By 4028mdk09 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

What happens if a human body is put in a deep fryer?

Short answer: That person will die a delicious, terrible death.

Long answer: Deep fryers work by the “Maillard reaction” (my-YAR reaction). It’s these chemical reactions that create the flavor compounds that make french fries and fried chicken taste so good. The fatty oil in the deep fryer reacts with sugars and proteins and breaks them down, so the effects of a deep fryer on a human will be similar to burning but without the charring and blackening.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) there are many known cases of deep fryer oil getting splashed on restaurant workers, so the medical literature is pretty complete on the topic. Since the operating temperature of most deep fryers is about 350 F (177 C) a body submerged in the deep fryer will be almost instantaneously covered in third degree burns. The longer the body is submerged the deeper the injuries will extend: first skin, then subcutaneous fat, and eventually muscle [1]. After all, humans and animals are made of the same stuff – some skin, some meat, some bone, etc. You’re basically just cooking meat.


Progression from first, to second, to third degree burns.

Progression from first, to second, to third degree burns [1].

Burns have always horrified me because of the extent of the damage. Following any other injury the skin can grow back because the adjacent skin and subdermal tissue is intact. In a burn, that’s not the case – you need to do a graft because everything is destroyed. When I was taught first aid the instructor described burns as ‘amputation by fire.’ That stuck with me.

As a final thought, I’m reminded of a quote. “Why calculate what you can measure?” I know what you’re thinking, and I assure you I’m not about to suggest deep frying a person. That’s probably at least three different kinds of illegal. Instead, try a substitute. Fresh meat from the deli section at your local grocery store is often very good for simulating human flesh in experiments. For example, it’s how some people do ballistics testing for different ammunition. With Thanksgiving coming up, perhaps you’d like to try deep frying a turkey? Be a scientist! Watch the meat change texture and temperature, and take some notes and a few pictures. Just remember – safety first.





image credit: Wikimedia Commons
asked by Ruby J. (age 9)




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