This article was last updated on October 15th, 2020
Have you ever wondered if a Dutch oven is good for frying your favorite foods or if it is okay to deep fry in cast-iron?
YES, you can fry or deep fry food in a cast-iron Dutch oven – many people do it and most of them will likely tell you that they prefer to fry their food on any type of cast-iron cooker.
There are many different types of Dutch ovens including aluminum and stainless steel. In this article, I refer to cast-iron Dutch ovens.
Frying In A Dutch Oven
Frying in a cast-iron Dutch oven is more common than people probably realize – and often more effective than frying in a regular pot or pan. Much of that has to do with the incredible range of cast-iron Dutch ovens available, along with its amazing thermal qualities.
French fries are a glaring example of foods that do not do so well when produced in a regular pot or pan. However, the results produced when using cast-iron are usually rather exceptional and those are achieved with far less detailed instruction too.
A compelling (and defining) feature of any cast-iron Dutch oven it’s depth. The depth of the cast-iron Dutch oven offers up a glorious opportunity to try your hand at deep-frying food, an option that is not always available when working out of your household kitchen.
The other compelling feature of a cast-iron Dutch oven center around its thermal qualities. For those unaware, cast-iron can conduct distribute and retain heat better than any other form of cookware currently available on the market.
In addition to that, the cast-iron Dutch oven can operate at significantly higher temperatures than most other forms of cookware.
Those are particularly useful qualities to have when you are pursuing the option of frying your food, whatever it may be.
For the purposes of this article, we center our attention on some foods that are particularly difficult to fry well, regardless of the circumstances.
The beauty of this is that there are actually so many wonderful recipes, and techniques available online for what is essentially a rather niche subject.
Identify Your Dutch Oven
You can fry in either seasoned cast-iron (best option) or enameled cast-iron.
Lodge Dutch ovens are available in both seasoned and enameled cast-iron.
Le Creuset Dutch ovens and Staub Dutch ovens only produce enameled cast-iron.
Regardless of the Dutch oven brand or type of finish – always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions before use.
Is It Safe to Fry in a Dutch Oven?
Yes, it is also safe to fry food in a cast-iron Dutch Oven, although there are probably some aspects that you ought to carefully consider before doing so.
Chief among them, perhaps, is just how hot it is likely to get in your kitchen when you are cooking with a pot that will become extremely hot.
The safety precautions you will be expected to take when frying with a cast-iron oven are the same as any you should take when frying with any other form of cookware.
They are probably just a little more relevant when using a cast-iron Dutch oven because of the thermal qualities of cast-iron safety precautions should always be at the fore…
Not only do the prospects of you burning your food increase dramatically when frying or searing with a cast-iron Dutch oven, but the potential for harm to your own life and limb also increases significantly when using a cast-iron Dutch oven.
I would avoid picking up the Dutch oven filled with hot oil at all costs – let it cool down before moving it!
The very basic principle when frying or searing with a cast-iron Dutch oven should be to err on the side of caution at all times.
Deep Frying in a Dutch Oven – Precautions You Should Take
The biggest fear that emerges when frying in a Dutch oven presents itself when you are deep frying in the cast-iron. I imagine the types of food you are most likely to deep fry in a cast-iron Dutch oven include chicken, turkey, and french fries. Fried foods like onion rings and donuts also come to mind.
Whatever it is that you opt to deep fry, the following precautions should always be taken, especially with the level of the heat produced by any type of cast-iron and the extraordinary heat retention properties that comes with this type of material.
If you are going to deep fry in a cast-iron Dutch oven, make sure that you have a fire extinguisher available in your kitchen. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. There is a considerable amount that can go wrong when deep frying in a cast-iron Dutch oven.
Make sure there are no direct flames around when deep frying in your Dutch oven. Oil is flammable and a considerable amount of that oil is likely to spit out when you are frying.
Allowing oil to come into contact with direct flames presents serious risks of a flare-up in the kitchen and with that, the potential of a fire breaking out in the household will increase dramatically too.
