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When I deep fry potatoes, oil droplets get on the wall. I think moisture is evaporating with oil fused with it and it isn't from splatter. How do I avoid this? I tried covering the top with a saucepan, but it still happens.

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Basically, you can't. Oil and water are immiscible, them travelling together isn't quite what is happening here.

When you fry you create tiny aerosols of oil in the air, you also get some smoke production. The aerosols and smoke are transported by air currents and deposited everywhere in the vicinity. Most people wouldn't consider these to be droplets. Some true oil droplets are formed and these can travel a few cm/inches up to a few feet (2-3 feet generally, about 1 metre) depending on velocity and initial trajectory when created, but this isn't what you see here.

In your case, you have oil deposited on the walls, over time this polymerizes and turns sticky. This causes dirt/dust/smoke from your cooking and general activity to stick on your walls. You also have condensation from steam and this is running down your walls. As it does so it is collecting the soluble fraction of the dirt/smoke, producing the coloured result you see. Smoke is mostly dark brown when deposited on surfaces - go to a heavy smoker's house and have a look at the walls, you can sometimes see a reverse tide-mark where the smoke has formed a layer in the upper part of the room!

There are two ways to deal with you problem - prevention and remediation.

Prevention involves getting a good range-hood to create a strong enough suction to prevent most of the smoke and aerosols from escaping the local environment of your stove. Most domestic models don't do very well at this; commercial ones are much better, but significantly more expensive and invasive in your home. You can also open windows and doors, to help direct some of the stuff outside if you don't have a hood.

You can also get things like splatter guards to prevent big droplets on your work surface, but these don't do much in terms of aerosols and smoke.

Don't use a lid. These create two problems:

  1. Condensation. Any moisture from the food will evaporate, condense on the lid, drip back into the oil and spatter - this creates more droplets and aerosols, along with a risk of burning yourself with spattered oil as you lift the lid

  2. Flame-up risk. As you fry, the aerosols generated are free-floating, and can reach quite high concentrations inside a pot with a lid. When you lift the lid, you suddenly introduce oxygen (from the air), and a with potential ignition source nearby (your stove, especially ones with flames like your gas one), this can create a fireball as the aerosols burn.

You should, however, have a lid nearby in case your oil catches fire while cooking, shove the lid on, remove pan from heat and the fire should go out.

Remediation - this involves you cleaning. How often you need to do this depends on how much you fry. A cleaner that will cut through the oil deposited on the walls (ammonia-based solutions will, alkalis too - make sure to test to ensure you don't ruin surfaces), helps reduce the amount of dirt/smoke that will stick to the walls.

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  • If you can, deep fry outdoors. I have a propane wok burner on the kitchen porch, right beside the BBQ. Also, a splatter screen works reasonably well for frying on a regular stove-top. The big spaces let the steam escape. The oil sticks to the screen and gets cleaned in the dishwasher.
    – Woody
    Commented Jul 6 at 23:04

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