Frying technology continues to improve, with the latest systems designed to offer the ultimate fried product while meeting the safety, operational and cost requirements that customers demand. But operators still face major challenges when it comes to getting the most out of their equipment. FEJ got hold of some of the top frying equipment experts and put three killer questions to them that the market wants answered.
1) Most sectors of the market, including quick-service restaurants and pub chains, are striving to improve the quality of their fried menu. What aspects or features of frying equipment will ultimately influence an operator’s ability to get this quality up?
The mark of high quality fried food is cooking uniformity and an even, golden fry. This is something which is difficult to achieve consistently for even the most skilled chefs, so in sectors where turnover is higher, and the level of experience lower, the aim should be to specify equipment that will make that job easier.
There are numerous features on modern day commercial frying appliances that are designed primarily to deliver consistent, quality frying results, regardless of who is operating the equipment or at which chain outlet a customer visits. Ultimately, it is this ability to produce consistent results that has the biggest influence on the quality of the final product.
Steve Morris, sales director at Jestic, says: “In order to deliver consistency, an operator needs to be able to control a number of key elements: the time a particular item is cooked for; the temperature that an item is cooked at; and the quality of the oil that is used during the process. Get these three key elements right and the quality of the food produced will be consistently high.”
Morris insists the latest equipment, such as the Evolution Elite range of open fryers from Henny Penny, will be able to do that at the touch of a button. Its control panel allows multiple programs to be set to individual items on a menu. Operators simply need to press the corresponding button to deliver the cook time and temperature required for that item. The system can even be programmed for a certain weight of food, for example 1kg of frozen chips.
“Should the operator over or under-fill the basket on any particular load, the technology will automatically adjust the cook time to compensate, reducing the effects of human error and producing perfectly cooked food every time,” explains Morris.
In quick service or chain environments, it’s also vital that equipment can cope with the pace of a busy service. Again, a fryer which promises high performance matched by a fast recovery time will satisfy those outlets looking for consistency and speed. The quality and type of oil used will also be a major factor when it comes to determining the output of the finished product being served, as will the actual food product used and how that product is handled and stored before and after the frying process.
If people want a fried food choice, it needs to be of the best quality and cooked so that the ingress of oil into the food is minimised. Quick heat recovery is the key to this so that the food is quickly sealed when it comes in contact with the hot oil, says Steve Elliott, sales director at Valentine.
“The fryer then needs to react quickly to ensure that after the initial heat shock, temperature rises rapidly back to the optimum to finish the cooking and browning process. The finished product will have absorbed less oil, be healthier, but still have the taste and texture that many people love about fried foods. The chef and kitchen brigade have a part to play in the healthy fried food phenomenon. At the end of cooking, a 20-30 second draining phase should be factored into the process. This will allow any unwanted or excess oil to drain back into the pan and reduce the overall amount of oil consumed by the diners.”
Under and over-cooking fried food can lead to an unsatisfactory product, but is exceptionally easy to do during peak service times. One way to combat this is by fitting timers and basket lifts onto the fryer to help ensure a consistently great product and improve cooking accuracy, advises Steve Hemsil, sales director for the UK and Ireland at kitchen equipment supplier Welbilt.
“This can then be taken to the next level, whereby fryers feature computer controls which advise the operator when to shake the product during the frying process to ensure that items in the basket are not stuck together, which if left could produce a poor result. These advancements in frying technology and controls can also have specific timings added in as well as the standard set timing so that the reduction in oil temperature can be taken into account, again helping to ensure a consistent, delicious fried product.”
2) Buying habits are evolving and more operators are now aware of the benefits of examining the ‘total cost of frying’, including oil and energy savings. How should they go about this — are there any ‘hidden’ costs to watch out for when trying to establish the total cost of frying?
Most outlets nowadays are looking to recoup as much of their investment on equipment as possible, not least those with multiple sites to take care of. That’s why more operators are talking about the total cost of fryers. This typically includes the upfront acquisition cost of the frying equipment, the ongoing utility costs, the ongoing oil costs and the daily cost of filter paper, if so equipped, suggests Kenny Smith, managing director of Middleby UK.
“More sophisticated calculations also include labour to operate, clean, filter and dispose oil from the fryer as well as estimates on projected maintenance and repair costs over the life of the fryer. But the biggest component to the overall total cost of ownership is oil! Most operators underestimate their annual oil costs, which can easily exceed thousands of pounds annually per fryer. A good oil filtering system can double the life of your cooking oil and generates savings of potentially thousands of pounds annually per frypot.”
It is also important to take into account the costs of any additional accessories and disposables which may be involved in the whole frying process, while it’s crucial that staff are well trained on the equipment so that each team member is aware of how best to use the fryer to realise the benefits it has been installed to produce, and how to clean it. “Operators should also look closely at warranties and support and make sure they are adequate for their service and menu demands,” says Valentine’s Steve Elliott.
Steve Hemsil at Welbilt adds: “For global chains, and our customers, staff with varying skillsets must be able to operate the fryer’s system with ease so that consistent product quality is achieved time and again across various different outlet sites, which will in turn reflect on the chain’s brand and reputation with customers. This is
why advanced, software-led fryers are the industry standard for superior frying as they will reduce potential wastage from unsatisfactory fried products and reduce associated time and labour costs.”
Paul Hickman, development chef at Lincat, says that although features such as filtration systems do add some cost to the initial purchase price of equipment, this investment pales into insignificance with the oil savings that a filtration system will deliver over the lifetime of the fryer.
