If you crave perfect french fries, super-crisp fried chicken, or homemade doughnuts, you need a deep fryer. Sure, you could try frying on the stovetop with oil in a saucepan or deep skillet, but maintaining a consistent temperature is difficult, and you're likely to spatter oil everywhere. A dedicated deep fryer is a much better tool for the job, controlling the oil temperature more precisely and keeping things less messy. And, of course, if you plan to fry a whole turkey, you might need an outdoor deep fryer, which makes for a tasty bird as well as an impressive display of cooking prowess.
To put them through their paces, we assembled an array of fryers, plenty of fire extinguishers (none had to be used!), and 57 gallons of oil. We tested the machines in multiple cooking situations and also looked at safety features, ease of use, and price to rank and rate deep fryers for both indoor and outdoor use. (It was a big few days for snacking at the office.) The results are below.
Breville BDF500XL Smart Fryer
Innovative safety features
Almost entirely dishwasher-safe
Dial control and cooking presets are a bit complicated
The Breville Smart Fryer heated oil to 300 degrees Fahrenheit in just six minutes and did a great job frying potato chips, frozen chicken tenders, and french fries, leaving all three nice and crispy without too much excess grease. We were impressed with its easy setup—open the box, insert the heating element and basket, and you're done—as well as how easy it is to clean. Besides the removable heating element, every part of the machine is dishwasher-safe, and the inner bowl is removable by itself for easy disposing of used oil.
This has some nice safety features, too, including cool-touch handles for moving the whole thing around, a sturdy lid that keeps the oil covered, a quick-release magnetic power cord, and a heating element that creates a "cool zone" at the bottom of the bowl where any food bits that fall out of the basket can settle without burning.
Price at time of publish: $150
Dimensions: 16 x 10.4 x 11.4 inches | Capacity: 4 quarts | Power: Electric (1,800 watts)
"I would buy this fryer for myself. The product performed well and had the most consistent heating of the models I tested."
Secura Triple-Basket Deep Fryer
Easy to clean
Top of heating element is exposed
Left potato chips and french fries oily
The Secura Triple-Basket isn't the least-expensive deep fryer we tested, but if you want a full-featured deep fryer for less than a hundred bucks, it's our best choice. This machine offers adjustable heat control, an automatic timer, and a helpful light that indicates when the oil is up to temperature. Plus, its baskets hook on the edge of the fryer for easy draining. It's designed to hold two separate baskets side-by-side, so you can fry up two courses at once—or use the double-sized third basket to make one big batch instead. ("Triple-Basket" is a bit of a misnomer, as all three baskets don't actually fit at the same time.)
The Secura performed well, heating up accurately if not particularly quickly. It did a great job with frozen chicken fingers, and made both french fries and potato chips that were crisp, but also fairly oily—probably due to the fact that it wasn't able to bring the oil all the way back up to temperature after the food was added. We were also concerned about the fact that the top of the heating element sits out of the oil. This makes the included lid get very hot while frying, which kind of defeats the purpose of a lid.
Price at time of publish: $73
Dimensions: 15.5 x 14.5 x 19 inches | Capacity: 4.2 quarts | Power: Electric (1,700 watts)
"Its performance and value ratings make the Secura Triple-Basket Deep Fryer an easy sell. It would be good for a beginner or an avid home cook."
Best for a Whole Turkey
Bayou Classic 44-Quart "Big Bird" Kit
Includes everything needed to fry a turkey
In the last 20 years or so, deep-fried turkey has expanded well beyond its ancestral home in Cajun country to become a holiday favorite all around the U.S., and it's for good reason: This process is perhaps the best possible way to prepare a whole bird, yielding crispy skin, moist meat, and delicious flavor throughout.
The Bayou Classic "Big Bird" Kit is the second-most-expensive fryer we tested, but for the whole-turkey challenge, it's worth it. The kit includes an 11-gallon fryer that can accommodate up to a 25-pound turkey, burner stand that attaches to any standard propane cylinder, and a perforated inner basket for draining the turkey, along with all the accessories needed: insulated gloves and a grab hook, an oil thermometer that clips right to the basket, and even a seasoning injector syringe.
