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It was a good meal. You, your family, your guests, all were pleased. Deep fried food, after all, tends to be a coveted treat. That was then, however. In the now, you are facing a very greasy appliance, loaded with oil. It feels daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! Read on to find out, step by step, how the best way to clean a deep fryer.
The Best Way to Clean a Deep Fryer: How Often
This will depend on how often you use your appliance. If you cook in it every couple weeks or even more rarely, you should clean it after using it. If your use is more frequent, you can wait a few days in between. Here’s how to tell that it’s been too long:
- Grime encrusted on the inside of the fryer.
- When heating up oil, foam forms up at the top.
- Fryer begins to smoke as soon as you turn it on, i.e. way before it reaches optimal temperature.
Handling The Oil
Can I leave it in the fryer?
To be properly preserved, oil must be stored in a cool, dark place, in a container with a lid so no dust or particles will fall in it. Back in the day, this ruled out every fryer in existence as a storage option. Nowadays, some fryers come with airtight lids, and therefore can store oil with relative safety for later use. However, even if you have no plans to clean the fryer right away, you might still want to pour the oil out temporarily, so you can remove impurities by straining it. A bacon grease container, like this one, should prove a valuable aid: not only does it provide a fine mesh to filter out any particles, it also doubles up as a container, complete with lid to protect your oil from dust.
Worth remembering: no matter how well you treat your oil and how carefully you store it, its shelf life is not infinite, and there comes a time when you have to get rid of it. Any oil that is going to be reused for deep frying should be given a sniff: if it smells rancid, its time has come. Same if you notice that the oil is darker than it used to be, or if it starts smoking way before reaching optimal cooking temperature.
How to safely discard oil
First things first: pouring it down the drain (even diluted), big no-no. Grease of any sort is known to harden while going through the pipes, which will eventually lead to clogs. For this reason, most local governments strictly forbid dumping oil into the sewer system. Dumping it in your yard of compost may seem like a simple solution, but it No need to worry, however, for there are other options:
Municipal household waste programs: These facilities take your containers of used oil off your hands, for safe disposal. You might want to check with them for any rules and schedules, as their operating times may vary: while some of them are available year-round, some others are open for a short time at specific intervals (such as every few months). If your case turns out to be the latter, don’t worry: you can store your used cooking oil in a cool, dark place, or even refrigerate it, for up to 6 months.
Recycling centers: These facilities convert your used cooking oil into bio-fuel; while it is a fairly sound option in terms of environmental impact, it may or may not be present in your area. Should it be a suitable option for you, it is a good idea to check with them for any guidelines: some of them will only take specific kinds of cooking oil, for example; in certain cases, there might even be containers to receive your used oil, instead of it being taken in the facility itself.
Discard along with regular trash: If your local authorities allow, you can pour the oil into a container that will seal tight and which will not break, and place that container in your garbage bag. You can even return it to its original container for disposal, if you make a note of keeping in while the oil is being used. If no suitable container is available, you can pour it into a temporary receptacle and put it in the freezer for a few hours. A last resort can be carefully pouring the oil into a bag that already has trash in it, preferably absorbent stuff such as paper towels or bathroom tissue; this should help avoid messes. If you choose this route, remember to tie the bag tightly so there won’t be any spilling.
The Cleaning Process
The best way to clean a deep fryer is also the best way to make it last longer! Follow these steps in order to do it properly the first time. First, what you need:
- Paper towels; the Plenty brand has been said to be adequate for this job.
- Spider strainer. You can get them in a variety of sizes, such as this set.
- Container for the oil; either the bacon grease container if you’re keeping it, or a throwaway receptacle if you intend to discard it.
- Pan scraper; plastic is safer. This one should do the job quite nicely.
- Liquid dish soap, such as Dawn.
- General purpose scrubbing brush.
- Scouring pad. This will vary depending on your fryer: if teflon coated, plastic scrubbers are best; if it is a metal fryer, soap filled steel wool pads will do the trick.
And now, we go over the steps. Here’s the path to a spotless fryer:
1. Unplug your deep fryer; wait until it’s cooled off.
2. Wrap any cables nearby with paper towels; this will protect them from accidental spills as you work.
3. Using the spider strainer, scoop up any large bits of debris present in the oil.
4. Pour the oil out appropriately, depending on your intentions for it.
5. Take the frying basket out, and let it soak in warm soapy water.
6. Scrub away any buildup from the inside of the fryer with the scraper; use the paper towels to wipe off the debris and leftover oil, inside and out, heating element included.
7. Fill the fryer up with water, up to the maximum level indicated for oil; using a pitcher is preferable, so the appliance is at no risk of exposure to a damp sink. Add a few drops of dish soap, and stir a little to mix it in.
8. Plug the fryer in and turn it on. When the water is brought to a boil, give it a few minutes before shutting it down. It is important to not leave the fryer unsupervised during this step. Unplug the unit after turning it off.
9. Wait until the appliance and the water have cooled off completely, which should take about 30 minutes. You can use this time to scrub the frying basket using the brush; any remaining oil and grime should have been loosened by the soapy water, making it much easier for you. Rinse thoroughly with warm water, and pat it down with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Let it dry on a dish rack or kitchen towel.
This is also a good time to take care of the filters. First, check with the manufacturer (if you haven’t done so before) whether the filters are removable and, if so, whether you can clean them. In general, when made of foam, filters can be washed using hot soapy water, and then left to dry. If they are charcoal filters, all you can do is replace them.
10. If the filters are removable, the lid should be good for a thorough washing; otherwise, wipe it with a damp cloth and a bit of dish soap, then use another damp cloth to wipe off the oil and water.
11. Once the fryer and the water within are back to normal temperature, dump out the water and use paper towels to dry the appliance.
12. It’s time to clean the main unit. If your fryer is coated with Teflon, prepare a bowl of warm water with dish soap, and use it to clean the fryer with the plastic scrubber. If it’s made of stainless steel, use the steel wool pads with soap. Rinse thoroughly.
13. Remove excess moisture with paper towels, and let it sit for a while so it will dry out completely before next use.
Next, we present you with a solution in case your appliance is left with an oil film (often a sticky residue) even after cleaning, or if there is buildup or grime that just won’t come off.
Best Ally Against Stubborn Grease:
Its popularity has remained steady for some time, and not without reason: its formula is phosphate-free, biodegradable, has no odor and does not cause irritation on the skin. This makes it safe for use on any surface: grills, cookware, dishes, broilers, tools, even laundry! Nevertheless, it is no softy: it will cut through just about any greasy mess with ease. Sold in a 32oz bottle, it can be purchased individually, in pairs or even in a 4-pack. Use it at full power for tough jobs, or dilute it for lighter cleaning.
The Best Way to Clean a Deep Fryer: Maintenance
- Frequency is key: a fryer that is cleaned often enough is a fryer that will be cleaned easy enough.
- Wipe off any spill on the sides of the fryer as soon as it occurs; it might be a good idea to keep a reserve of paper towels close by for this purpose.
- Dry your food with paper towels before putting it in the fryer: oil and water are a risky combination.
- Any salt should be added after your food has gone through the deep fryer, not before, as adding it to the oil could cause it to degrade faster.
Now you know the best way to clean a deep fryer. Happy feasting!