The Best Outdoor Deep Fryers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Fry your freshly caught fish on a lake shore or river bank with these outdoor deep fryers

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Keeping fish for delicious table fare is often one of the best rewards of fishing. And frying those freshly-caught filets in an outdoor deep fryer takes the experience to a new level

Frying fish comes in many variations from using a cast iron over a campfire to cooking in a portable fryer on a lakeshore. There are so many options, in fact, it can be hard to choose the best one for you and your friends and family. I tested the most popular methods and best tools to fry a perfect filet, French fry, or other delicious morsel. Here are my top outdoor deep fryer picks.

How We Tested the Best Outdoor Deep Fryers

Testing was a simple process once I caught enough eater-size walleyes and crappies. Family and friends joined me while I tried electric fryers at home, propane fryers in the backyard, and a portable unit on the bank of a nearby river. 

Everyone shared their thoughts on the quality of the end product. No one complained, and a few marveled at just how good air-fried fish was, the first time many of us had prepared and eaten it. 

Best Outdoor Deep Fryers: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall Fish Fryer: Carolina Cooker Deep Fryer Cooker with Cover

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Key Features

  • Two different-sized baskets
  • Large vats 
  • Propane powered
  • Two aluminum vats with three chrome-plated baskets
  • Two 46,000 BTU high-pressure burners with included UL-listed 10 PSI regulator and hose

Pros 

  • Quick to heat to frying temperature
  • Separated vats allow you to fry fish on one side while frying French fries or boiling food like corn or potatoes on the other 
  • Frying thermometer included

Cons

  • A bit more expensive than other models
  • Requires ample outside space
  • Must purchase 20-pound propane tank 
  • Uses a lot of frying oil

I tested this cooker and fryer a couple different ways. First, I cooked two baskets of fish as corn on the cob boiled in water in the other side. Next, I tried frying two baskets of fish and a large batch of hand-cut French fry potatoes in the larger vat with or without basket. 

Via this fryer’s design, you could also cook chili or gumbo in one side and fry fish in the other. Each basket sits in its own aluminum vat, which prevents cross-contamination so your French fries don’t taste like fish. 

We tested the Carolina Cooker.
Oil reaches optimal frying temperatures between 350- and 380-degrees Fahrenheit in about 10 minutes.   Jim Edlund

Assembly was quick and easy, though make sure the two shut-off valves on the hose assembly are in shut-off position when you connect to a propane tank. 

The two cast-iron burners produce 46,000 BTUs pretty quickly. Oil reaches optimal frying temperatures between 350- and 380-degrees Fahrenheit in about 10 minutes.  

Legs on all four sides mean it’s not moving anywhere while you cook. From a safety perspective, this is definitely a plus. 

The fish we cooked was perfect, which I monitored via the included frying thermometer. I used the Carolina Cooker numerous times over the course of the summer and the result was always the same—happy family and friends. 

Best Budget Dual Basket Propane Fryer: Bass Pro Shops 18-Quart Fish Fryer

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Key Features

  • Two sizeable frying baskets
  • Large, 18-quart aluminum pot with dual side handles for moving before frying
  • Efficient, quick-heating 58,000 BTU burner
  • Uses propane

Pros 

  • Affordable
  • Quick heating, large capacity 
  • Lightweight, cool-to-the-touch strainer basket handles
  • CSA-approved regulator and hose
  • Fully-welded steel stand
  • 5-inch, deep-fry thermometer
  • Clean frying

Cons

  • Requires a lot of frying oil
  • Must purchase propane

If you’re looking for an outside fryer to entertain family and friends—without shelling out a ton of cash—the Bass Pro Shops 18-Quart Fish Fryer with Double Basket Set is our top pick. A large, 18-quart aluminum pot and two removable frying baskets make it easy to fry a batch of fish in one basket and fries in another. 

We tested the Bass Pro fryer.
The fryer's 58,000 BTU burner provides fast and effective heat so you can get up to temperature quickly without keeping guests waiting. Jim Edlund

The heavy-duty fry pot features dual side handles for easy handling, while the lightweight strainer baskets come with a cool touch, rubber-coated handle for easier handling and control. The fryer’s 58,000 BTU burner provides fast and effective heat so you can get up to temperature quickly without keeping guests waiting. This cooker set includes a heavy-duty, fully welded steel stand, CSA-approved regulator and hose, and a 5-inch deep-fry thermometer. 

For under $100, the results were phenomenal, and the fish came out perfectly golden. 

Best Budget Electric Deep Fryer: Fry Daddy Electric Deep Fryer

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Key Features

  • PFAS-free ceramic nonstick surface inside and out
  • Snap-on lid
  • 120 volts AC, 1200 watts.
  • Uses up to 4 cups of oil

Pros 

  • Affordable
  • Small footprint
  • Clean frying

Cons

  • Small frying capacity
  • Only one-year limited warranty

For a deep fryer that doesn’t take up much space, the Fry Daddy Electric Deep Fryer is perfect. It’s also ultra-affordable and requires only four cups of oil. 

