How To Clean A Deep Fryer Without Damaging It

Although it's often seen as a treat, deep frying delivers unparalleled results, from the crispiest French fries to delicate balls of fried sweet dough for the Neapolitan holiday dessert, struffoli. A deep fryer is indispensable, storing unused oil and preventing painful splatters, but over time, grease builds up, creating a sticky film that smells unpleasant and can affect the flavor of your food.

While it doesn't need to be cleaned every time you use it, home cooks who deep fry once a week should carve out an hour a few times a year for deep cleaning. Since it's an electrical appliance, it's important to unplug it before cleaning and avoid placing the entire unit in the sink. The electrical components should not get wet. 

If the appliance has oil inside, properly drain it first — although that doesn't mean you necessarily have to discard the oil. Frying oil can be used multiple times as long as it's clean and clear. If it's cloudy or smells bad, dispose of it in the trash. Don't pour it down the drain! The oil can solidify and cause plumbing problems, clogging or damaging your drain.

If you plan on reusing the oil once the fryer is clean, strain any solids before temporarily storing it in a plastic container. The fry basket can be washed in the sink using soap and hot water. A stiff brush is helpful to dislodge food stuck in the basket, and it can even soak while you tackle the inside.

How to clean your deep fryer: Boil it out

Without the oil or basket in the way, clean the inside using a soapy rag or paper towel to remove loose debris along the sides and bottom of the deep fryer. Then, fill the deep fryer to the 'max oil line' with water using a pitcher or measuring cup, adding a few squirts of dish soap and a glug of white vinegar. You'll need to "boil out" the deep fryer to remove caked-on residue, essentially cooking soap and water to break down the stubborn grease. There are commercial products on the market, but pantry items should do the trick for non-commercial deep fryers.

Plug in the appliance and allow it to boil for 5-10 minutes, breaking down the layers of grease. Unlike oil, water evaporates quickly, so keep an eye on it, ensuring there's water inside while it's plugged in. Unplug the fryer when it's done and allow the water to cool before draining it down the sink. Use a clean cloth to wipe the inside, ensuring no soapy residue is left. 

If that wasn't enough, make a paste using baking soda and water — and scrub stubborn spots. Be gentle if the surface is non-stick. The exterior and cord may also be greasy, so don't forget to wipe them with soapy water or a mixture of white vinegar and water, which is an all-around effective cleaner. Allow the parts to dry completely before refilling with clean oil or replacing the lid.