We found the kit time-consuming to assemble, but once it was put together, it heated quickly, held its temperature well, and fried up the tastiest whole turkey of all our tests. The massive pot can also be used with water to make crab, crawfish, and other seafood boils for a big crowd, or even to cook wort for home-brewed beer.
Price at time of publish: $300
Dimensions: 16 x 16 x 21 inches | Capacity: 44 quarts | Power: Propane (58,000 BTU)
"The 'Big Bird' Kit is one of the pricier options, but it gives you the bang for your buck in terms of performance, features, and overall construction."
Cuisinart CDF-500 Extra-Large Rotisserie Deep Fryer
Convenient oil spigot and filter
Doesn't retain heat as well as other models
Many countertop deep fryers work well but suffer from a small capacity; you might have to fill and fry multiple baskets to prepare a whole meal. This isn't the case with the Cuisinart CDF-500, which has a 5+-quart capacity and is able to cook a full batch of potato chips all at once. It can even handle a 14-pound turkey.
The extra-large oil compartment does take a while to heat up, however. We found that its temperature dropped precipitously and didn't get all the way back up to full heat while frying foods. That said, they did get excellent crispy results without too much oiliness.
After you're done frying, its convenient oil-draining tube and filtration system make cleanup easy, and you can even reuse the oil to save on ingredients and not have to worry about disposing of frying oil as often. Another advantage of this model is its clever rotating basket, which helps deep fry whole turkeys, chickens, or other large items more evenly and efficiently. When drained of oil, the machine can also be used as a standard rotisserie for roasting as well as a large steam cooker for foods such as dumplings, lobster, or veggies.
Price at time of publish: $300
Dimensions: 21.1 x 16 x 16.4 inches | Capacity: 5.3 quarts | Power: Electric (1,800 watts)
"This fryer is pretty expensive, but you don't just get a fryer; you get a rotisserie and steamer, as well. This can open up the cooking possibilities for someone just starting out with a family."
Best for Frequent Use
DeLonghi D44528DZ Livenza Easy Clean Deep Fryer
Easy setup and cleanup
Frying oil life indicator
Spigot to drain and filter oil
Maybe you have a toddler who will only eat chicken fingers; maybe you're hooked on mozzarella sticks; maybe you're running an underground fish-and-chip shop out of your kitchen. If you'll be firing up a deep fryer almost every day, the De'Longhi Livenza might be for you. Much like the professional deep fryers you'd find in a restaurant kitchen, it's designed to reuse the same oil multiple times, with an easy-to-use spigot and filter to drain the oil, along with an indicator to tell you when it's time to swap in new oil.
In our tests, the De'Longhi made excellent frozen chicken tenders, but left potato chips and french fries greasy, likely because its measly 1,500 watts of power make it slower to heat than other models and didn't do a great job of bringing the oil back up to temperature after adding food. If you're a more experienced fryer, it's possible to counteract this by adjusting the temperature while cooking rather than just leaving it at one set point. And as an additional benefit for the deep-fried food connoisseur, this model also has a setting for frying in lard in place of oil, which you can use to make truly old-school fried chicken.
Price at time of publish: $160
Dimensions: 12.5 x 18 x 11 inches | Capacity: 4 quarts | Power: Electric (1,500 watts)
"Instructions are clear and concise, assembly is minimal. But based on price, I think this product would be best suited for a more experienced cook."
CreoleFeast TFS3010 Propane 30 Qt. Turkey and 10 Qt. Fish Fryer Boiler Steamer Set
Sturdy stand with a lip to prevent spillage
Comes with useful accessories
No oil fill line, making it possible to overfill
Takes a long time to reach temperature
Gather a crowd, fire up this bad boy, and start frying: It's a recipe for a good time. The CreoleFeast isn't really big enough for a whole turkey—a 12-pound bird threatened to make our pot overflow—but it's great for frying lots of smaller items. This model comes with separate 10-quart and 30-quart containers to accommodate both big and very big batches of items like catfish and hush puppies, vegetable tempura, and lots more. There's also a steamer basket for water-based cooking.
