Oct 2023

Ice and Hot Oil: The Science Behind This Terrible Combination

October 25, 2023
Ice and Hot Oil: The Science Behind This Terrible Combination

From the universally loved fried chicken to French fries, hash browns, and more, many of our favourite foods come out so good from being cooked through deep-frying. That said, not everything goes well with boiling oil, especially ice. Read on as we uncover the dangerous and explosive reaction that results from this terrible combination.

Deep-Frying Ice: The Science Behind the Resulting Combustion

While boiling oil generally warrants caution when handling it, we know that everyday ice is anything but harmful. So, why does combining them create such a dangerous scenario? To unravel this mystery, let’s first examine some key facts about these substances.

Deep frying typically involves oil heated to temperatures ranging from 150°C to 200°C, while ice maintains a chilly 0°C. This stark temperature contrast is crucial to our understanding. As you may recall from your O Level physics tuition lessons, matter exists in three states: solid, liquid, and gas.

When a substance transitions from one state to another, its particles begin to vibrate, with the intensity of this vibration varying depending on the direction of the shift. Higher temperatures result in faster particle vibrations, which is why boiling oil’s particles vibrate vigorously.

When you introduce ice into this equation, the extreme temperature difference causes the oil’s heat to rapidly transfer to the ice, transforming it into water that sinks to the bottom. Subsequently, the water transforms into steam, and this sudden release of steam, mixed with tiny oil droplets, bursts into the air. In the worst-case scenario, some of these oil and steam particles may ignite, leading to further chaos.

That said, the likelihood of a fire in this scenario wholly depends on the oil involved, as different oils must reach different temperatures before igniting. In short, if oil reaches its flash point, it will exude highly flammable vapours.

When steam below the oil causes the latter to rise, its vapour particles become prone to catching fire and exploding. But since it generally requires incredibly high temperatures for this to happen, the odds of a severe fire breaking out after pouring a large amount of ice cubes into a deep fryer is rare. Moreover, keeping such a fire going requires maintaining even higher temperatures called the fire point, hence why the fire that follows after the explosion quickly dies down on its own.


To be on the safe side, it is best to steer clear of deep-frying experiments at home, even if it is for scientific curiosity. The risk of mishandling such a combination is not worth the thrill. However, mixing ice and oil at typical temperatures is perfectly safe and is even recommended for removing excess oil when doing the dishes, as the ice helps solidify the fat, making it easier to clean.

To learn more about the inner workings of how everyday things interact, consider signing up for Tuition Physics today! As the leading provider of high-quality and accessible O Level and IP physics tuition for secondary school to junior college, we guarantee you’ll get all the help you need to ace your big tests and ultimately reach your academic goals in physics. For more information about our syllabi and class schedules, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.

WhatsApp chat