How to Deep Fry Without a Thermometer, and Serve a Perfect Meal

Last Updated on August 14, 2021


Annabelle Watson

Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.

How to Deep Fry Without a Thermometer, and Serve a Perfect Meal

There are definite dos and don’ts to creating a meal your friends and family will love when it comes to deep frying. There are also plenty of tasty-sounding recipes requiring the technique as the only way to receive the best results. While frying often gets a bad rap, your food will come out crisp and light, not bogged down in grease with an unappetizing soggy texture if done correctly.

The key to deep frying is to gauge your oil’s temperature and know when to add your food. Most recipes will provide guidelines on the right temperature to fry your food and may give a range anywhere between 350° to 380°F

If you add your food when the oil is cooler than needed, you can expect a soggy outcome. If it’s too hot, you’ll crisp your food too much, creating a cooked outer layer and raw interior in some instances. What you need then is a thermometer you can count on. Unfortunately, not everyone has one of these handy cooking tools.

So, how to deep fry without a thermometer and still serve a perfect meal is a common question. Here are ways to go about your deep fry without one and still come out with a savory meal.

1. Dip a Wooden Utensil in the Oil

cooking oil

The first step in how to deep fry without a thermometer is to be observant. 

Once you see the surface of the oil developing a faint shimmer and a slow roll, it’s time to test it. One popular method to do this is by inserting a wooden utensil, such as a chopstick or wooden spoon handle, gently into the oil.  

stream of bubbles will gather around the wooden implement if the oil is hot enough to start frying. If not, wait a few more seconds to a minute more, and test again. 

If the bubbles are rather wild, even popping out of your pan onto the stovetop, grill grates, or the ground if you’re using an outdoor fryer, the oil is too hot, so avoid adding food right away. Instead, take the pan off the burner or grill grate for a few seconds to allow it to cool slightly.

2. Go for the Popcorn Effect


Although cooking time varies depending on who you ask, it is often agreed that a kernel of popcorn pops at temperatures ranging between 350° and 370° F. This makes popcorn a potential gauge for measuring the temperature of your frying oil.

One suggestion is to drop in up to four kernels at a time, as some of them may not pop at all. Also, be careful that you are protected from any splashing oil that may come with it when the kernels pop.

3. Test with Bread Cubes

Another way to test if the oil is hot enough is by using a 1” cube of bread. This can be fresh or stale bread, and you should see bubbles immediately form around it. However, the time it takes to brown will differ as follows:

Fresh bread cube with more moisture content:

If it takes 45-60 seconds to brown, the temperature is approximately 350° to 365° F
If it takes 30-45 seconds to brown, the temperature is likely higher at  375° to 380°F

Stale bread cube with lower moisture content:

If it takes 22-30 seconds to brown, the temperature is approximately 350° to 360° F
If it takes 15-22 seconds to brown, the temperature is approximately 375° to 380°

The first clue is the bubbling when you initially add your bread cube. If it doesn’t immediately start forming bubbles around the bread, your oil isn’t hot enough yet. 

Once the oil is at an approximate temperature called for in your recipe or general guidelines, add your food and monitor. Only leave it in the oil for the time specified. You can also remove a piece at different intervals and slice open to determine the level of doneness.

4. Additional Tips for Deep Frying

While becoming familiar with the ideal temperatures for deep frying and knowing exactly when to add your food, there are other essential tips you need to know to ensure the best meal possible.

Don’t overcrowd the pan or fryer. Too many food items added at once results in a temperature drop, which leaves your food soggy and oily. Instead, break it down into smaller batches to ensure perfectly fried food.
Thaw your food first. Avoid adding frozen food to the hot oil as it will not only splash out but also rapidly decrease the temperature of the oil and lead to soggy food.
Insert dried-off food only. If you rinse your food or it sits for a while to de-thaw, be sure to dry it off as much as possible. Wet food causes the hot oil to separate and splatter, popping out and possibly causing burn injuries for anyone nearby.
Use a high-top pot. If not using an outdoor fryer but placing a frying pan or pot on the stovetop or your grill, consider using a narrow, high-top one. Less oil will be exposed to air, resulting in longer use. You also lower the risk of hot oil popping out and burning you.
Remove excess oil from food. Once you determine your food is done, place it on brown paper to remove as much excess oil as possible. Avoid using cloth towels for this as steam is captured within the material and can cause your food to become soggy.

5. What to Deep Fry?

Today there are numerous recipes for a variety of meats, seafood, and even vegetables to deep fry whenever you have the chance. However, a few of the most popular items include:

  • Whole turkey or a turkey breast
  • Chicken breasts, wings, thighs, or legs
  • Soft crabs
  • Breaded shrimp
  • French fries or onion rings
  • Tempora or tofu
  • Plantains

Annabelle Watson

Key Takeaway

This deep frying guide helps you change your perspective. You’re not limited to using a thermometer to gauge the temperature of the oil. Use these methods and monitor your cooker for the best results, and soon you’ll have a perfect light and crispy meal to serve family and friends.

Read More: Turkey fryers reviews.