One feature we especially liked was the CreoleFeast's sturdy stand. The four-legged welded-steel construction comfortably holds even a heavy full pot directly over the burner, and its tall lip keeps drips and spills from falling into the flames.
Price at time of publish: $150
Dimensions: 19 x 16.7 x 13.9 inches | Capacity: 30 quarts | Power: Propane (50,000 BTU)
"This outdoor fryer would be good for any large frying needs—chicken, fish, etc.—or a large seafood boil. I wouldn't use it for smaller batches. It's definitely for a crowd."
Best Large-Capacity Indoor
Masterbuilt MB20012420 Electric Fryer Boiler Steamer
Spigot and filter for easier cleaning
Heavy, stable construction
Doesn't hold heat well
Outside of machine gets very hot
Masterbuilt claims this deep fryer can manage a 20-pound turkey. That might be a stretch, but we tested it with a 12-pounder and it did a great job. Its 10-quart capacity is about the largest you can find in a tabletop model, and it was able to fry chicken tenders and french fries to a lovely crunch. It didn't do such a great job with potato chips—it wasn't able to bring the oil back to a very high temperature before the chips absorbed a lot of grease. It's not any more powerful than other, smaller, electric models, which means it takes a long time to heat up all that oil.
Outside of deep frying, the machine can also be used for boiling and steaming, much like an outdoor model. It takes up a lot of space on the counter, but that's somewhat justified by its multifunctionality, and its shape and size also make it very stable.
Price at time of publish: $130
Dimensions: 14.5 x 18.4 x 14.8 inches | Capacity: 10 quarts | Power: Electric (1,650 watts)
"If you entertain friends a good bit or host dinners at your house, this is the product you want. The ability to fry turkeys indoors makes it an attractive buy."
Char-Broil The Big Easy Oil-Less Turkey Fryer
Uses no oil
Difficult to set up
Unit gets very hot
Does it still count as a deep fryer if it uses no oil? We'll leave the deeper philosophical aspects of the question aside, but this machine claims to achieve the same results as deep-fried turkey with no added fat. The secret is infrared heating: A propane burner heats up the entire inside of the pot, which cooks all parts of the bird at once.
In testing, it did OK making tasty and moist turkey, cooking it a little unevenly. In practice, it's less oil-less fryer and more outdoor oven, but that's still a useful tool for roasting foods of many kinds.
Price at time of publish: $159
Dimensions: 16 x 16 x 24.5 inches | Capacity: Fits a 16-pound turkey | Power: Propane (16,000 BTU)
"As a 'fryer,' this is kind of a novelty and didn't perform all that well, but as an outdoor roasting oven, it could be used for poultry, vegetables or a roast."
The Breville Smart Fryer is, well, smart, with lots of helpful features that make it easy to get great crispy, crunchy results, even for a deep frying beginner. A good budget option is the Secura Triple-Basket Deep Fryer, which has a nice large capacity and works well.
How We Tested
Our Lab purchased 23 deep fryers—17 electric indoor models and six outdoor fryers—and put them all through their paces, testing their performance with potato chips, french fries, and frozen chicken tenders, plus 12- to 14-pound whole turkeys for fryers that claim to accommodate a whole turkey. Our testers also rated each deep fryer on ease of setup and cleanup, how well they retained heat, their size, and any special features. They then offered additional insights on each deep fryer's strengths and weaknesses.
Other Options We Tested
- Presto FryDaddy: This value-priced deep fryer heated up fast and made (very small batches of) tasty, crunchy foods in our tests, but its teeny-tiny size and lack of safety features (there's no temperature control, and the all-in-one unit doesn't have a removable basket) led us to leave it off the winners list.
- Cuisinart Compact Deep Fryer: This was the only electric machine we tested with which the internal thermometer was inaccurate. It never got the oil as hot as the temperature dial said it was supposed to be. Its lid is supposed to keep heat in, but it also caused condensation to drip into the oil and cause spatters. For this price, we expected better performance.
- T-fal Deep Fryer With Basket: Though we liked the oil filtration system and the easy setup, the lack of timer was a let down. Additionally, during tests there was some trouble with heat retention and it never reached 375 degrees.
