Grease on the floor and on your clothes, messy counters next to your stovetop and sticky venting fans – all "what's not to like" about splattering oil. You need oil for cooking, to reduce the chances of food sticking and to help bring the flavors of a dish together. But you don't need the additional bother of dealing with the cleanup. Luckily, you have some remedies to solve this pesky problem.
Dry Food Thoroughly
Splatters happen when water vaporizes into steam and expands, displacing the oil and causing it to move elsewhere, like onto your hands or the kitchen counter. Drying your food thoroughly before adding it to the hot pan offers the most effective solution for reducing splatters. Use paper towels or clean dish towels to dry vegetables, meat, fish and poultry completely. Dredging fish or poultry in flour also soaks up water and gives the food a pleasant, thin layer of crispiness.
While you may not be able to prevent splattering completely, you can minimize it. Instead of dropping food into the oil from on high, slip the food into the pan carefully from only a few inches above to minimize splashing. Cook in small batches to allow food to cook more quickly, thus minimizing the amount of time for splattering, and use a roomy pan to give oil splatters the chance to fall back into the pan rather than onto the stovetop. Finally, don't overfill your skillet or fryer with oil – leave at least 2 inches of space at the top of the pan.
Try Offbeat Remedies
You know about soaking up excess oil after food has finished pan-frying, but you can also use a paper towel to blot up excess oil while frying or sauteing. Using a pair of tongs or your hands, set a folded or wadded paper towel in the pan during cooking to soak up excess oil and minimize splattering. A side benefit of blotting is that your food may absorb less fatty oil.
Another non-intuitive method to reduce splatters involves cooking bacon or sausages in a few inches of water first, to render out the fat. After a few minutes, when the water has evaporated, continue cooking as normal, but with far less fat in the pan. Or, pour off the fatty water into a tin can placed in your sink instead of waiting for the water to dissipate.
Use Tools to Minimize Damage
Some tools, like woks or pans with high sides, keep oil splatters contained. Lids, splatter screens and splatter guards do the same thing. If you don't have a lid for your skillet, experiment with your largest pot lid or use a small cookie sheet placed over the pan, offset to let steam escape. To protect the other burners and the stovetop from splatters, lay out cookie sheets or pieces of foil in the places where the splatters fall.
Try Other Frying Techniques
Instead of frying in a skillet or deep fryer, try oven frying at high temps. French fries, fried fish, and fried chicken all very closely resemble their deep-fried counterparts when you cook them in a 425-degree Fahrenheit oven. Or, invest in an air fryer, a countertop appliance that works like a convection oven, creating healthy fried foods with little to no oil.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.