How to Check Oil Temp Without a Thermometer + Deep Frying Tips
Whether you're new to deep frying or a self-proclaimed professional like my grandma, heating the oil to the right temp is critical for deep frying success. If the oil is not hot enough, the food will absorb excess oil and you're at risk of losing that wonderful crisp exterior. If the oil is too hot, the surface of the food will quickly brown while leaving the inside undercooked. The best foolproof way to gauge and maintain frying oil temp is to use a deep fry thermometer (you can find hundreds of options on Amazon). We always recommend using one, but if you don't have one, where there's a will, there's a way!
Here's a popular technique to test if your frying oil is around the ideal frying oil temperature range of 360-375 degrees.
The Wood Technique
When you're ready to check the preheated oil temp, carefully dip the handle of a wooden spoon or a wooden chopstick into the oil:
- Ready: the oil starts steadily bubbling around the inserted wooden spoon or chopstick. Good to go!
- Not Hot Enough: the oil barely bubbles around the inserted wooden spoon or chopstick. Keep preheating and test again soon.
- Too Hot: the oil is vigorously bubbling around the inserted wooden spoon or chopstick. Cool and test again soon.
Keep in mind that the oil temp will fluctuate, so you'll need to adjust temp as you go, using the foods you are frying as your indicator.
This is also a good time to remind you that fried foods are freakin' delish but deep frying should not be taken lightly. Here are some tips to help make it all worth it!
Deep Frying Tips
- Use a high smoke point frying oil, such as a vegetable oil or canola oil, enough to fill at least 1.5 inches of oil in your pot; pot should not be more than 2/3 full with oil
- Use a heavy-bottomed pot with tall sides
- Carefully release foods into oil, being mindful not to "drop it like it's hot" and cause the hot oil to splash
- Maintain the oil temp, adjusting throughout as needed
- Use a deep fry thermometer to gauge and maintain heat
- Don't overcrowd the pan of oil with fried foods - best to fry in small batches
- Never leave heating oil unattended
- If oil is smoking, it is too hot and should be immediately removed from the heat to cool down
- In the event of a grease fire, never use water! Keep the pot's lid or baking sheet and baking soda within reach
- To dispose oil, cool completely and then discard in a sealable container. Never pour down the drain
Whether you're making churros or fried chicken, now you know how to check the oil temp without a thermometer, all while being safe. If you didn't know, now you know! Happy Frying!