Something people always take for granted when cooking at very high temperatures is steam. That is especially the case when people open traditional kitchen ovens and grills.
That steam risk becomes a very real threat when extremely hot oil comes into contact with water. Just keep water away from your cooking environment when deep frying with a Cast Iron Dutch Oven.
That includes trying to put out a grease fire with water. You should also ensure that your cast-iron Dutch oven is completely dry when frying.
Take into consideration that a cast-iron Dutch oven will break down oil faster than any other cookware. That is when the smoke point would have been reached.
The higher the smoke point of the oil you use in a cast-iron Dutch oven, the better. Smoke points for oil will generally range from 210 degrees Celsius to 232 degrees celsius.
In my article here you find all the information you need about which oils will have the highest smoke point you will then know which is the best on to fry with in a cast-iron Dutch oven.
Recycling oil or lard as is was known as in years gone by can be done by letting the oil cool then strain it into an oil keeper. Check out the one I use here. It is made from stainless steel, has a built-in particle strainer and a lid for safekeeping until oil is required again.
These should include:
- utensils that will not melt – thongs, metal wire scoop
- basket for lowering food into the oil
- heat resistant apron
- hand mitts that will guard your hand and arms against fat splatter
- metal trays and parchment paper for cooked fried food
I have a great list of Dutch oven accessories that I use and recommend daily – here.
At What Heat Should You Fry in a Dutch Oven?
The heat of the oil is very important! Too cool soggy fried food – too hot burnt on the outside and not cooked on the inside…
When frying under any circumstances the heat at which you should do so ranges from 160 degrees celsius to about 190 degrees celsius.
Foods that should be fried at about 160 degrees celsius include things like seafood.
The recommended heat for deep frying in a cast-iron Dutch oven will then gradually rise to something in the region of 190 degrees celsius – that would normally apply to something like poultry.
Seafood you will fry for anything between 4 and 6 minutes, while the poultry you will fry for anything in the region of 13 to 20 minutes.
Whatever you end up frying, always consider that frying in a cast-iron Dutch oven will require a slight adjustment downwards because of the cookware’s thermal properties.
Follow recipes for correct temperatures required for frying.
An equally important consideration when frying in a cast-iron Dutch oven is the heat at which you have the oil. That also ranges vastly depending on the type of oil that you have opted to cook with.
For example, if you are frying in a cast-iron Dutch oven with peanut, safflower or soybean oil, you are looking at something in the region of 232 degrees celsius.
If you are frying in the cast-iron Dutch oven with corn, olive, sesame seed or sunflower oil, you should cook at something in the region of 210 degrees celsius.
As I mentioned earlier, it is important to take into account that the cast-iron Dutch oven breaks the oil down a lot quicker than cookware made from other materials.
Adjusting the temperature downwards should be made to compensate for that.
Find out more about cooking oil that has been broken down here.
How to Fry in a Dutch Oven – 5 Vital Tips
The highest temperature that should really be used to deep fry in a cast-iron Dutch oven is about 190 degrees celsius.
More often than not, we would put it to you that anything lower than that will be better, given the thermal qualities of a cast-iron Dutch oven.
The highest oil temperature would be applied to something like chicken, which usually takes the longest to deep fry in a cast-iron Dutch oven.
You would fry shrimp or fish fillets in a cast-iron Dutch oven at much lower temperatures than that. That actually applies under most frying conditions, regardless of the cookware that you opt to use.
1. Oil Quantity and Heat Up
Start by filling the oven with about a 3rd of your chosen oil – as you really only need to cover the food with oil. Cooking in batches assists with this.
As with preparing any other type of dish in your Dutch oven, you should heat your oil up slowly. Doing this prevents the oil from overheating and potentially burning.
Now, when you are placing whatever food you are frying in the cast-iron Dutch oven, make sure there are more than two inches of leeway at the top of the cast-iron Dutch oven.
This is the minimum required to compensate for when you place your chicken, turkey, french fries or potatoes in the cast-iron Dutch oven.
