6 Images

The fryers

The mid-size Presto CoolDaddy deep fryer, with its sleek black plastic “cool-touch” exterior and nonstick interior, has a 1,500-watt heating element housed under the removable oil tub. There’s a charcoal anti-odor filter in the lid. A large window lets you keep an eye on the food.

What’s the difference: A clever mechanism allows an exterior handle to lower the basket into the oil when the fryer lid is closed, to prevent splattering. When the cooking is done, the handle raises the basket back up, so the excess oil can drain off.

What we thought: The best of the bunch, it’s a well-designed machine that is easy to operate and gives good results. The removable tub and innovative basket system are important pluses.

How much: About $50 at Macy’s or (Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)
Though it’s not much bigger than a toddler’s shoe box, the Cuisinart Compact Deep Fryer has a 1,000-watt heating element, which is permanently affixed to the underside of the die-cast frying tub. The housing unit is brushed stainless steel, with black plastic cool-touch handles. The lid and cooking basket are dishwasher-safe.

What’s the difference: The square oil tub has a spout to pour out the used oil. The tub is not removable; to clean, you fill the unit with water and baking soda and boil.

What we thought: Great results in a machine that takes up very little counter space. A nice design feature allows the oil to drain from the elevated basket before it is removed. One caveat: Be careful to touch only the handles; other surfaces get hot enough to burn a finger.

How much: About $50 at Bed, Bath & Beyond and Home Depot. (Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)
Resembling a bread-maker, the T-Fal Family Deep Fryer has a 1,500-watt heating element housed under the removable, non-stick oil bowl. There’s a large odor-control filter and a viewing window.

What’s the difference: This is a mid-size machine, but it can handle as much food as some larger models. Like the Presto, it has the same clever basket-lowering and -raising mechanism. The entire exterior remains cool.

What we thought: Smooth operation and easy cleanup. The only drawback was that when the lid was popped open after cooking, the steam that had collected on the inside splattered into the oil below.

How much: About $50 at Bed, Bath & Beyond and (Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)
Waring’s all-business, large machine can fry more than 2 pounds of food in its 1-gallon removable stainless steel oil container. The 1,800-watt heating element is contained within the cooking unit.

What’s the difference: Three mesh frying baskets are included, with collapsible handles for storage. There’s an on/off toggle switch and a built-in timer.

What we thought: If your goal is to fry large quantities of food, then this machine gets the job done. The immersion-style heating element makes for quick oil temperature recovery time, a good feature if you’re cooking for a crowd. But you can’t wash the heating element.

How much: About $130 at Williams-Sonoma and (Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)
The imposing stainless steel Euro-Pro can fry about 1 1/2 pounds of food at a time. The 1,800-watt heating element is inside the oil container, with the food.

What’s the difference: The control panel is an easy-to-use digital display. After you set the desired temperature, the machine beeps to let you know when it’s ready to start frying.

What we thought: For such a high-tech machine, there should be a safer way to lower the frying basket into the hot oil. You have to manually maneuver it, prompting this warning from the manufacturer: “Lowering the frying basket too quickly can result in the oil overflowing and splashing.”

How much: About $80 at Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target. (Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)
Rival’s Cool Touch Deep Fryer looks like a mini rice cooker. Its 1,000-watt heating element is under the permanently affixed fry tub. There are dual filters to reduce cooking odors, and the lid can be removed for cleaning.

What’s the difference: This fryer does not come with a food basket. Instead, there’s a heat-resistant slotted spoon for putting in and taking out the food.

What we thought: This is a basic, no-frills machine. The small price and size are nice, but cleaning the non-removable bowl was challenging. Following the temperature guidelines in the owner’s guide produced over-cooked food. You may have to experiment to find the right temperature and frying time.

How much: About $25 at Target and Wal-Mart. (Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)