It heated the oil quickly when I tested it, maintained a perfect frying temp, and was simple to use. There are no control to set. The unit does it automatically. 

The fish came out golden, crispy, and delicious. There’s no basket, but a scoop comes with the Fry Daddy to lift fillets, chunks, or nuggets out of the fryer. 

We tested the Presto Electric Fryer.
Our fish came out golden, crispy, and delicious. Jim Edlund

Although you can use the same oil several times by simply placing on the lid after unplugging and letting the unit cool down, we found it was easy to clean given its ceramic interior and exterior. 

Our only complaint is it doesn’t fry a bunch of food at once. But it’s also easy to cook batch after batch and place the fish on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet in a 200-degree oven until all the fish is fried. 

Best Electric Frying Pan: Presto 16-inch Electric Skillet with Glass Cover

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Key Features

  • Electric powered
  • Heavy, cast-aluminum base
  • Coated with deluxe nonstick finish inside and out for stick-free cooking and easy cleaning

Pros 

  • Affordable
  • Large capacity
  • Clean frying
  • Washable in sink or dishwasher with heat control removed

Cons

  • One-year limited warranty

These aren’t all that different than the flowered Sunbeam electric frying pans from decades ago. And there’s a reason they were beloved. They could cook everything from roasts to fried fish. If you don’t have an older generation, look at a new one—and a much larger one—for fish frying sessions with the entire family. 

The best I’ve found and tested is Presto’s whopping 16-inch electric skillet with high side walls for plenty of cooking oil and extra frying capacity. On numerous occasions, we’ve cooked enough fish in one batch for five hungry adults and kids. 

It’s also electric and includes a very accurate thermostat control that allows you to dial in just the right frying temperature between 350 and 400 degrees, and slightly higher temperature adjustments (if needed) in between more than one batch of fried fish to ensure oil is brought back up to the optimum frying temperature.  

I’ve owned one of these Presto electric skillets for a few years—and use it to fry panfish and walleye all the time. But we also tested it with smelt, and the tasty little fish came out golden, crispy, and perfect.

Best Air Fryer: Ninja Foodi FlexBasket with 7-Quart Megazone

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Key Features

  • Two removable, 3.5-quart baskets for larger, 7-quart cooking space
  • Six Functions: Air Fry, Air Broil, Bake, Roast, Reheat and Dehydrate
  • Electric powered
  • Dual Zone Technology: cook two foods two different ways in separate baskets

Pros 

  • No oil required
  • Healthier than standard deep frying – per Ninja “75% less fat than traditional frying”
  • Quick, hands-free cooking
  • Cooks evenly
  • Easy to Clean: non-stick, dishwasher-safe 7-quart fryer basket and crisper plates 

Cons

  • Slightly expensive

I was pretty apprehensive about testing an air fryer for frying fish. Sure, I’d used the air fryer component on our microwave to cook the occasional jalapeno poppers or pizza bites, but that was it. 

But research led us to the Ninja Foodi FlexBasket Air Fryer with 7-quart MegaZone, which a friend recommended for mock-deep frying panfish and quartered walleye fillets. 

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I was similarly pleased with the results, cooking up walleye fillets for fish sandwiches one afternoon. Operation was simple: Plug the unit into an outlet, turn on the machine, pull out the baskets, lay your breaded fish inside, and press the couple of buttons that correspond with “fish” on the directions labeled on the fryer itself. Fish was perfectly cooked after about 20 minutes at 400 degrees in the “Dualzone.”

The fillets were crisp, slightly golden, and tasted good; obviously no grease or oil aftertaste. 

I learned there are definitely more ways (and healthier ones, too) to skin (and fry) a fish. The Ninja Foodi 7-quart AirFryer has earned a spot in our kitchen—and will be used to prepare other foods, too. 

Best Cast Iron Frying Pan: Carolina Cooker 15inch Preseasoned Skillet

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Key Features

  • 15 inches by 2 7/8 inches
  • Pre-seasoned cast iron
  • Double helper handle

Pros 

  • Affordable 
  • Clean frying

Cons

  • Does require a solid cleaning routine to ensure longevity
  • Should not be cleaned in a dishwasher

Sometimes you want to keep things simple and fry a batch of fish on your kitchen stove. It’s hard to beat the speed and heat retention of cast iron. 

Ideally, you want a somewhat larger cast iron pan to use on one of the largest burners on your stove. We found that the Carolina Cooker 15-inch wide (base diameter of 13-iches) holds numerous fillets (especially when cut in half or into nuggets), and you can prepare enough fish in one batch for several guests. With a depth of 2 7/8-inches, this cast iron pan is perfect for adding just the right amount of oil to submerge fish fillets and deep fry. 

