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I recently tried deep frying some chicken and it went horribly wrong. The oil started to smoke so much that I had to step outside because it was so thick. Even after I brought the Dutch oven I was using outside it smoked for a long while after. My question is why was it smoking so much.

The oil was cooking in a 9 inch cast iron Dutch oven. I had the heat on about a 9 (out of 10). The oil was peanut oil. At one point I put the lid on the cast iron. It was after I took it off that it began to smoke. I should have been more careful about how I researched the safety of doing this sort of cooking. Can anyone explain why this happened?

  • Lot of background, but missing one essential piece of information… what was the oil? Oils have 'smoke points' - temperatures which can vary wildly depending on what the oil is. Also, your heat… 9 out of 10 is a bit vague, was this a stove-top, gas oven?? – Tetsujin Nov 9 '19 at 19:04
  • I added that it was peanut oil. Yeah I didn't have a thermometer but I recognize the danger now of not using one. – Charles Dake Nov 9 '19 at 21:05
  • Was it refined peanut oil? How were you heating it? – GdD Nov 9 '19 at 21:21
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When deep frying, the most important piece of equipment you can have is a decent thermometer--many candy/frying thermometers have a clip that can be positioned on the edge of a dutch oven so that you can keep watch of the temperature while frying (like this one).

Different oils have different smoke points. For refined peanut oil, the smoke point is 450°F / 232°C. It sounds like you got your oil too hot, and it reached the smoke point. This can be very dangerous. Just above the smoke point is when oil can actually ignite, causing a serious fire risk.

Generally, you would want to fry well below the smoke point temperature. Recipes generally will recommend frying temperatures of 300°F / 150°C to 375°F to 190°C, depending on what you're frying.

Trying to regulate heat simply by using the knob/setting on your stovetop is not a reliable way to maintain heat when deep frying. Using a thermometer will help ensure you are able to keep oil in the desired range.

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