remove the pot from the heat, moving it to a cool section of stove, until the temperature drops to a suitable temperature. But if you find that your food is still undercooked on the interior, you can put it in a 350°F to finish cooking. This is something you’ll frequently need to do with bone-in fried chicken.

Q: Can I save this big pot of oil to use another time?

A: You can reuse frying oil a few times, but you’ll want to let it cool and strain it before storing. Any burned bits or crumbs will make the oil rancid. You’ll also want to make sure your oil hasn’t retained any strong flavors before you use it, to avoid the risk of making your churros taste like onion rings. For battered foods, you can probably reuse the oil three or four times, and even more for non-battered items, like French fries.

Q: Can I fry with olive oil?

A: Technically, you can fry with whatever you want (your kitchen, your rules!), and olive oil is a great option for shallow frying. But, realistically, deep frying in olive oil is not exactly economical. Use a lower cost vegetable oil for your deep frying, and save the good stuff for where it really counts.

Q: Is it safe to fry frozen foods?

A: Yes, just take a few precautions. Remove any significant chunks of ice or frost from the food first (water + frying = hot splatters). Use a tall pot and fill it a bit less than you might normally to make sure there’s room in case the oil bubbles up at all from excess water. Disclaimer: this does not go for larger items, like whole turkeys—if you’ve watched any deep-fried turkey videos, you’ll know why—which hold a lot of moisture. Those need to be fully defrosted, and the process should be thoroughly researched first.

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