Today's foodservice trends emphasizing light and healthful foods have made a dent in our fat intake by changing old eating habits. Nevertheless, we still love our fried foods, which explains why fryer manufacturers have kept sales up over the years. And to their credit, as energy consciousness has entered the scene, manufacturers are responding quickly with new redesigns and features.
Gas and electric fryers are available in a variety of sizes and styles. The most prevalent countertop units are electric, although some gas models are available. Most countertop models have a frying medium capacity of 15 to 40 pounds, with larger capacity models able to handle substantially more product with a faster temperature recovery. Many countertop fryers have a lift-out fry pot, which makes a pot easy to clean, though it can be hard and even dangerous for some employees to handle when filtering.
Most high production frying, especially in high-volume applications, is done in floor-mounted models. These pieces of equipment hold from 35 to 80 pounds of frying medium and have gas requirements of 50,000 to 120,000 BTU or electric requirements from 8 to 22 KW. The high power and fuel requirements are necessary to ensure production requirements while allowing little fluctuation in oil temperature, even when loaded with frozen food product.
Many fryers are designed with a cool zone, which allows food particles to collect at the bottom of the fryer where they will not cause much harm to the frying medium or taste transfer. This also extends fry medium life.
Recent improvements in fryers have been made to save energy, lengthen the life of the oil medium and reduce oil consumption. Today's frying mediums, in addition to being cholesterol free, are specially formulated vegetable oil blends with additives to extend frying life and reduce oxidation. Newer generations of frying equipment also have time-and-money-saving features.
Energy efficiency is easy for electric fryers since the heating elements are immersed in the frying medium, giving the highest possible efficiency from the electric source. Gas fryers have traditionally been less than energy efficient until recently.
Gas fryers heat the medium either with a burner under the fry pot or by injecting the gas flame through tubes running through the fry pot. Recently, burners have been designed to transfer heat more effectively, heating more evenly, extracting more heat energy from the fuel and reducing waste heat.
One often-heard complaint about high-efficiency fryers is cost. Expect to pay 15% premium or more for a high efficiency fryer. Are they worth the cost? If you expect to have your fryer five years or more and want to consider the energy savings over that period, an energy efficient fryer is going to be a good value in most cases.
The low-oil-volume fryer eliminates the traditional cold zone area and requires less oil to fill the frypot. With the cost of frying oil, the savings can be substantial, and with less oil it can be heated more effectively with the same or a smaller-rated burner. The downside is that the oil must be filtered often to remove the sediment. Manufacturers are now working on continuous filtering fryers.
Caring for your frying medium is important. Today's frying oils are specially formulated for use in deep-fat fryers and are often more expensive than the products cooked in the fryer. To get the greatest use from your frying medium, be sure to filter daily and skim out as much of the floating particles as possible throughout the day.
Dan Bendall is a principal of Food-Strategy, a Maryland-based consulting firm that specializes in planning foodservice facilities. A member of Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI), Bendall can be reached at 240-314-0660.