The last thing you need is for the oil in your Dutch oven to start spilling over. The prospect of oil sputtering out of the Dutch oven is one you want to contend with.
Again, you should never forget just how hot it can get when you fry your food inside a cast-iron Dutch oven. Allow sufficient space for that oil to rise when you put food into the cast-iron Dutch oven.
In the kitchen, you will need to have a thermometer with you to constantly check that the oil you are using does not get too hot while frying. Remember when checking temperature insert the thermometer into the center of the oven.
This is the thermometer I use – it is perfect because of the long probe – I always wear a mitt when inserting the probe into the oven.
3. Dutch Oven – Overload
Cast-iron Dutch ovens are famous for their capacity to distribute heat evenly. However, that does not mean you should take any liberties when frying in your Dutch oven.
If you overload the Dutch oven when frying, you also increase the risk of that food not cooking properly. Leave enough room around each piece of food to ensure you can turn it easily – for even cooking and the best result.
Once again, cooking in batches assists with this…
Because of the risks associated with frying and deep frying, “DO NOT” leave your food unattended while frying in a cast-iron Dutch oven either. Just don’t do it.
5. Cooking Utensils and Accessories
This also sounds like somewhat of an obvious thing to stay but always use tongs to take your food out of the cast-iron Dutch oven when you believe that it is ready to eat.
Significantly, make sure those tongs are not plastic because that can easily melt, given the temperatures that you will be frying at. Speaking of which…
Pros and Cons of Frying in a Dutch Oven
Honestly speaking, frying with a cast-iron Dutch oven can be somewhat of an inconvenience.
Every important decision you make when frying or deep frying with a cast-iron Dutch oven will require additional tools and intervention.
The most important consideration you need to make before you fry anything with a cast-iron Dutch oven is heat. In fact, that is a primary consideration to be made even when you are using a cast-iron Dutch oven just to cook.
Unlike fryers, for example, there is no other way to monitor heat on a cast-iron Dutch oven other than to purchase a separate thermometer. An even better option would be to purchase a meat thermometer because you need to constantly be sure that your food is being adequately cooked, while also frying.
Considering how much could go horribly wrong when cooking with oil which is that hot, the stakes are exceedingly high and the margin for error minimal.
In addition to that, you will also need to consider that a cast-iron Dutch oven may be deep but not as deep as a fryer – for deep frying that is. You need to be constantly aware of how much oil you have in your Dutch oven when frying. It is unwanted – and sometimes costly.
Then there is also the small matter of the time that it does take for oil to heat up when frying in a cast-iron Dutch oven. If you are not a patient human being, this could lead to some other form of ill judgment while cooking or frying in the kitchen, while also operating the cast-iron Dutch oven.
Because a cast-iron Dutch oven is so hot, you also need to carefully consider the types of utensils you use to handle the food in your Dutch oven. It should go without saying that plastic tongs simply aren’t going to cut it under these circumstances.
Finally, there is also the speed at which oil gets broken down when using a cast-iron Dutch oven.
All cooking oil reaches a point of no return if and when frying food. That point of no return is reached considerably quicker when you are using a cast-iron Dutch oven.
As dynamic as cast-iron Dutch ovens are, it can be a little difficult to actually recommend using one to fry or deep fry food regularly, given all the safety considerations that ought to be made before doing so.
To Finish – Can You Fry In A Dutch Oven?
Is a Dutch oven good for frying? Cast-iron Dutch ovens are great for frying providing you are organized and extreme care is taken with the hot oil and equally hot Dutch oven.
Is it the best pan for deep frying? As far as heat retaining properties it could be the best pan, but frying this way does come with challenges. Practice makes perfect…
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use a Dutch Oven to Fry Chicken?
Yes, you can shallow or deep-fry chicken in a Dutch oven.
Can You Deep Fry in an Enamel Dutch Oven?
Yes, you can use an enamel oven to fry. You need to be mindful of the discoloration of the enamel that could occur it the oil is overheated or with regular frying.