Community

What's the Best Oil for Frying?

The Food52 community weighs in.

December 21, 2021
Photo by Alpha Smoot

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline—it's hard to choose a favorite. Here, we bring you a heated debate on the best frying oil, plus a community-approved winner. 

Frying is a delicate task. But it also produces some of our favorite foods like fried dough, french fries, pizza fritte, arancini, and fried chicken cutlets. You don’t actually need to own a deep-fryer in order to successfully fry; a heavy-bottomed bottom like a Dutch oven will do the trick, plus a spider or small metal mesh strainer for carefully removing the fried goods, and oil. When you finally find the courage to plunge your food into hot oil, you only get one shot, and have to watch it like a hawk. We want to equip ourselves with the best frying medium to ensure food comes out as delicately crunchy and not as blackened crisps.

That being said, there is a significant amount of debate over which frying oil is the best: grapeseed, peanut, or canola. And what about the usual suspects of good ol' olive oil or butter if you are shallow frying something, such as breaded pork? 

The Best Oil for Frying

The main characteristic an oil must possess to achieve a successful fry is a high smoke point. Any neutral-tasting oil such as canola oil, sunflower oil, or grapeseed oil will have a high smoke point (this means that these types of oil can be heated at very high temperatures without smoking). Other types of oils such as avocado oil have a medium smoke point, which doesn’t make them ideal for deep-frying. Stay away from extra-virgin olive oil altogether; it has a smoke point of about 350℉—while it’s great for sautéeing and pan-searing, it is not the best oil for deep-frying, Plus, it’s the most expensive option, and would require a *lot* of oil to deep-fry fried dough. 

Shop the Story

“The amount of food you add into a pot of oil will affect its temperature. The more, bigger, colder, and denser the food you add, the farther its temperature will drop,” writes Samin Nosrat in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking. “If the oil takes too long to climb back to 365℉, the food will overcook before it has a chance to brown properly.”

Bear in mind the more you use a frying oil, the lower the smoking point becomes. I’m sure you’ve fried latkes or coconut shrimp before and notices that by the third or fourth batch, the oil has gotten extremely hot, darkened in color, and is contaminated with leftover crispy bits of panko breadcrumbs or potato shreds. This means that the next time you add any food to the pan, it will likely be over-brown and taste slightly bitter.

Shallow-Fry vs. Deep-Frying

Any delicate foods like fritters and patties are likely to call for shallow frying, whereas fried dough and mozzarella sticks are always deep-fried, and a recipe for chicken cutlets could go either way. So what’s the difference between shallow frying and deep-frying? “Choose to shallow-fry delicate foods that could be broken apart by the bubbling tumult of deep-frying, such as crab or fish cakes, little chard fritters, or breaded green tomatoes. Deep-frying is a better choice for chips of all kinds, battered foods, and more substantial foods that need total immersion to cook evenly, such as soft-shell crabs,” writes Nosrat.

What Our Community Says

We've talked about deep frying without fear, and conducted an pretty exhaustive review of oils, but one night this week Food52 community member fhb was in a bind and needed help choosing the best oil to fry cutlets.

  • Common consensus landed on peanut oil due to its neutral taste and high smoking point, which is up toward the top, at 400°F.
  • Pierino voted for grapeseed and canola—not without a challenge by ChefOno, who noted that grapeseed oil possesses potentially unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids, and that canola oil stinks like an old fish when heated (Ew!).
  • Kristen W. threw a curveball and suggested rice bran oil, which is extracted from the outer brown layer of rice and has a very high smoke point of 450°F.
  • For those of you still overwhelmed by the oil debate, Greenstuff contributed a helpful oil comparison chart with more oils than you ever knew existed. 

As for olive oil or butter, well, both have excellent flavor but a pretty low smoke point, which rules them out as candidates for deep-frying. Olive oil tends to work best for dressings, drizzling over finished dishes, or low-heat cooking. Butter, on the other hand, is great for baking, low-heat stovetop cooking, and spreading over warm muffins, toast, and the like; you can also mix it with other oils to somewhat side-step its low smoke point. 

Once you pick your go-to frying oil, it's time to start cooking—here are some of our favorite crispy, crunchy fried recipes. And in case you were wondering, fhb reported back, and peanut oil was clearly the best oil for frying (even after testing against butter).

