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Shimmer, Deep-Fry, and Smoke: How Oil Behaves at Different Temperatures

By Kathleen Brennan Published

We've all seen these terms in recipes. What does each one mean? And how do you know you've achieved it?

The temperature of your oil can make a big difference in the flavor and texture of the food you cook in it. Here’s a guide to the different terms we use when cooking in oil, what temperatures they correspond to, and some visual cues to help you see whether you’ve hit the mark.

Shimmering

Describes oil that has been heated to about 275 degrees. We heat oil to shimmering mostly when shallow-frying cutlets. 

Visual Cue: Oil gleams, moves in ripples around the pan

Deep Frying

We generally deep-fry food at a starting temperature between 325 and 375 degrees—we’ve found that these temperatures are best for generating a light, crispy texture. Once the food is added to the oil, the temperature will drop; as the food cooks, the oil should remain somewhere between 250 and 325 degrees (depending on your recipe).

Pro Tip: For the most accurate results, use a clip-on probe thermometer to monitor your oil temperature, adjusting the heat as needed.

Visual Cue: Drop a crustless bread cube or small spoonful of batter into the oil; if it sizzles and fine bubbles appear, your oil is ready. 

Smoking

Describes oil that has been heated to its smoking point, which can vary between 350 and 520 degrees. We heat oil to smoking when we want quick, even, and thorough browning while searing a steak or stir-frying. If the oil is below the smoking point when the food is added, browning will take too long and the food will overcook. Don’t worry too much about overheating the oil; as long as you have your food at the ready, there’s little risk since the oil will cool quickly once you add the food. If you have overheated it, you’ll know because the oil will turn dark. In those cases, throw out the oil and start over.

Visual Cue: Multiple wisps of smoke rise from the pan

All About Oils

Here’s everything you need to know about selecting and using cooking oils.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.