Who needs BK, KFC and their greasy, fishy cousin Long John Silver when you can use a home deep fryer to cook up food in oil that hasn’t been festering for days on end. The Aroma Smart Fry XL Digital Dual-Basket Deep Fryer is an inexpensive, medium-sized fryer that fits the bill for most of the common foods you’d want to crisp to a golden brown. Sorry Thanksgiving freaks, there’s no way to jam a turkey into this thing unless it’s been through an industrial shredding machine first.
The fryer is small enough — 14 x 11 x 17 inches — that you can easily move it around and set it up on the kitchen counter, or better yet out on the patio. It has charcoal filters to reduce odors, but let’s be real, there’s no hiding the smell after a big deep-fry session.
The fryer can cook up to 4 pounds at once, and holds between 14 and 20 cups of oil. You might be thinking that sounds like a lot of hot oil. Indeed. So to save you from yourself, the fryer uses a short cord with a magnetic plug into the fryer, which will break away if you accidentally snag the cord. Another safety feature is a sensor that shuts down the device if it overheats.
A control panel with digital display shows the time and temperature, and has an increase/decrease Time/Temp button, a heat indicator light and a power indicator light. There are 10 pre-programmed settings for staples such as french fries, chicken wings and cheese stick. Mmmm, cheese sticks.
The frying temperatures vary, depending on what you’re cooking, and whether it’s frozen or fresh. The instruction manual lists fry times for a variety of foods: Chicken drumsticks take about 8 minutes, french fries and fish filets take about 5 minutes and fresh veggies only 1 to 2 minutes. Small hooks on the baskets let you hang them on the side of the unit after cooking to drain excess oil.
Getting the fryer preheated to 375 degrees takes about 10 minutes, and it beeps when it’s ready to go. The display shows the temperature after you put the food in — it drops for a minute, and then will come back up to your target temp.
One of the nice design features is that you can either use a single big basket, or two smaller baskets. So let’s say you’ve got a big 3-pound walleye, like I did. It fit snugly into the big basket, and I cooked it up whole in about 8 minutes. I also had some smaller game ready to fry — portabella mushrooms, pickles, feta-stuffed olives, sweet onions, anchovies, mozzarella balls, a grab bag of Halloween candy — and used the two smaller baskets to whip all those out in a matter of minutes.
Since the main container is only about half full of oil, the splattering is not bad at all, and standing right next to the fryer, I was able to keep my clothes oil-free, even with the lid off (probably a no-no).
Closing tip: If you happen to be cooking something like a salmon, be sure to put it in the fryer after you’ve cooked the veggies and candy bars. Not that fish-flavored Milk Duds are all that bad.