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Deep fryers and ice are a dangerous combination, right? Well, hopefully, you’re not here because you want to fry ice because the truth is you should NEVER put ice in a deep fryer. Don’t even think about it. But, accidents do happen, and you should be prepared to take appropriate action to protect yourself. And, then again, since curiosity already killed the cat, let’s just take the mystery out of the way.
Putting Ice in a Deep Fryer
The short answer to this question is: chaos ensues! There will be a violent reaction that, depending on the oil’s temperature and the amount of ice inserted, can even lead to a fire or an explosion. But, our guess is you want to understand why that happens, which is why we’ll turn to science.
Water and Oil Do Not Mix
Some of the most entertaining science experiments from childhood are the ones demonstrating that water and oil do not mix. By now, we know that that’s because water molecules are polar molecules, while oil molecules are nonpolar molecules. Polar molecules means that one side of the molecule has a positive charge and the other end has a negative charge. This allows them to bond easily with other polar molecules because opposite charges attract.
Nonpolar molecules can only bond with other nonpolar molecules, which is why oil molecules can’t bond with water molecules.
When you put water into oil and shake or stir the mixture, you’re forcing the liquids to mix, but as soon as you stop, they’ll separate again, and you’ll clearly see layers or splotches of water inside the oil. This is why we say that oil is hydrophobic.
It’s important to understand this because ice is just frozen water. Chemically, they’re the same thing. And, when you put ice in a warm or slightly heated oil, it will melt and turn into liquid again. However, due to the extremely high temperature of oil in deep fryers (up to 400 °F), the chemical reaction is a lot more violent than simply melting and repelling water molecules. In a mere second, the ice will change from a solid state to liquid to gas. Here’s exactly what happens.
Putting Ice in Fryer Oil
Ice forms at around 32ºF (0ºC), but it can get even colder than that. On the other hand, the temperature of heated oil in a deep fryer can get up to 400ºF (205ºC). The extreme difference in temperature is responsible for the powerful chemical reaction.
We said that the ice would go from frozen to liquid to gas in a matter of seconds, a process that produces a fierce chemical reaction. Now, if we combine that with the knowledge that water and oil do not mix, the water molecules in the hot oil will be rapidly expelled, which you’ll see as bursting and splashing bubbles of both hot oil and bubbling water.
This will probably be combined with a lot of smoke, and it will look like a small explosion. Depending on the amount of ice you’ve put inside the oil and how hot the oil was, the reaction can be violent enough to start a fire. Mind you, even the splashing bubbles of boiling water and oil can cause severe burns.
What About Dry Ice?
Chemically, dry ice is not the same as regular ice. Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide, and when heated, it goes straight to a gas state. It’s also much, much colder than regular ice and more dangerous because melting dry ice releases carbon dioxide, which is considered a hazard in an unventilated closed space. The temperature of dry ice is usually around -109° F (-78.3°C).
Therefore, when you insert dry ice into a frying oil, the reaction will be different. What do you think will happen?
Because of the temperature, you might assume that the reaction will be more intense, which makes sense, but that’s not the case. This is because dry ice simply evaporates, it doesn’t turn into water when it melts, so there’s no repelling of the molecules. Putting dry ice in a deep fryer is kind of like frying a piece of chicken.
That being said, putting dry ice in the deep fryer is maybe even more hazardous because the danger sneaks up on you without you even being aware. In other words, like we said, dry ice releases carbon dioxide gas. Now, if you’re in a closed room without any open windows or ventilation, this too can be a medical emergency.
Exposure to too much carbon dioxide causes drowsiness, increased heart rate, blood pressure, unconsciousness, and even life-threatening complications.
To conclude, do not attempt to put dry ice or regular ice in the deep fryer! Both situations are dangerous in different ways and can lead to serious accidents.
What to Do in Case of an Accident?
Unfortunately, accidents happen. And, although you need to be responsible and not keep ice or iced drinks near the deep fryer, it’s always a good idea to know what to do in case of an accident. Let’s go over two scenarios: an accident with regular ice and one with dry ice.
Accident With Regular Ice
With good prevention measures, the chances of getting regular ice into the deep fryer are next to nothing. Still, if that happens, let’s say from drinking iced coffee or tea next to the deep fryer, you should keep calm and consider everything that we’ve explained.