A Few of Our Favorite Fried Recipes

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

The crust on this dreamy, juicy fried chicken is everything you could hope for: perfectly thick, satisfyingly crisp, and perfectly seasoned.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Chicken-Fried Steak Katsu With Milk Gravy

This chicken-fried steak is pretty close to the classic, save for a few tasty riffs, like swapping in panko breading (over flour and eggs) for a quicker, easier fry. 

Chicken Fried Steak Katsu

Wonder Fries

These gently smashed, fried potatoes smothered in miso mayo and bright green onions are just as wonderful as the name implies, and then some.

Wonder Fries

Struffoli (Italian Honey Ball Cookies)

Sticky-sweet deep-fried cookies are a staple in Italian-American households around Christmastime. “When placed into a saucepan filled with hot oil, the citrusy dough puffs up into rustic golden balls that have crunchy exteriors but warm, soft interiors. Once fried, the small, bite-sized cookies are drenched in a sweet honey glaze and decorated with colorful sprinkles or nonpareils,” writes recipe developer Angela Brown.

Italian Honey Ball Cookies

Arancini Recipe

If arancini balls are on a menu, you can count on staff writer Kelly Vaughan to ask for at least two orders. Tucked in a crispy shell of panko breadcrumbs is a creamy, cheesy ball of risotto. 

Arancini Recipes

Fried Burrata With Garlicky Tomato Sauce

Everyone, and we mean everyone, loves burrata. The key to preventing the creamy center from spilling out is freezing the breaded burrata before deep-frying it. 

Fried Burrata

What is your preferred frying oil? Tell us in the comments! 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Liz Summers
    Liz Summers
  • Lyle D. Gunderson
    Lyle D. Gunderson
  • Nancy Harmon Jenkins
    Nancy Harmon Jenkins
  • Ramona N, Cunningham
    Ramona N, Cunningham
  • Sal
    Sal
Lactose intolerant cheese lover, who will walk blocks for a good cup of coffee. Recently escaped the corporate world, after discovering her favorite part of the job was ordering catering.

74 Comments

Liz S. December 22, 2021
Another old article revived ... BUT, when I started occasionally making doughnuts a couple of years ago, I did some reading and decided on Rice Bran Oil. I find it has little odor, seems less "heavy" ... it is an oil used for tempura ... and neutral flavor. I use it for shallow frying as well as deep. The downside [for me] is it is only available in the grocery in smallish bottles so I buy from Amazon. So far it has been packed well, but I'm always a bit leery because of potential mess from breakage. I like https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01HHXJ8I2/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&th=1 which is currently showing unavailable :(
 
Lyle D. December 27, 2019
Peanut oil is my choice! Nice combination of realistic availability/price and heat stability. When I worked in the aerospace industry, I used to solder under peanut oil. Amazing stuff! Most "vegetable oil" seems to be soybean oil, and smells like it has already been used for frying fish.
 
Nancy H. November 14, 2019
I'm not sure where you got the information that olive oil has "a pretty low smoke point" but it is not correct. Extra-virgin olive oil's smoke point is around 410º, which puts it up above peanut oil, also mentioned in the article. And America's Bible, The Joy of Cooking, recommends frying at between 350 and 360º, a long way from 410. Moreover, extra-virgin olive oil, because of its high content of polyphenols, is a very stable oil for frying. I have fought this myth about no cooking, no frying, etc., with extra-virgin for years, even as, like most Mediterranean cooks and chefs, I've happily continued with the practice--with no perceivable damage to my food, my body, or even to my soul.
 
Ramona N. January 26, 2018
Where is the chart? I received a 404 error. Bigralphsmith, I think all the air fryer comments are more about how everything everywhere you go is a commercial or someone trying to sell you something you DON'T need. Food 52 needs to do a better job of monitoring.
 
Sal December 4, 2017
MODERATOR: please remove any "air fryer" comments! They make this post and the comments it asked for useless :( I know it's an oldie, but it scores high in Google organic results.

Also: tl;dr seems to be peanut oil, but rice bran oil is awesome too if you can get it.
 
