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


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.

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.

Delicious Recipes for Fried Food

Get Inspired and Deep-Fry a Turkey!


Jade on September 23, 2019:

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.

D. on June 17, 2019:

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.

Dawn M on February 11, 2018:

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

Q on December 07, 2017:

The popcorn kernel tip was AMAZING! Thank you!

Lena Durante from San Francisco Bay Area on May 04, 2017:

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.

Shawn on March 29, 2017:

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

EG on August 09, 2013:

Great info. Thanks

GG on December 11, 2012:

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!

Gxhhdbhcvb on July 05, 2012:

Great tip

Deep fry chic on May 16, 2012:

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

keep up the great work

JP on January 08, 2012:

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!

Joy on November 04, 2011:

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!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on September 28, 2011:

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

John D Lee (author) on January 05, 2010:

Good luck with the wings Angie!

Angie on January 03, 2010:

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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