Water and regular ice can create a violent chemical reaction where bubbles of boiling water and burning oil might splash around the deep fryer. Because of this, your first instinct should be to move away from the deep fryer. The initial reaction from the moment the ice touches the oil is the most explosive, so make sure you’re as far away as possible.
Locate the fire extinguisher and keep it close, just in case. There’s always a possibility of a fire breaking out. If it’s small and inside the deep fryer, you should try to unplug it, then use the fire extinguisher.
Do not use water to put out a grease fire! This can lead to an even bigger explosion that could spread through the whole kitchen. If you don’t believe us, check out this video of a fireman demonstrating what happens when you add water to a grease fire.
Accident With Dry Ice
Unless we’re talking about a science experiment gone wrong, we really can’t imagine how dry ice might find its way into your deep fryer. Nonetheless, here’s what you need to do.
The only real emergency of putting dry ice into a deep fryer is if you’re standing too close to the fryer or if you’re in a closed area without proper ventilation.
This is why the first rule is to never stand close to or above a deep fryer if you ever put dry ice inside it. The fumes from the dry ice are carbon dioxide that can make you dizzy and faint. This is dangerous as you might fall on your head or toward the deep fryer.
The next step is to immediately open the windows and doors or turn on the ventilation in the room. This will prevent the accumulation of CO2 inside the room.
In conclusion, please be careful and do not try putting ice or dry ice inside a deep fryer. Even a slight reaction can cause unforeseen consequences depending on many factors, such as other kitchen appliances nearby, the number of people in the room, and more.
Does the Same Apply to Frozen Foods?
While we’re on the topic of frozen things, let’s answer the question of whether the arguments above extend to frozen foods. In other words, is it safe to put frozen foods directly into the deep fryer?
The short answer is no, but not for the reasons that we already covered above.
Just as regular ice and dry ice react in a very different way when inserted into a deep fryer, frozen foods too can produce unique reactions.
The first thing to remember is that not all frozen foods are the same. Some are very dry and small, while others retain a lot of water when frozen, making them more dangerous.
Accidents Related to Deep-Frying Turkey
Vegetables and turkey are two examples of foods that could cause an explosion or even lead to a fire if they’re inserted into the deep fryer while frozen. Vegetables – because they contain a lot of water – and turkey – because it also retains water due to its large size.
To prove just how serious deep-frying accidents are, we’ll share these staggering statistics from the National Fire Protection Association. According to them, in the US, “deep fryer fires cause an average of 5 deaths, 60 injuries and more than $15 million in property damage each year.” Most of these accidents happen around Thanksgiving and are due to deep-frying turkeys.
If 5 people die each year just from deep-frying turkey, can you imagine how higher that number would be if people started putting frozen turkeys and frozen meat into deep fryers?
So let’s reiterate: Do not put frozen foods into deep fryers, especially not foods that retain a lot of water and are large in size.
Dangers of Deep Frying Frozen Foods
If you need another reason to not put frozen foods into deep fryers, the danger of food poisoning may be a good one.
Putting frozen foods directly into the deep fryer changes the taste and texture of the food because the food might be cooked unevenly. While some people might not mind, foodies will definitely notice.
Still, a more important consequence of an uneven cook is the fact that meats, especially large cuts, might remain undercooked in the core while being almost burnt on the outside. And, undercooked meat is a health hazard and can cause food poisoning in certain circumstances.
Having said this, there are some types of foods that are generally safe to cook from frozen. We recommend doing your research thoroughly before putting any type of frozen food in the deep fryer, just to be safe.
Putting ice in a deep fryer is extremely dangerous and could lead to a hazard. We hope that we did a good job explaining how this happens and why, satisfying your scientific or cooking curiosity. We also hope we were convincing enough to stop you from ever willingly trying to put ice in a deep fryer and gave you enough reasons to be very careful around the deep fryer.
Even if you accidentally spill your iced drink and just a few ice cubes get inside the deep fryer, this could lead to splashes of boiled water or burning oil if the temperature is high enough. The outcome could be damage in the kitchen or worse – painful burns on your body or face.
Since starting a fire is also a possibility, we strongly advise that, in the case of an accident, to step away from the deep fryer and locate a fire extinguisher.
Similar risks and consequences can come from putting dry ice or frozen foods in the deep fryer, so be careful in these cases as well. Follow our advice on what to do in case of an emergency, and conduct thorough research on how to prepare some types of frozen foods in the deep fryer.