What to Look for in a Deep Fryer
If you're going to have a tub full of extremely hot oil on your countertop or in your backyard, the most important thing to consider is safety whether you're a novice fryer or not. Rule No. 1 is to read the directions carefully. Any fryer should come with a manual on safe setup and usage instructions, including info on how to make sure you don't fill it with too much oil. Beyond that, look for a fryer that's stable and won't slide around or tip over. Spills and splatters can cause serious burns or even a fire, especially with an outdoor fryer, with which spilled oil can come into direct contact with an open flame.
For an electric model, look for safety features, such as a magnetic power cord that will detach if something bumps the fryer, an automatic shutoff that engages if the unit gets too hot, a splatter-guard lid that fits tightly over the top, and a cool-touch exterior or handles that make moving hot oil around easier. With an outdoor fryer fueled by propane, look for a strong base that can hold the pot easily, even when it's full of oil and food, ideally with a lip or other features that keep any spilled oil from dripping onto the burner.
Size and Capacity
The size of your deep fryer will determine how much food you can fry at once—even the best fryer will yield greasy results if you pack it too full. On the flip side, filling a huge fryer and waiting for it to heat up just to make dinner for two might be a waste of both time and cooking oil. Of course, a more compact fryer will take up less counter space. Another thing to consider is the size of the baskets. Multiple smaller baskets can be convenient to fry different foods at the same time, but are limited in how much they can hold. (It is also possible to cook multiple things in one large basket, if you use tongs or a slotted spoon to fish out each item as it's ready.)
An outdoor fryer is a whole other proposition; even the smallest of these will be larger than a big countertop model. If you're going to be frying whole turkeys, consider how many people you want to feed and the size of bird you plan to use, and buy accordingly: You can't fry a 25-pound turkey in a fryer that says its capacity is a 20-pounder. An outdoor fryer vessel can also serve as a steamer for seafood or boiling pot for home-brewed beer, but you'll have to store the enormous thing somewhere. Be sure to keep all the parts indoors or covered when not in use. If they get rained on, they can be ruined by rust.
Depending on exactly what you're frying and how you've prepared it, deep frying recipes might call for oil at anywhere from under 300 to over 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Electric fryers use a built-in thermostat to keep oil at a set temperature, though some models offer only a handful of individual settings and others let you dial in an exact number of degrees. The size and power of the fryer determine how long it takes to heat up, but nearly all the models we tested were able to measure oil temperature accurately using their internal thermostats. With an outdoor fryer, you'll need to use a manual thermometer—usually included in the kit—and adjust the flow of propane to control the temperature.
Even after it's cooled down, cooking oil can be precarious to get out of a fryer. Some models offer a spigot and filter to drain the grease, while others have an oil container that's removable by itself. The easiest electric models to clean can be completely disassembled, with most pieces able to go in the dishwasher. (The heating element usually isn't dishwasher safe, but can be wiped down with a sponge or soapy cloth; check your unit's directions for details.) Other deep fryers have many parts that need to be hand washed, which can make keeping them clean a pain.
Outdoor fryers' large tubs and baskets might be too large to fit in the dishwasher and will need to be hand washed, or even scrubbed and sprayed out with a garden hose if they won't fit in the sink.
There is a surprisingly wide range of prices from one deep fryer model to the next. Cheaper ones tend to have less power and not hold heat as well, though that's less of a problem if you're making small batches of food and don't need a huge capacity. They also might skimp on safety features and washability, which could be a bigger issue. The main factor to consider is how often you'll be using the fryer. If you simply want an appliance to experiment with deep frying once every few months, something on the cheaper end of the spectrum would be a great place to start. If you plan to deep fry larger quantities of food on a more frequent basis, you’ll want a fryer that is powerful, sturdy, and performs reliably.
Frequency of Use
How often you plan on using a deep fryer should be a factor when looking for the best model for your needs. If you plan on deep frying only once or twice a year—say for a Thanksgiving turkey—then you can probably go with a larger unit and store it away most of the time. If you plan on using your fryer more frequently, a smaller one may be best to save on counter or cupboard space.
