July 22nd, 2011

Bruce, Caroline

Product Review: Oster CKSTDFZM70 Deep Fryer

Yes, it's a real entry from me! I still do exist!

When I purchase a product that I really like, I like to pass on that information to others in case it makes a difference for someone else. Today's review is of the new deep fryer that I bought yesterday. I'm very impressed, so wanted to share.

I picked up this unit at Wal-Mart for $49.99, which is the same price that Amazon is selling it for. I'd link to the product page, but I'm writing this on my iPhone, and at the moment, looking up the product and copying and pasting the link is a little bit beyond my current skill level. I'll add a link later if people would find that useful.This particular unit features a 4-liter capacity, and can handle up to two pounds of food at one time. I mention this right away because this isn't my first experience with a deep fryer, and my last one didn't use as much oil. There is a battery-operated timer that I haven't quite figured out yet, and really isn't all that necessary anyway if you just use a standard timer. The temperature control goes from off on one end to 375 degrees on the other. When reading through the manual, most recipes call for the temperature to be set at 375, so in most cases, getting tactile markings on the dial probably won't be necessary, making this product accessible out of the box.

There is some assembly required. The heating element and the oil container have to be put into the base. Both these things are removable again for cleaning. The oil container goes in first, and the control assembly/heating element slides into the inside and in front of the main base. It's sort of hard to explain, but it makes sense once the unit is in front of you. The cord is completely removable, and connects viaa magnet-type connection. The lid also has to be attached, and I found this to be the most difficult part of the assembly until I figured out how it went on. I couldn't tell you now just how that is, of course.

As with any appliance that gets extremely hot, safety is important. When dealing with hot oil that can splatter, this is especially important. This is one reason why any deep fryer that I purchase absolutely has to have a basket that can be raised and lowered while the lid is closed. This unit meets that requirement for me in a very good way. there is a button that has to be pushed to unlatch the lid, and the basket handle slides into a groove in the front of the unit. The handle can then be raised or lowered, which, in turn, raises the basket into or out of the oil. It's still necessary to be careful when opening the lid since things are definitely hot, but to me, it's really not any different t that point from handling any hot stuff from the oven or stove.

The instruction manual said to fill the oil container until the level was between the Min and Max lines. I wasn't sure how I would handle that part until I actually took everything out of the box and checked it out. The inside of the oil container is marked with both tactile lines and raised print letters, making it extremely easy to gauge the correct oil level.

The first thing I attempted was homemade French fries. I used my vegetable cutter, (there's another product i should review), and made nice even cuts that were perfect-sized fries. I did this while the oil was heating. The heating process took about 10 minutes. There are two light indicators on the front top of the unit, one above the other. The bottom one is red, and indicates that power is going to the machine. The top one is green, and turns on once the oil is at the correct temperature. If lights help you, I found them to be in a very good location and clearly visible without having to contort myself or strain. If lights are useless to you, you could probably let the oil heat for 10-12 minutes and be safe. You can kind of hear clicks as things are warming up, but they didn't seem to conform to any sort of pattern like some appliances do.

So, back to the French fries. The manual said to heat the oil with the basket in the unit. This made me a little nervous because I figured that the basket would be quite hot when trying to put food into it. I kept the basket in its upright position while it heated, and found that with the basket in the upper position out of the oil, it was, for the most part, still cool enough to be touched in order to put the food in correctly. Once I'd gotten everything in, I closed the lid, which locked in place, and lowered the handle of the basket so that it went into the oil. There's almost nothing more satisfying, in my opinion anyway, than hearing that first sizzle of the food hitting the hot oil. Because the lid is closed, there's no splatter ousted the machine, but you can definitely tell that your food is frying nicely.

Figuring out when the food is actually done is going to take a little bit of experimentation. The manual gives some general times, and those are helpful, but I think the most accurate way to determine doneness is just by practice, and deciding what you like best. For instance, the fries I made last night were made from a very large red potato. I found that seven minutes at 375 was pretty much perfect. The next fries I make will be made from a russet potato, which is a bit firmer, so they may need a bit of additional cooking time. Over the weekend I plan to make homemade chicken strips. The recommended cooking time is 5-8 minutes, again, on 375. I'll be testing for doneness on these with my meat thermometer to make sure that it's cooked through completely.

When the food is done, keep the lid closed and raise the backer back up. You'll hear the oil stop bubbling almost immediately. Let things sit for a bit so that any oil still in the basket can drip out. The manual says to remove the food to a place covered with a paper towel. This is rather difficult if you've got a round plate since the basket is rectangular, and doesn't quite fit well. A co-worker gave me a perfect solution for this though. She says that she takes a 9x13 pan and puts the paper towel in that and then empties the basket into that. The handle of the basket is very useful in this situation as well, but you'll want to be careful since this time it definitely is hot. It cools down very fast, but still.

So, because of the way this unit is constructed, you can see that, with usual caution and common sense, it's definitely possible to use this deep fryer safely and easily.

This product is available outside the US, but it may be sold under a different name. For example, the manual says that in Canada it's marketed under the Sunbeam brand. You can probably find it, or something very similar by visiting the Oster web site at http://www.oster.com.

It takes quite a long time to cool down after use, so you'll want to be aware of that. I purchased a galon of Crisco oil from my grocery store for just under $12. For most foods, you can use the oil more than once, but if you're going to fry fish or chicken, the manual says to change the oil after only one use.

In addition to being able to find more information on the Oster web site about this, that's also where I found the manual in PDF. It was an accessible document without having to do any sort of converting or image scanning, and there were very few errors in the document which made it extremely easy to follow and understand.

So, if you like the occasional fried food, and want to be able to make it yourself, I can't recommend this deep fryer highly enough. It's extremely easy to set up and use as a blind person, and is just plain fun!