A few years ago, the decision on which deep-fat fryer to suggest to a customer was pretty simple. The two basic variables were the capacity and whether the operator wanted a gas or an electric model. Today, with a vastly increased number of choices, that’s all changed.
There’s still the gas or electric decision to make, but even that’s become more complex. Gas-fryer manufacturers have greatly improved the efficiency ratings of their equipment, reducing fuel cost. Electric-fryer suppliers have boosted the recovery time of their models, which makes lower standby settings practical during off-peak periods.
The vast majority of fryers are general-purpose models. However, there is strong demand for pressure fryers, and there are such specialized fryers as conveyor fryers, corn-dog fryers, taco fryers, and doughnut fryers.
Features To Consider
Here’s a quick rundown of some features that must be considered in suggesting a general-purpose fryer:
Production of a fry kettle depends on several factors. Be sure that you’re comparing apples with apples if your competition quotes production figures. Output is dependent on the size of the fry kettle, the rating of the heating elements, and the type of food being fried. The temperature of the food placed in the fryer is also a major consideration. Frozen foods take longer to cook than refrigerated foods, and thus reduce production. There are two main styles of fryer available. Floor models have higher capacity while countertop models require less space.
Although the big volume is in floor models, countertop units are popular with many operators. In general, floor models run from 20 to 200 pounds fat capacity, while countertop units fall in the 20-to-40-pound range.
Dual-kettle models have two kettles, with separate controls, in the same cabinet. Some have equal-sized kettles while others do not. Typically, the large kettle handles a full-sized basket while the smaller one accepts a half-sized basket. Large batches of food, such as french fries, are cooked in the large kettle. Smaller orders, especially fried-to-order entrees, are cooked in the small kettle.
Gas or Electric?
Gas and electric fryers both are available in almost every size and capacity. However, counter top models are almost all electric. The selection of either a gas or electric fryer usually depends on two factors: the difference in the cost of the two utilities and the operator’s heating-source preference.
Electricity is considered 100-percent efficient. Gas figures must be multiplied by the efficiency percentage listed in the fryer specs, which could range from 60 to 75 percent or higher.
- Gas-fryer efficiency can vary greatly from one type of fryer to another. Two of the most efficient gas-fryer systems use either catalytic or infrared burners. Both generally produce from 70- to 75-percent efficiency, although some new fryers claim even higher heat utilization from natural gas.
- Electric fryers generally have heating elements that consume from five to 18 kilowatts per hour. Efficiency is very high because there is no loss of combustion, and all heat produced is delivered directly to the frying medium.
The newest technology in electric fryers is induction heating, a method of increasing heating efficiency by inducing frictional molecular activity in the oil itself. The average temperature used in a general-purpose fryer is 350 degrees. Controls usually permit setting the temperature from 150 to 375 degrees. Lower temperatures are used for melting solid shortening and for idling during off-peak periods.
Electronic (computer) controls are available on upper-end fryers in most lines. Some manufacturers use electronic controls on all their fryers. In most lines, only top-end models have digital temperature readout panels. In addition to the standard temperature control (thermostat), there’s generally an automatic shutoff (limit switch) which cuts off the heating when the oil temperature reaches a pre-set maximum level.
Manufacturers have developed a number of proprietary kettle shapes. V, W, and Y are the most common ones. Electric fryers are most often made in the Y shape, while gas-kettle manufacturers seem to prefer the V shape. Because of their limited depth, most countertop models have straight-sided kettles, which are the easiest of all to clean.
Insulation of the kettle is regarded as more critical than the shape of the kettle. Insulation efficiency can reduce fuel use and boost recovery time substantially, as well as keep the kitchen cooler.
Stainless-steel construction has become standard for fry kettles, for longevity and ease of cleaning. In addition, the outside shell of the fryer may be formed of stainless steel, although that is the most costly. Exterior surfaces may also be chrome-plated or enameled. You’ll generally find stainless-steel shells on countertop units.