We tested the Carolina Cooker cast-iron skillet.
Use the pan over campfires, though maintaining an even temperature can be tricky on an open-fire grate. Jim Edlund

Of course, this Carolina Cooker 15-inch skillet also works great for shore lunches when positioned over an open fire or portable burner or camp stove. Likewise, it can also be used in the oven. 

I’ve also used this on the Carolina Cooker Single Burner Cast Iron Stove, which cooks well outside, on the shore or wherever else you go. Use the pan over campfires, though maintaining an even temperature can be tricky on an open-fire grate.

No matter where you use it, as long as you monitor the oil temperature, the results are pretty much always awesome. 

Best Portable Propane Fryer: Carolina Cooker Single Burner Cast Iron Stove

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Key Features

  • 4-1/2 inch, 15,600 BTU low-pressure burner
  • Leg Height: 4 inches
  • Dimensions: 10 inches by 11 inches 
  • For use with 20-, 30- or 40-pound tanks of LP gas only

Pros 

  • Affordable
  • Cast iron construction
  • Extremely durable
  • Ideal for shore lunches, picnics, family get togethers, tailgating, outdoors canning, or camping
  • Propane powered

Cons

  • Low-pressure regulator and hose assembly sold separately

As summers warm and dry, wood campfires will have shorter seasons, which means fewer opportunities for a shore lunch over an open fire. While you can use a portable, Coleman-style double-burner camping stove, many don’t accommodate a very large pan for fish frying. And backpacking stoves can be treacherous when with a cast iron skillet balanced on top. 

I found the perfect solution in Carolina Cooker’s single burner cast iron stove. It’s perfect for shore lunches on the lake, river bank, or anywhere else outside, including a metal truck tailgate. 

It’s affordable, compact, and easy to keep in the back of the truck or boat for use when the time is right. The cast iron frame is 10-inches by 11-inches with four, 4-inch-high cast-iron legs that ensure stability, even with a 15-inch cast iron skillet placed on top. The low-pressure burner is 4.5 inches in diameter and produces up to 15,600 BTUs for heating oil quickly with a solid blue flame. 

We tested the Carolina Cooker Single Burner.
There’s no price tag you can put on a shore lunch of fried walleye, potatoes, and beans—and this burner makes impromptu meals on the water a lot easier. Jim Edlund

Made for outdoor use only, the single burner stove comes with an air adjuster bolt and spring. The burner also comes with a brass on and off valve controller. This burner is recommended for outdoor use with 20 pounds or larger canisters of LP gas only and cannot be used with natural gas or other camp stove fuels. 

I absolutely love cooking with this affordable portable propane burner, typically in combination with a Carolina Cooker 15-inch Preseasoned Skillet. There’s no price tag you can put on a shore lunch of fried walleye, potatoes, and beans—and this burner makes impromptu meals on the water a lot easier. 

Things to Consider Before Buying an Outdoor Deep Fryer

Fuel

First, decide what fuel you would like to use. Do you want to cook with electricity, propane, or over an open campfire?

Propane fryers heat up quickly but cannot be used indoors because of carbon monoxide risks. Electric-powered fryers can be used either inside or outside. Traditional, pan-frying in a cast iron skillet on a stove, fire grate, or portable propane burner, can work inside or outside. Air fryers, which don’t require oil, need an electrical source.

Size

How many people do you need to cook for? Sizes vary considerably between those best for a small family or a few friends up to fryers big enough to feed a crew. Also consider how quickly you need to produce a meal. 

FAQs

Q: Can you use an electric fryer outside?

Yes, you can use an electric fish fryer outdoors to keep your kitchen clean and odorless. In these cases, experts recommend that you use an electric fish fryer without an extension cord to reduce fire risk. Models with breakaway cords (which most feature) also reduce the possibility of hot oil spilling on anyone nearby if someone trips on the cord. 

Q: Can I deep fry fish in the rain or snow? 

On fishing trips with rain and snow, fry your fish inside. Any kind of moisture that comes into contact with hot oil can cause burn-inducing splatters. Also, use tongs, a deep-frying strainer or make sure frozen, breaded fish is fully thawed before placing it in your fryer basket.  

Q: What’s the best oil to deep fry fish in?

People often use peanut oil because of its high smoke point, but it can impart a peanut taste to freshly-caught and breaded fish. Some people like this taste, so it’s up to the cook and guests. Depending on how golden you like your fish fillets, oil heated to between 350 and 380 degrees is generally best. This allows for more mild-tasting oils like Canola oil and blends designed specifically for frying fish. Avoid olive oils, which have a very low smoke point. 

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Final Thoughts on Best Outdoor Deep Fryers

Do you prefer to fry your food outside? Do you need a portable unit? How many people do you need to feed? What’s your budget? Do you want to deep fry in the traditional manner—or do you want to experiment with the more health-conscious air-fryer? Maybe give yourself both options. Just know that all of the above outdoor deep fryers are good ones. 

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