3 Ways to Check Deep-Fry Oil Temp Without a Thermometer

Updated on March 3, 2020
John D Lee profile image

John D Lee is a chef and restauranteur living and working in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He's always loved to cook.

If you don't have an oil thermometer, be sure to use one of these simple methods to check the oil temperature before you fry.
If you don't have an oil thermometer, be sure to use one of these simple methods to check the oil temperature before you fry. | Source

Have you ever used a recipe that called for oil to be heated to 350°F or 370°F and wondered how, short of using a deep-frying thermometer, to know when the oil is hot enough for frying?

Well, I certainly have.

Deep-frying is normally done at between 360°F and 375°F. Here are three ways to test frying oil temperature to see if it’s ready without using an oil-safe thermometer. These methods are designed to indicate when the oil reaches this temperature range.

Method One: Wood

Use the Handle of a Wooden Spoon or a Wooden Chopstick
When the oil has preheated, dip the handle of a wooden spoon or a chopstick into the oil. If the oil starts steadily bubbling, then the oil is hot enough for frying. If the oil bubbles very very vigorously, then the oil is too hot and needs to cool off a touch. If no or very few bubbles pop up, then it’s not hot enough.

Method Two: Bread

The Old "Joy of Cooking" Method
Drop a 1-inch square of bread into the oil. If it takes 60 seconds to brown, then the oil is at 365°F.

Method Three: Popcorn

The "Cooks Illustrated" Method
Drop a single kernel of popcorn into the oil as it is heating. The kernel will pop as the oil reaches between 350°F and 360°F. (Remove the kernel, eat it, and start frying!)

Tip: Don't Overcrowd Frying Food!

No matter what temperature you start at, remember that overcrowding the pan will result in a dramatic temperature drop and oily food. Don’t spend a lot of effort ensuring the correct temperature only to waste your effort by dumping in a mountain of frozen French fries, for example! Fry in small batches for the best results.

Get Inspired and Deep-Fry a Turkey!


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    • profile image


      9 months ago

      Thank you so much for this! I decided to make orange chicken one night this week but don't have a thermometer as I never fry food.

    • profile image


      13 months ago

      So browned at 30s is to hot right. Using electric stove. So I turned it down some. Cooking Chicken legs. have meat/oven thermo but it doesn't work for this.

    • dalady profile image

      Dawn M 

      2 years ago

      Nice, I like the popcorn kernel idea. I hadn't heard of that method before.

    • profile image

      2 years ago

      The popcorn kernel tip was AMAZING! Thank you!

    • Spanish Food profile image

      Lena Durante 

      3 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      I never use a thermometer to check my oil. My mother didn't even own a thermometer; we always used the bread method. I've heard of the popcorn trick, too, but haven't used it personally.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Wouldn't the popcorn popping create a potentially dangerous splash? When it, you know, pops?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great info. Thanks

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wish I had read this before I made my fried chicken today, but I -am- getting better at this method of cooking, thanks for your help!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great tip

    • profile image

      Deep fry chic 

      8 years ago

      LOVED THIS ARTICLE!!! so helpful! thank you :)

      keep up the great work

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you so much! I used a combination of the three to make sure it was just high enough without being too high, and my chicken tenders came out great. Very useful post!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      SOOOO happy you posted these three tips. That exact situation happened to me where the recipe called for oil to be heated to 350 for frying and I was, of course, without a deep frying thermometer. The popcorn kernel test was the best {and funniest} method. Thanks!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Good ideas. I've deep fried turkey before, and it's wonderful!

    • John D Lee profile imageAUTHOR

      John D Lee 

      10 years ago

      Good luck with the wings Angie!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I'm impressed...these guys are really organized: Time preparation, all the supplies handy & each person has a place. Fantastic. I am inspired. I'll add some hot wings to the menu :)


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