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Published Aug. 11, 2021

Frying makes everything taste better, from little potatoes up to 20-pound turkeys. Fish fries are a summer classic, and you can get creative and fry squash blossoms, cinnamon rolls, and even Twinkies. It all tastes even better when fried outdoors. 

Frying is a method definitely best suited to outdoor cooking. Set up an outdoor cooking station, and you won’t heat up the kitchen or fill the house with oil smells…and if you do spill oil, better to do it outdoors than in. Here’s a rundown on the various types of outdoor deep fryers and how to choose the best one for you.

Best Deep Fryer Types and Sizes

Choose the best outdoor deep fryer for you by first considering what you want to fry. If you want to fry turkeys, you’ll need a big, deep fryer that’s shaped to hold a bird. Following the rule of thumb that you need a gallon of oil for every ten quarts of fryer capacity, a fryer big enough to hold a 22-pound turkey might require three gallons of oil.  A fryer that size is perfect for a crawfish or Low Country Boil, too, but much larger than you need to cook up a family meal. A 1.5-quart fryer can cook for a small family of three, while a 3-quart fryer is big enough for most families even after the kid’s appetites have grown.

You can also choose between electric and propane fryers. Although most people prefer propane deep fryers because they heat up quickly, electric fryers can be used indoors and out, making them a good choice if you want to be able to fry in any weather. 

Look at safety features like break-away cords on electric fryers, too. Spilling hot oil is dangerous, and a cord that pulls out of the fryer when someone trips on it or pulls it can prevent a fryer full of oil from toppling.  

Oil less turkey fryers, also known as air fryers, don’t truly fry food. However, they will cook a turkey so it’s crispy on the outside and moist inside, just as a fryer will, but with many fewer calories since it uses no oil. Essentially it’s a convection oven, but it does give healthy, fryer-like results.

Will you be frying a turkey?

Fried turkeys are delicious: crisp on the outside and juicy inside. Once you’ve tried fried turkey, you may very well want to buy a fryer of your own. A turkey fryer is also great for boiling crawfish, Low Country Boils, and sweet corn. You can also use it for home-brewing beer. As a rule of thumb, a 24-quart fryer pot will be able to hold a 14-pound turkey, a 26-quart can hold a 16-pound bird, and a 30-quart fryer pot can hold turkeys up to 20 pounds. Fryers are also great for boiling up crawfish, making low country boils, or cooking enough sweet corn for a party.

Best Turkey Fryer: Backyard Pro Deluxe 30-quart fryer

The 30-quart pot cooks a 20-pound bird. Backyard Pro

A sturdy base helps keep this fryer upright, and it’s big enough to hold an even larger pot if you decide to upsize. The outdoor deep fryer comes with everything you need: a turkey hanger, thermometer, injector, a 30-quart turkey fryer pot and basket, and a smaller pot and basket for clam bakes.

Will you be frying fish?

Fish fries, whether at home, church, or social gatherings, are a longstanding American tradition. The right fryer makes the job easier. The best fish fryer heats quickly and maintains temperature well to ensure batch after batch consistency. If you’re only frying one thing, you only need one basket, but if you want to make fish and hushpuppies or fries, a two-basket setup lets you do that with ease. How big a fryer do you need? A fryer will cook 1.5 to 2 times its weight in oil in an hour. A gallon of oil weighs about 7 ½ pounds, so a two-gallon fryer can cook 20-30 pounds of food an hour.

Best Fish Fryer: Bayou Classic 4-gallon fryer

Twin baskets let you cook fries or hushpuppies along with fish, or keep two kinds of fish separate.
Bayou Classic

The Bayou Classic 4-gallon fryer feeds 25-30 people an hour. This outdoor deep fryer heats up quickly and maintains the temperature well. The V-bottom design prevents burning and keeps the oil cleaner.

Do you want an indoor/outdoor fryer?

If you want a fryer you can use indoors as well as for outdoor cooking, it should be electric. Cooking with propane inside risks carbon monoxide build-ups, and there’s always a danger from the open flame of the burner. Electric fryers take longer to heat than propane, but they are safe indoors, and an easily portable one can be used to cook outside as well.