Serving size plays a role, too. A once-a-year type of deep fry is probably for a special occasion that warrants a feast...or at least a lot of leftovers. More everyday-type deep-frying may produce a smaller, more manageable yield, so you wouldn't need a super high-capacity fryer.
Types of Deep Fryers
Most indoor deep fryers simply plug into the wall and use heating elements submerged in the oil to heat it up. This allows for precise temperature control and increased safety, but limits capacity. Higher wattage means more heating power, but there's only so much power a fryer can pull from the outlet.
To heat up the large oil vessel needed to deep-fry a turkey, you need some intense fire. Most outdoor fryers use the same propane tanks that gas grills use, with a universal valve that simply screws into place. Some burners have an automatic push-button starter, while others might need you to turn on the gas and then use a lighter to get it going. Gas-burner power is measured in BTUs—British thermal units. In general, more BTUs means more power.
While most deep fryers come with baskets, you might want to purchase additional ones to have more options. If you don’t want to pull all your food out of the fryer at once in a large basket, look for smaller baskets, which will allow you to cook multiple things at once.
Most fryers have a built-in thermometer that can adjust and maintain temperature. It’s not a bad idea to keep a backup thermometer on hand to make sure your machine is reading temperatures correctly. If your machine doesn’t have a built-in thermometer, buying a separate one is highly recommended.
Some fryers are not designed with cleaning in mind, so if that’s the case, you might need to look for an oil pump to carefully and safely drain dirty cooking oil. This will make the process of transferring oil to a storage container much easier.
If you opted for a propane burner, you’re going to need some propane to get it going. Sometimes the first tank is included. However, after that, you’ll need to stay on top of keeping it stocked.
How do you use a deep fryer?
You follow the directions included with your product. We cannot emphasize enough that you need to be familiar with how your particular deep fryer works before you turn it on. That said, the general process looks something like this: Pour in oil to the maximum fill line, plug it in, turn it on, set the temperature, and wait for it to heat up. Some models beep or have lights to indicate that the oil is ready, while others might require you to monitor the temperature more closely. Once the oil's hot, put the food in the basket and carefully lower the basket into the oil. If your fryer has a timer and lid, set the timer and close the lid, then remove and drain the food when it's done cooking.
What type of oil can you use in a deep fryer?
The important thing to consider when choosing a frying oil is smoke point. You want an oil that can heat to 400 degrees or higher without starting to break down. In general, that means a refined oil like canola, soybean, peanut, or vegetable is best. You don't want to use extra-virgin olive oil or other flavorful oils, as the impurities that contribute flavor also burn at deep-frying temperatures. (Butter is a bad choice for the same reason.) Some old-fashioned recipes call for shortening or lard, which can work for deep frying if you monitor the temperature carefully.
Can you reuse fryer oil?
Yes! If you filter out any burnt bits or other debris soon after use, you can even store the oil right in the fryer. Kept covered (like by the fryer's included lid), frying oil can stay in the fryer for as long as a month and can be reused at least eight times. That said, if you're using breaded or battered ingredients, it's recommended to replace the oil after three or four times. If the oil starts to smell bad or has a dark color, it's time to toss it.
Frying oil can also pick up flavors from certain spices, so if you've just fried spicy Nashville hot chicken, you might want to change the oil before you make funnel cake. To increase shelf life to as long as three months, pour the oil into a separate container and keep it covered in a cool, dark place.
How do you dispose of deep fryer oil?
Do not pour oil down the drain. Not only is this bad for your pipes, but some areas also have legal ordinances against it, and you could be fined. To dispose of used oil in the trash, pour it in a sealable bag or other well-sealed container, and throw it in the trash. There are also many organizations that recycle cooking oil, including some cities and counties around the country. Try this locator search to find a cooking oil recycler near you.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a cookbook author and writer for The Spruce Eats. She knows her way around frying. In addition to our top picks for deep fryers, Donna's also written roundups on the best turkey fryers, Instant Pots, and toaster ovens.
Jason Horn is a staff commerce writer for The Spruce Eats who updated this story with our testing results. In more than 15 years as a food writer, he's deep-fried everything from tofu to artichokes to pound cake and is proud to say he's never started even a single grease fire.