The vast majority of America’s 980,000 restaurants operate a frying line, which means they need to consider two critical factors about cooking oil.
One, oil is an essential element of food flavor, and consistently flavorful food drives repeat business. Second, fryer oil is increasingly expensive. In most restaurants, oil expenses exceed the cost of every other frying-line item, excluding the food itself. And unlike frying-line hardware, all oils eventually deteriorate.
Effectively managing oil can deter its degradation, reduce costs and ensure consistently higher food quality for customers.
Follow these 10 tips to help manage fryer oil effectively:
1. Choose decision-makers wisely. