My reference standard for deep frying is my cast iron pot on a single gas burner in my carport. That's as close to a commercial fryer that I can get without springing for a foodservice product. There are often times that I just need a small volume fryer without going through the hassel of setting up outside. I've been pretty disappointed with home models. I've used everything from my mom's 50's vintage Wonderfry to two fryers that are supposed to be highly recommended in tests by Cook's Illustrated. My inital results had been less then stellar with significant temp sag and both returned. Now the darling honey seems to be the T-fal or it's digital controlled Emiril twin. Even with 20% off, they appear to be really flimsy and take up more space and oil then I'd rather b4 making it an afternoon outside. I bought the little Cuisanart that wasn't to bad with recovery if you let the meat come to room temp. Unfortunately the small,rectangular design limits you to very small pieces and a single breast is out of the question as you can't completely immerse it. It's not an immersion element, but this one wasn't too bad with recovery. It self destructed within a year. I picked up a brand new Fry Daddy at a yard sale for $10. It was so new, that it had a recent wedding shower card still inside the box with the packing. I've seen these, but never really paid any attention due to no adjustable thermostat or any other convenience features and they looked impractical. After using it, boy I was wrong. These are hidden values for the price. No basket lets you have more useable oil coverage. And heat? These units can pump heat and recover fast with minimal sag by comparison to anything else that I've used. This flies in the face of the common wisdom that an immersable element is best. Poppycock. Fifty degree sag for a batch of frozen curly fries isn't too bad. Using a chinese skim instead of basket works very well.
The bad? No thermostat. These have a mind of their own and use a simple thermal contact switch that settles anywhere from 350 to 400 degrees. Great heat and unusually good recovery, but not very controllable. Then there's the issue with the Teflon coating which is starting to flake off at the oil line. Food that touches the bottom b4 floating may get burned. Easily solved by the useless,tiny circular rack that came with my rice steamer.
For what these do for $25, they seem to do very well. Looking at Presto's other products, it's more of the same, but larger. Hidden away in another product line is their multi cookers that you don't see in any of the local stores. Pretty much the very same idea as the Fryers, but with a plug-in thermostat/controller. Most reviews center around multi purpose cooking and steaming, but little in the way of comparative or objective information on frying characteristics. Some reviews claim that the manual specifically says not to fry in them although ad copy says you can as well. What looks interesting is one is available in Stainless in what appears to be the modified base of their table top pressure cooker with integral heat element at 1500W. If these can maintain the heat of the Frydaddy's/pappy's and have thermostatic control, they sound like a winner with even higher wattage ased on my experience with the Frydaddy. Look beautiful too. For a 6Q unit, that's about 2Q - 21/2 Q of usable oil in about a 9" surface area which seems to be a reasonable comprimise between the small 1L tabletops and the larger 3-5 Q rectangular, quasi-commercial fryers that are built like tin cans. http://www.gopresto.com/products/products.php?stock=06020
Anyone have any experience with these?