“Effective filtration extends the life of oil, reducing the amount used, while driving down the costs of oil disposal in the process. The potential savings are huge. We’ve done the calculations, and a busy restaurant frying 375 x 280g portions of chips a day could reasonably expect to cut oil costs by around £600 a year, simply by using an energy-efficient Opus 800 Vortech Fryer with filtration instead of a normal fryer. Over the life of the equipment, this will provide significant and worthwhile savings, and much better long-term value.”
3) Oil filtration continues to be a major topic for the market, with numerous manufacturers investing in improving their inbuilt filtration systems and claiming to be able to significantly extend oil life. Where do you see this debate going in the next few years?
Middleby’s Kenny Smith insists there is no debate to have — properly filtering your oil once a day in a cold zone fryer doubles the life of your oil. “For the customers who have the right volume, menu and operational practices, the new low oil volume technology can further extend oil life dramatically. There is good reason the large chains use 15 litre, low oil volume fryers — they provide the lowest total cost of ownership for their type of operation.”
Oil filtration is no doubt important, but Electrolux’s training and demonstration manager, Stuart Flint, thinks it’s vital to view it as part of an overall system. “Making sure the fryer heats both food and oil evenly, and keeps it moving around the well, will also help to extend oil life and have a subsequent impact on the quality of food you can deliver,” he counsels.
“Currently, the best pieces of kit allow oil to be kept for three times as long as standard machines thanks to design features such as cold zones and special infrared heating elements. As technology improves, I’d expect that figure to continue to rise.”
Jestic sees more of its customers purchasing commercial fryers with inbuilt filtration, primarily because of the cost savings that the technology can deliver over the life of the unit.
“Going forward, we expect to see innovation in the way that fryers filter and in the medium that is used to actually perform the filtration process,” says Steve Morris. “As we’ve seen with recent incidents with high street chains, one of the biggest dangers of filtering a fryer is the risk of employees handling hot oil. As automatic filtration becomes commonplace, this risk should all but be eliminated.”
While industry attitudes towards filtration systems are changing, there’s still some way to go, according to Paul Hickman at Lincat. In the end, he says, it comes down to increasing the awareness of the benefits — and specifically the cost savings — that filtration and oil management features provide.
“Fryer technology is developing really quickly and, as manufacturers, we’re always looking for ways to drive innovation and raise the bar. In the next few years, we expect to see the continued development of oil filtration and oil management technology as features like automatic oil quality monitoring become standard across fryer ranges and gas technology becomes more affordable. Going forward we foresee that the industry will continue to develop fryers with built-in filtration alongside other technologies such as oil cascading, which involves moving oil from one fryer to another so that multiple food items can be cooked with the same oil.”
Vito blazes trail in oil filtration
Independent oil filtration specialist Vito has a unique view of the fryer market, with its oil management systems used by operators to dramatically reduce oil consumption, slash costs and lower the cleaning effort.
“The cost of fryer manufacturers designing and building a system as good as the Vito oil filtration system will be huge in terms of money and time in R&D and testing, which will price them out of the market,” he claims.
“A bank of four to six fryers can be filtered with one Vito in 4.5 minutes per fryer, saving on the huge outlay of purchasing individual fryers with built-in filtration. We already have two major manufacturers — Valentine Fryers and Henry Nuttall Fish Frying Ranges — selling our system alongside their fryers, enabling them to offer their customers a more cost-effective system.”
More than 40,000 customers around the world use Vito systems every day, with leading foodserice groups deploying the technology to remove carbonised particles, micro particles and suspended sediments.
Addison insists that when it comes to identifying hidden costs of frying and cooking oil filtration, the ongoing cost of filter papers used for filtering the oil is something to look out for.
“The Vito filter is multi-use and can be used between four to eight times before needing to be replaced. Furthermore, because the Vito is used while the oil is at cooking temperature there is no need for staff to wait and allow oil to cool before filtering. The total filtering cycle takes 4.5 minutes, meaning less time cleaning and maintaining the fryer, and less chemicals and labour used over traditional methods of oil filtration.”
Testo outlines why oil testing can save a reputation
Some foodservice operators are saving as much as 20% on oil consumption a year, simply by testing their oil on a regular basis, writes Ashton Bayliss, product marketing manager at test and measurement specialist Testo.
While many operators have now adopted technology to test their cooking oil, a significant number of restaurants and foodservice providers still don’t have a suitable system in place for when to change the oil in their fryers.
Generally, restaurants fall into one of two categories: either they are changing their oil too frequently or, in some cases, not often enough. Both cases create serious issues for the affected company, issues which, ironically, are very easily rectified.
So what if you discover you are not changing your oil enough? Well, in this case you have an even bigger incentive to test your oil regularly. Using oil which is past the curve has the potential to create a number of major issues.
Firstly, you run the risk of producing a poor standard of fried food. With overused oil the fried shell is less crisp and the food absorbs much more oil than usual. The batter can become saturated with oil, giving you a greasy end-product.
Secondly, as the oil continues to age, the product produced can become hard and oily. Subsequently, there is an added risk with using such aged oil as this can cause problems with the inner food not actually cooking properly.
This, of course, could lead to a whole new list of problems for any company serving food, and can then cause problems from a food safety point of view.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, you won’t produce a consistent level of product quality.
Ever wondered how multinational fast food companies are able to supply such consistent fried products across the world? The answer is regular cooking oil testing. You may not necessarily save money in the short term but when you consider the long-term reputation of your business, you absolutely will.
Producing a consistent, quality fried product supports restaurants in their ongoing pursuit of being seen as a trusted, reputable and sustainable food brand.