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I often cook fries in a skillet. I put about 1/4 cup vegetable oil into a large skillet and heat on high, then I toss in some frozen fries.

As soon as I toss them in there is an explosion of grease that makes a huge mess. After it simmers down though, I can cook the fries without spilling anymore grease.

Is there anyway to avoid the initial uproar?

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Unfortunately, to get a good high temperature cooking and the browning that adds flavor, the splatter is unavoidable. Good suggestion below with the screen, and there are many varieties. Just accept it and enjoy the nicely browned food. –  Eric Jan 3 '11 at 19:24
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6 Answers 6

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Use a deeper dish. Fries shouldn't be fried in a skillet. Use a 4+ quart pan. Then cover with a metal screen to reduce the splatter.

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It's a rather unavoidable part of cooking things like bacon or sausage. I would advise against a lid, and instead use a splatter screen.

splatter screen

The lid will keep the spatter in, but it will also change the cooking time and even method of your food. Putting the lid on can effectively begin steaming your sausage, which may not be desired. The splatter screen will let steam escape but catch the little grease pops which are unavoidable.

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Put a lid on your pan. It's physics really. The downside is that you will end up with a lid that needs washing.

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-1 because covering will change the heat profile of the pan, make the whole area hotter, promote steaming. All things that will change the way you are cooking. A splatter screen won't do that. –  yossarian Jan 3 '11 at 19:23
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No worries. I cook sausages on a low heat in a cast iron pan with a lid all the time. I like 'em that way. Judging by the down votes, I'm the only one who does. Have a nice day. –  grenade Jan 3 '11 at 19:31
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Frozen fries often have a lot of water at the surface too, which is why restaurants that serve fries from frozen often let them sit out for 10-20 minutes before dropping them in the fryer. This does two things:

  • Lets the surface ice melt and evaporate
  • Brings their temperature up
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That's a great point for previously frozen ... do they do it in the package, or spread them out to improve air circulation and evaporation? –  Joe Nov 5 '10 at 17:06
    
They usually do it in the fry baskets (open air). The fries would get soggy in the bag (I assume). –  Bruce Alderson Nov 5 '10 at 23:38
    
For fresh potatoes, patting them dry helps a lot too. I often let mine sit out while I make the rest of the meal, tossing them and patting them down until they're really dry on the surface. –  Bruce Alderson Nov 5 '10 at 23:39
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Other considerations:

1) You can buy a splatter shield - it's a very fine wire mesh on a long handle. It works very well.

2) One of the things that can cause splatter is when water or ice hits the oil -- make sure your fries are as dry as possible before putting them in.

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Ahh ha, do I feel dumb. I just looked up "splatter shield" and I have seen those before many times but I always thought they were drainers. I wondered how they worked being flat. –  JD Isaacks Nov 4 '10 at 20:15
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There are also silicone splatter shields, which tend to be a little more reliable and easier to clean than wire ones (YMMV of course). –  Aaronut Nov 4 '10 at 20:16
    
We fry so rarely that the wire one works just fine. I've had the same one for about 10 years. When it dies, I'll probably replace with silicone. –  Martha F. Nov 5 '10 at 19:34
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You shouldn't be 'tossing' the fries into the pan. Put them in slowly, using a tray or slotted spoon. Make sure to have the container no more than halfway full of oil. I learned this the hard way working in a cafeteria, the results can be messy and painful :(

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Agreed -- slowly lowering them in will mean if there's any surface water left, it's only going a short distance up through the oil, rather than from deep in the bottom of the pot ... which lead to the grease fire, destroying the stove, etc. –  Joe Nov 5 '10 at 17:05
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