We all know that deep fried food is no friend of the arteries, but when it comes to making home-made chips, French fries and other desirable naughties, there is simply no more authentic way than to use the best deep fat fryers. True, oven-made chips and the new generation of air fryers are much more healthy than their deep-fried counterparts, but the chips they produce are often a bit dry and lack pukka texture and, to some degree, flavour.
For the best – and safest – results, we’d recommend a dedicated deep fat fryer like one of these dandy models on this page. Now, pass us those Mars Bars and a big bucket of batter…
What is the best deep fat fryer?
We’ve had a good root around on the interweb and found this quintet of excellent deep fat fryers that will do the job just fine.
Our favourite model by far is the superb Tefal Oleoclean Pro which filters the oil after each use, removing crumbs and other debris in the process. Second place goes to the excellent De’Longhi Traditional FS6055, an admittedly large appliance but one that is easy to clean when the oil has past its prime. Third spot goes to Sage's competent bells-and-whistles Smart Fryer.
Do I really have to use a specialised fryer?
No matter how tempting it is, never use a saucepan to deep fry anything because that would be one of the most dangerous things you could ever do. And we mean really dangerous, as in 'setting fire to the whole kitchen and/or disfiguring yourself' dangerous. The UK fire brigade harps on about the dangers of using saucepans for frying on a regular basis and for good reason – they account for one fifth of all kitchen fires and cause terrible burns if mishandled.
A specialised deep fat fryer, by contrast, comes with an integral thermostat that ensures the oil never reaches a temperature hot enough to catch fire. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you should ever leave one unattended. Similarly, you should never fill a deep fat fryer with more oil than the manufacturer recommends or, once you load it with ingredients, the hot bubbling oil will spill over and cause oily devastation to all and sundry.
Despite the fact that cooking oil remains in liquid form, it is very bad practice to discard used oil down the sink – this will simply block the shit out of your pipes. Instead, invest in a packet of Quickshine Deep-Fat Fixer from Lakeland which turns the oil into a solid lump for completely fuss-free disposal.
Or, as a messier alternative, find a sealed plastic box (not entirely environmentally friendly it has to be said), pour in the oil, seal it and put it in your refuse bin or, better still, take it to your local recycling depot where it might one day help power a biofuel power plant or even car.
What's the best oil and type of potato for top chips?
The first thing you’ll need is a good quality oil. Most professional chefs like Jamie Oliver and Michelin-starred restaurant owner Pascal Aussignac will extol the virtues of beef dripping and duck fat, and if you’ve ever had chips cooked in lard you’ll know what an incredible flavour it produces. However, is there anything more unhealthy than a bowl of melted animal fat?
Instead, we would recommend a vegetable oil with a high smoke point of around 230˚C: sunflower, rapeseed and the more expensive groundnut (or peanut) are all great oils. For the purposes of this roundup I used Crisp ’n’ Dry rapeseed oil and it produced some damn fine chips.
The right potato is your next consideration. Again, according to Jamie Oliver and Pascal Aussignac, there is no better potato for chips than the Maris Piper, though King Edwards are also popular. Just be sure to use a high quality salt like Malden sea salt or Fleur de Sel at the table because your ordinary Saxa simply will not do.
The best deep fat fryers you can buy today
Deep fat fryers produce the best chips of all but they’re a right pain in the bottom to clean. The problem is that every time you fry something, it leaves behind a load of burnt crumbs that sit there waiting to be added to the next fry-up. The situation is even worse when you fry chips one day and breadcrumbed Chinese butterfly prawns the next. You not only end up with a tankful of crumby oil with a hint of fish that you feel the urge to take a fishing net to, but those crumbs also darken the oil and drastically shorten its lifespan.
This large 3.5-litre Tefal model features a unique cleaning system that rids the used oil of crumbs and other post-fry detritus after every meal. It’s a bloody ingenious and really simple twin-reservoir filter system that works brilliantly well.
When you’ve finished frying, simply flick the dial below the main oil container to the filter icon and, when the oil’s cooled down, it will automatically filter into a sealed plastic tank below, where it’ll sit safe and sound until your next fry session (Tefal recommends changing the oil every 10 to 12 uses).
To clean the now empty main oil container, simply remove it and rinse the crumbs away under a hot tap or use a kitchen towel to wipe it clean. And that’s all there is to it. The whole system is now safe to carry without spilling oil all over the shop. Next time you use it, simply unlock the plastic oil reservoir, pull it out, unscrew the plastic cap and pour the clean oil back into the main tank.