Fry-kettle size and heating-element rating directly affect recovery the amount of time it takes to bring fat back to proper frying temperature after it has been cooled by cold food. Slow recovery allows the food to absorb more frying fat, which produces both a less-desirable product and requires more frequent replenishment of the fat. For most fryers, recommend that the operator buy a fryer large enough so that food volume at peak use is one-sixth the volume of the fat in pounds. Claims should be based on a load of frozen french fries, the standard measurement for the industry. Be sure that the recovery rates for different fryers are based upon the identical values, or convert them in order to get accurate comparisons.
In other words, a 40-pound fryer should be able to handle 6 3/4 pounds of frozen french fries with adequate recovery time. Some manufacturers claim that their fast-recovery fryers can handle a one-to-four ratio. To determine fryer capacity needed, gauge how many pounds of fried food are needed at the maximum peak half hour. Divide that by the number of loads the operator is able to put through a fryer in that half hour. Say the fryer is used for french fries, the operation serves 20 pounds of french fries in a peak half-hour period, and gets four loads per half hour. On a one to six basis, it will take a 30-pound fryer in order to accommodate the demand comfortably.
Because space is at a premium in most kitchens, manufacturers often stress the width of the fryer rather than kettle capacity. However, kettle capacity is one of the main factors in the production rate.
– Foodservice consultants recommend the use of two or more smaller fryers over one large-capacity model. That allows the operator to switch excess capacity to standby temperatures during off-peak periods, cutting fuel costs and extending the life of the frying fat.
– Operators may dedicate a fryer to specific foods even though manufacturers of frying media promote certain shortenings as not transferring flavors from one food to another.
In operations that prepare a lot of chicken, a pressure fryer can speed up production. Pressure fryers cook faster and at lower temperatures than general-purpose fryers. Typically, chicken can be fried in about half the time in a pressure fryer than in a regular deep-fat fryer.
Options To Consider
Your general-purpose line will probably include both manual and automatic fryers. A manual fryer requires the operator to lower and lift the basket into the vat. In an automatic model, the operator lowers the basket manually, but when the timed cycle is completed, an automatic lift raises the basket to drain. A signal tells the operator that the batch is done.
Most manufacturers offer a selection of baskets in different sizes and shapes. There may also be fish plates, scoops, skimmers, sediment screens, surge shelves, fill-in (spreader) cabinets, casters, and kettle covers available.
Because burned oil hastens the deterioration of a fresh batch, and because splattering creates deposits around the top of the kettle, fryers should be cleaned regularly. Cleanability is therefore a strong sales point.
The easiest kettle design in terms of cleaning is the straight-sided, flat-bottomed style that has heating elements outside the tank. This is found most commonly in countertop models. Electric models have elements that lift or swing up out of the way during cleaning run a close second for ease of cleaning.
- Most difficult to clean are kettles which have burner tubes or elements inside the tank. However, electric models with elements on the bottom of the tank often have sediment screens which simplify removal of frying debris when the tank is drained.
- Drains are generally placed at the front of the kettle, at the bottom. Some models have two drains, one above the other. The top valve is opened to drain the fat for filtering. The bottom valve drains out the sediment from the tank bottom. By draining and discarding the sediment-laden bottom fat separately, filter clogging is sharply reduced.
- Proper filtering is critical to ensure fryer efficiency. Sediment from food, breading, batter, and seasonings especially salt breaks down the fat into fatty acids which smoke and consequently give foods an off flavor. Frequent filtering removes sediments and extends the life of the fat. Most operators use an external, roll-around, electric-powered filter which attaches to the fryer drain, draws the fat through the filter, and stores it in a self-contained tank. When the fryer is empty and cleaned, it can be pumped back into the kettle.
There are also filters on the market that are built right into the base of the fryer. And a filter used for cleaning a bank of fryers is often installed in a spreader cabinet between fryers. Fat can be filtered through cloth, paper, or fiber, or in combination with a filtering compound. The filtering medium is replaceable. Like any other kitchen applicant like toaster ovens, rice cookers, grills…; fryer is one of most important of our kitchens.