Best Electric Turkey Fryer: Cuisinart Extra Large Rotisserie Fryer

Big enough to fry a 14-pound turkey, small enough to be portable. Cuisinart

This electric turkey fryer with a rotisserie design lets you cook using very little oil as the bird rotates in and out of the hot oil. You can use this fryer on a countertop, or take it outside and set it up on a table near an outlet. It features a magnetically attached breakaway cord for safety.

Are you health-conscious or dieting?

If you’re trying to reduce your intake of fats, an air fryer is your best choice. It performs many of the functions of a fryer, but without oil. Instead, it circulates hot air, achieving the same crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside finish we love in fried food. For maximum crispness, you still need to brush oil on whatever you’re cooking. While you can’t use an air-fryer to cook battered foods, you can bake, roast, broil, and dehydrate food.

Best Air Fryer: Masterbuilt 6-in-1 Outdoor Air Fryer

Unlike many air fryers, this one can be used and stored outdoors, keeping noise and aroma out of the house. Masterbuilt

This versatile air fryer air-fries, bakes, roasts, and dries food, and it even features a tray for adding wood chips to give your food added flavor. It will cook turkeys up to 20 pounds, and comes with four stacking baskets for dehydrating or cooking lots of smaller items.

Budget Deep Fryers: What you get for under $30

If you don’t use a deep fryer often, or if you want a smaller fryer that’s easy to take with you on car camping trips or weekends at the lake, a budget fryer might be all you need. It won’t come with any extras, and you may have to eventually replace a lightweight pot that’s not as durable as more expensive ones, but you can start frying delicious food for very little money.

Best Cheap Outdoor Deep Fryer: Bass Pro 6.5 Quart Fish Fryer

Small enough to take to your campsite, this fryer is big enough to feed four or five hungry anglers at the end of a day’s fishing. Bass Pro Shops

Despite its low price tag, this outdoor deep fryer has useful features like a built-in thermometer and a rubber handle on the frying basket to keep it cool. A 58,000 BTU burner heats oil quickly. Made to use with a 20-gallon propane tank, this 8 1⁄2-pound unit is easy to pack along on any weekend adventure.

FAQs

Q: Can you use an electric fryer outside?

Yes, you can use an electric turkey fryer outdoors. Some people prefer to use electric fryers outdoors because they can be noisy and they do produce cooking odors. For safety reasons, though, you should only use an electric fryer if there is an outlet close by so you don’t have to use an extension cord, which increases the risk of fire. It’s safer, too, to shop for a model with a breakaway cord that pulls off of the cooker if you happen to trip on it.

Q: Can you deep fry in the rain?

Deep frying outdoors in rain or snow is risky because rain or snow falling into hot grease can create spatters or hot steam, either of which can cause severe burns. For the same reason, you should never put a frozen turkey in a fryer. Be sure it’s thawed and dry.  

It’s also unsafe to move a fryer into a garage or even under a carport or overhang, where a flare-up could start a house fire. Every year on Thanksgiving there are 900-1000 turkey fryer fires reported across the United States, and many of those wind up causing significant property damage. If you plan to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving, have the oven ready in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Q: What’s the best oil to deep fry a turkey in?

An oil with a high smoke point (the temperature at which oil starts to smoke and burn) like peanut oil, which has a smoke point of 450 degrees, works best in a turkey fryer. Most recipes call for frying a turkey at 350 degrees so that high smoke point provides plenty of room for error. Corn oil, although less flavorful than peanut oil, has a high smoke point and is safe for people with peanut allergies. Canola oil can work only if you watch the temperature, as it smokes at 400 degrees. Olive oil, with a 320-degree smoke point, makes a very poor choice.

Always think size when choosing an outdoor deep fryer

Choosing the best outdoor fryer for you always means thinking about what you’d like to cook, and how much of it. A fryer that’s too big for your needs will use too much oil, while one that’s too small only leaves you frustrated. A small deep fryer might be perfect for a small family that wants to enjoy fries with a meal, while a 30-quart turkey fryer will cook a Thanksgiving bird. 

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