Deep Fat Fryers – Do They Smell? & How To Prevent The Smell

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Deep fat fryers are one of the most classic appliances in both commercial and home settings. Despite the undeniable decadence of the food that they make, they often leave a smell to linger in your home.

There are a few reasons for this, principally the inherent smell of a lot of oil, the heat causing the breakdown of the oil to smelly chemicals, and a lack of refinement in an oil.

The main ways to prevent the smell are to fry outside and allow odors to escape, as well as buying some sort of frying screen to prevent odors or oil particles leaving the fryer itself.

Can Deep Fat Fryers Smell?

Deep fat fryers certainly can smell, and there are a couple of different reasons for this.

The first reason, which is the main one overall, is that oil has an odor in and of itself. We aren’t used to smelling it because we typically don’t gather together a lot of oil all at once unless we’re deep frying something. However, if you open a large container of oil and take a sniff – you’ll certainly notice the smell.

Animal fats may smell like the animal that they came from, while plant oils (such as olive oil, peanut oil, or rapeseed oil) may smell a little nutty. When you fill a deep fat fryer with oil, you’re likely to smell that oil before all else.

Another reason that deep fat fryers tend to smell is that oils break down when they’re exposed to heat. This is a natural reaction, but it can release some acrid smells. When you’re essentially boiling oil for a long period of time, those smells are very likely to be released, leading to a bad odor in your kitchen.

This is a little more of a subjective issue, but generally speaking, people say that the more refined an oil is, the less it will smell when you cook with it. For example, Crisco is known to be relatively odorless, even when deep-fat frying. Conversely, vegetable oil will likely have a more potent odor.

The final common reason that deep fat fryers smell is trace oil that they spatter around your kitchen.

When you’re boiling any liquid, you’re likely to see bubbling occurring, which would lead to small spatters of that liquid in and around your kitchen. In the case of fat being used, you’re likely to smell those small spatters of oil in your kitchen going forward, leading to an overall odor that may be unpleasant and difficult to get rid of.

What Causes A Deep Fat Fryer To Smell?

Oil Odor

Oil, in itself, does have an inherent odor. Different oils smell different to each other, but overall any individual oil will bring another odor into your home which may not be desirable, and will likely be tough to get rid of.

It’s hard to pin down what the exact odor of oil is, but general animals smell somewhat like the animal that they come from, while plant fats smell nuttier. All fats smell quite heavy, and may actually start to leave a residue on your kitchen appliances after a short while.

Oil Breakdown

As oil breaks down over time, either naturally or through exposure to heat, it will begin to smell. If the oil breaks down naturally, it will begin to go rancid and can be very difficult to clean up. If the oil breaks down due to contact with heat, then it will burn, producing a very acrid, dark smell.

Both situations must be avoided, as when you find yourself in the midst of either of them, you’ll simply have to stop cooking and clean everything.

Oil Refinement

Different types of oils that you can buy will be more or less refined than others. Generally, the process of refinement involves removing parts of a solid or liquid in order to make a more pure version of the same thing. For example, butter is refined into ghee through the removal of milk solids.

The more refined that your fats and oils are, the less they’re likely to smell. This is because there are fewer chemicals in them which are likely to burn, and therefore start to smell. You may find that exceptionally refined oils such as Crisco don’t actually smell at all!

Oil Splatter

This is, somehow, a slightly more sinister way that a deep fat fryer can help to make your house smell worse than it otherwise might. When you’re boiling any liquid, oil included, the liquid will eventually reach a particularly violent boil which is likely to lead to that liquid splattering in your kitchen.

When that happens, you may not notice small deposits of oil in your kitchen, which will eventually start to smell. They will continue to smell until they’re cleaned up, making them extremely frustrating.

How To Prevent The Smell?

Fry On A Lower Heat

The process by which oil breaks down into compounds that cause a smell in your home requires a certain amount of energy. You can supply this energy quickly with a lot of heat, or more slowly with less heat.

Therefore, if you can fry the food that you’re hoping to fry on a lower heat, then consider doing just that. It would allow you to cook your food without supplying enough energy to the oil to allow it to begin smelling.

Use Refined Oils

Refining is, essentially, the process of removing impurities from a given substance in order to make it a more pure version of what it is. The best, and most understandable, example, is the one I gave about butter above. When the milk solids are removed from butter, you get ghee, which is a purified version of the same thing.

As a general rule of thumb, the more refined a fat or oil is, the less it will smell when it is used in cooking. Another example I used earlier is that of Crisco – it is extremely refined, and considered to be relatively odorless.

Limit The Odor’s Access To Your House

This one is more of a prevention than a cure, but it can work fairly well. By closing and internal doors and windows to your kitchen and then opening any external ones, you will massively cut down on the amount of your house that the smell from your deep fat fryer has access to.

If this smell cannot get to a room, then it will not ‘stick’ to anything, and the smell may leave more quickly.

An important thing to bear in mind here is to remove any fabrics from places that the oil smell might be – fabrics soak up the smell of oil like a sponge soaks up water. 

Use A Frying Screen

Frying screens can be bought separately from pans or deep fat fryers, though some appliances do have them built-in.

A basic frying screen is, essentially, a fine metal mesh that stops oil splatter from sticking to surfaces in your kitchen. Thereby, you stop the oil smell from sticking around for longer than it needs to – be aware that this is prevention rather than cure, however.

You can also buy frying screens which have inbuilt filters between two metal screens. While they can be tricky to clean, they do cut down on odors by absorbing the smelly chemicals for you to wash away at a later time – ideal for a cheap, quick solution.

Clean Extensively After Cooking

One of the reasons that oil can be difficult to clean off surfaces in the home is that it doesn’t naturally bond with water. Chemical cleaners which effectively degrease something contain some form of emulsifier which binds the water in the cleaner to the oil on the dirty surface.

If you don’t want to fork out for a potentially expensive cleaner that you may use and have to replace very quickly, you can make your own. Mix together a blend of dish soap, vinegar, and a little bit of water. The dish soap will help to pick up the oil, while the vinegar will break down any oil compounds.