Deep fat fryer safety

Staying safe using a deep fat fryer.

Deep fat frying is a popular way to cook, both at restaurants and at home. There are several things to consider before jumping into cooking in this way. Frying is very hot, and quickly cooks the food. We have to be sure we are safe from burns, and that the food is cooked thoroughly to kill bacteria.

Before using your deep-fat fryer for the first time, read the owner’s manual thoroughly. It will spell out many of the dangers – burning temperatures, keeping water away from the oil, overcrowding the basket, etc. At temperatures around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, we must be careful not to do anything to splatter the hot oil, causing burns. Water and oil do not mix, so food items should not be wet or splatters will occur. Overcrowding the basket will lead to some foods being done and others not prepared to temperature, which can lead to foodborne illness from the bacteria not killed. Also, a fire extinguisher should be close in case of an accident. Grease fires should not be doused with water – it will only make the fire spread. Use the extinguisher or cover with a metal cover. Call 9-1-1 if needed.

After finding the recipe you want to use, think about what type of oil to use. Look at its smoking point. The table below, from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), lists the smoking points of various oils.

Type of Oil

Approximate Smoke Point

Peanut, Safflower, Soybean

450 °F


445 °F


435 °F

“Enova” Brand

420 °F

Corn, Olive, Sesame Seed, Sunflower

410 °F

Pick oil that is within the temperature required of your food item. If your recipe says to fry at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, the top three types will do. If you need to fry at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, peanut, safflower or soybean oils would be the only ones safe to use. If the smoking point is reached, your end product will not taste good.

Prepare the food as the recipe directs, washing your hands before handing. Remember to wash your hands between cutting the vegetable or meat and its batter/coating. Cross-contamination must be avoided. When the product is ready to fry, make sure the fryer temperature is ready as well. If too low, your finished product will not be the best it can be; if too hot, it can burn. Place small batches into the fryer and follow the recipe directions. If too much is put into the fryer at once, the temperature of the oil will be reduced – small batches are the way to go. Large batches may overflow the fryer, causing burns, or not let the food get up to the correct temperature. Do not leave the fryer to perform another chore; foods can burn very quickly.

When done, drain on paper towels. If you have fried chicken, make sure the internal temperature gets to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit; fish and seafood should get to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Michigan State University Extension recommends you take care of any leftovers quickly, within two hours. If the air temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, have the food chilled in an hour.

If you are interested in information on home food preservation or food safety, you can contact your local MSU Extension office or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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