The Wooden Spoon Hack To Check Hot Oil Without A Thermometer

To many of us, deep-fried food is the epitome of deliciousness. From hot fries to crunchy fried chicken, there's something wonderful about that crisp golden exterior, but achieving it at home can be easier said than done. When it comes to knowing how to deep-fry safely in your own kitchen, the key to perfect results is the temperature of the oil. If it's not hot enough, the food absorb will absorb too much oil before it crisps up and cooks through, developing an unpleasant greasy or soggy texture, and if your oil is too hot, everything will burn.

The ideal starting temperature for frying oil is 325 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature will drop as soon as you add the food, so the oil should be slightly hotter than you want it to be when you start frying. The most accurate way to measure the temperature is with a thermometer, which gives a precise reading of exactly how hot the oil is. But if you don't have one on hand, there's another common kitchen utensil that will also do a good job: a wooden spoon.

This handy hack involves dipping the handle of a wooden spoon, or even a wooden chopstick, into the hot oil. At the right temperature, you'll notice that small bubbles will start to form around the handle or chopstick, which is a sure sign you're ready to start sizzling your chicken, potatoes, fish, or whatever food you fancy frying.

What a spoon handle or chopstick can tell you about your oil

The wooden spoon hack can not only tell you when your oil is hot enough, but also when it's too cool or too hot. As stated previously, lots of little bubbles gathering around the spoon handle indicates the correct temperature. The small bubbles will rise upwards, which means you can start to fry. However, if the oil is not hot enough, it will not bubble around the spoon handle or chopstick, or the bubbles will be big and slow. Heat up your oil for a short while longer before testing it again. 

Meanwhile, if the oil is too hot, it will bubble vigorously around the handle and may even spit, so if you suspect your oil has been heating for too long, proceed with caution and let the spoon cool a bit before testing it again. 

A key advantage to the wooden spoon hack, beyond being incredibly quick and simple, is that it makes it easy to check the temperature if you only have a little oil in your pan. It can be tricky to measure the temperature of a small amount of oil with a thermometer, so you can use the wooden spoon trick instead when shallow-frying.

Other hacks to check if cooking oil is hot enough

If you want to make doubly sure that your oil is the right temperature for french fries, donuts, or homemade hot fried chicken salad, there are a few other temperature-taking hacks you can try. They all revolve around dropping something small into the oil and watching how it reacts in order to gauge the oil's temperature.

If you have loose, unpopped popcorn on hand, a single kernel can help you test your frying oil. Drop it into the hot oil, and if it pops, it means you're in the right temperature range of around 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. No popcorn on hand? Drop in a single cube of bread, roughly an inch or so in size. If the bread turns golden brown in 50 seconds to a minute, it means the oil has reached 350 to 365 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature that many recipes call for. 

One technique you'll want to avoid is adding drops of water to the hot oil to check the temperature. Hot oil and water should not be mixed, and can result in furious popping that will injure you if you get splashed. Also note that for the spoon hack, you must use a wooden spoon and not a metal or plastic one, which can also cause a violent reaction. And of course, make sure your wooden spoon is dry, not wet.