This model has one of the largest footprints of those tested and is capable of accommodating up to 1.2kgs of food: its basket is deep and wide enough to swallow a whole fish and its size also provides more space for chips, prawns and calamari to receive a right proper frying. To use it, simply turn the dial to the required temperature – full whack at 190˚C for frozen fries – set the simple LCD timer and retreat until you hear the admittedly very quiet beep.
At 40cm x 30cm, the Oleoclean isn’t the most practical size for storage but if you’re looking for a large, albeit industrial-looking fat fryer that is very keenly priced, an absolute doddle to keep clean and really easy to use, then this is far and away the finest model out there. Oh, and did I mention it made an astonishingly good batch of crispy chips?
De’Longhi ditched its slightly healthier Rotofry model some time ago – the chips moved in and out of the oil in a circular motion – but this standard fryer bears a lot of resemblance and features a very similar cleaning method. When the oil’s at the end of its life (usually after about 10 uses), unlatch the front panel, pull out the rubber tube and hang it over a suitably sized receptacle. Now pull out the stopper on the end to let the dirty oil flow out, ready for careful disposal.
Granted, it’s a pretty uncomplicated way to empty an oil fryer, but you do need to make sure the collection jug is large enough and that you keep the rubber hose well aligned or it’ll pour oil all over your brand new pair of suede Penelope Chilvers. And that would be a disaaaaster.
Like the Breville, this 2.4-litre model also features an integrated basket handle that folds down out of view when finished with. Its large basket meanwhile has the capacity for a substantial 1.5kg of chips, fish, battered Mars Bars, what have you. It’s a big, wide beast, mind, so perhaps avoid it unless you have suitable storage space and a family big enough to benefit from its ample internal dimensions.
The design of this 4-litre Sage model is along the same commercial-style lines as the Tefal only it doesn’t come with a filter system. What it does have is a smart management interface that theoretically takes the guesswork out of frying. I say theoretically because the partner and I had to refer to the manual a number of times when using its ‘twice cooked’ chips mode. Granted, it produced exceedingly crispy chips from the handful of chopped Maris Pipers we slung in there, but there was a lot of button pressing involved and we’re not sure any of it was necessary given that, well, a fryer is a fryer. Innit?
Nevertheless, for those who haven’t the first clue about frying, I can certainly see the value of a one-touch system like this and, to be fair, twice-fried chips do require two different temperatures and time scales. For the record, other presets include fish, nuggets, calamari and doughnuts, so if you’re keen on any of those ingredients then this could be the fryer for you. Alternatively, just use it manually.
One major bonus this model has over the Tefal is size. It’s much smaller yet it will accommodate the same weight of food (1.2kgs). Mind, the basket is much narrower and deeper than the Tefal’s so the food is a bit more cramped, meaning a little gentle stirring with a wooden spoon may be required during the frying process to prevent ingredients from sticking together.
If we were giving awards for looks, the Breville would walk it – its mirrored silver flash on the fascia looks extremely swish, though maybe not so much after several fry ups. It’s also got a neat foldaway handle to raise and lower the basket, though be careful of the powerful spring in the lid because, once it’s been greased with oily spills, it could pop out completely. To prevent this possible flicky-uppy scenario, I would suggest holding the top of the lid as you press the latch.
Despite the ‘easy to clean’ moniker, this smallish 2-litre model doesn’t come with an oil filtration system. However, because the kettle-like heating element is hidden beneath the oil container and out of the way, it is relatively easy to clean once the oil is past its prime and been disposed of; just lift out the enamel oil tub and wash it under a hot tap.
Control wise, it comes with a simple temperature dial (130-190˚C) and an LCD timer so there’s not much that can go wrong. Although its food capacity is just 200 grams shy of the Tefal and Sage (1kg if you must know), the Breville’s basket is much smaller relatively speaking, so food has less space to move around while it’s frying. Hence, this is not a fryer for a large family of chip fiends but it is absolutely spot on for couples and perhaps a threesome, nudge nudge.
If you live alone or with a petite partner, then this wee fryer is just the ticket for the occasional guilty pleasure. Its footprint is just 25 x 23cm so you’ll have no problem stowing it away and it’ll take up hardly any room on a kitchen worktop.
The 1.5-litre Lakeland has a food capacity of just 350g so you can rule out using it to feed more than two mouths – and even then you’ll both be fighting over the paucity of chips, onion rings and breaded prawns it produces.
Nevertheless, it’s a much safer alternative to filling a saucepan with oil and setting the kitchen on fire. As is the case with all deep fat fryers, this one also comes with a thermostat that ensures the oil never reaches a temperature above 190˚C.
The Lakeland fries exceptionally well and is a cinch to use though changing the oil is a faff because the oil tub is fixed in position and the only way to empty its contents is by tipping the whole unit on its side. Otherwise, this is a top contender for infrequent frying of small batches.