Eric November 17, 2017
I love it when you go to a site looking for information regarding "which oil is best for frying" and a bunch of self-centered people responding about air fryer's.
 
bigralphsmith August 18, 2016
This comment section is a reflection of how blatantly self centered we are. This article is about which oils are best to fry with and it asked people to leave comments on what oils they thought were best for frying.
So, what's everyone commenting on?
"Ooh, ooh! Get an air fryer!" or "I'm trying to cut down on oils and etc..."
LOL!
This is how disconnected we are. "Screw what oil is best for frying! I couldn't care less about actually answering the question posed to us in this article! I'm going to talk about whatever I want."
OK, you do that.
Meanwhile, I'm actually going to answer the question.
I've tried peanut, coconut, grapeseed, canola, and vegetable shortening. Of all those oils, peanut is clearly the best choice. It lasts longer in the deep fryer, does not degrade nearly as fast as any of the others I've tried, doesn't turn "fishy", it has never smoked on me even when it's old, and, even though it's more expensive, it actually lasts long enough to make it the cheapest option. And, while it might not be the "healthiest" option (we are talking about frying here, remember?), it is one of the healthier options when all oils are taken in to consideration.
If it's only about flavor, depends on what you are cooking. For instance, southern fried chicken is best in fresh vegetable shortening, potatoes and un-battered meats are best in peanut (peanut is the only way to do meat fondues), fried pasta is great out of fresh canola.
 
Denise W. October 25, 2016
Thank goodness for your comment. Thanks. Peanut oil it is.
 
Nicole H. December 30, 2016
You are my hero
 
Gramps June 15, 2017
Thank you! I'm trying to fry chicken for the first time, deep fry as Chef Jon said in his video. Sadly, I filled my pot with 3 qts of Crisco Vegetable oil before I saw your post about "chicken is best in fresh vegetable shortening" though my sister-in-law told me that's what she uses. I'm 73, she's slightly older. I considered peanut so now I know what to do.
 
Jerry T. March 16, 2016
i have tried adding a beef flavor to sea salt and using it on fries it tasted very good /i used a stock paste and sea salt drying it in the microwave ps at one time some years ago mc Donald's used real beef flavor on there fries but have stop
 
jere March 15, 2016
Now mcd said the process their fries with beef additive prior to frying. Would adding beef flavored ramen seasoning to neutral flavored peanut oil work? would adding bacon fat to frying oil rev up the taste imposed on the food? let us consider...
 
Américo A. April 15, 2015
Óleo de coco, o melhor
 
Ruth April 12, 2015
While many omega fat oils are incredibly healthy when consumed raw, the fragile bonds in these fats break down when exposed to heat, regardless of their smoke point. These oils might taste great in cooking and not burn, but from a health perspective, the best oils for heat exposure are saturated fat-based such as butter, ghee (organic best) and coconut oil (and taste great too!).
 
billifland April 2, 2015
Definitely peanut oil for deep frying. Half butter & half peanut oil for shallow fry, EG: salmon/rissoles ETC
 
Vivienne B. April 2, 2015
Rice Bran Oil! Very light, with a high smoke point.
 
jb March 31, 2015
I would not use Olive Oil for high heat cooking. It degrades.
 
jb March 31, 2015
Yes, grassfed, pastured lard, especially from leaf fat is great!
 
Brent J. March 31, 2015
I've read the secret to the best frying is using lard or adding lard to your oil of choice.
 
kay March 23, 2015
I, carefully, use olive oil for some things...and when frying corn tortillas...corn oil is the best !
 
jb March 16, 2015
Cast iron is a time honored material for cooking. Stainless is wonderful. Newer pans are unproven. Remember Teflon?
Use good oils/fats that do not degrade, cook at a lower temp.
We need good oils & fats in our diet. If you want to cook oil less, steam, poach, braise.
 
uni February 21, 2015
I have never stopped using pure organic butter. Lo and behold! Butter has been redeemed. I agree with a previous commentor that one should never use extra virgin olive oil for cooking. Heat destroys its fragrance and it's way too viscous. I find it puzzling when celebrity chefs who should know better use extra virgin for sautéing. I do take issue with a comment that peanut oil is neutral in flavor. It has plenty of fragrance and I can always tell when it has been used. I don't often deep fry but when I do, peanut oil it my go-to choice.
 
Robert February 17, 2015
Depends on the food you are frying. Deep fat frying I prefer Peanut Oil that has a relatively high smoke point. Sauteing foods, I have used Olive Oil or Sunflower Oil. Since I have learned all the health concerns on Canola Oil (Rapeseed) I have thrown out all I had.