How to Tell if Your Cooking Oil is Hot Enough

Deep frying of elder blossoms
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No matter what kind of cuisine we make, most of us, at one point or another, will be frying food. It doesn't matter what food it is, it all starts out the same way - with a pan of hot oil. It's easy enough to pour oil into a pan, but how do you know when the oil is hot enough? Not everyone has access to a kitchen thermometer, or one that will read that high of a temperature.

Ideally, the oil temperature for frying should be between 350-365 degrees.

So, without a thermometer, how do you know when your oil is ready to go? There are several different methods I've seen and read. Some suggest dropping a kernel of popcorn into the oil, others suggest tossing a few drops of water into it. The easiest and safest, method I have found is to stick the end of a wooden spoon into the oil. If you see bubbles form around the wood and they start to float up, your oil is hot enough to cook with.

While a drop or two of water will work, a wooden utensil really is safest. I can never stress enough that water and hot oil do not mix.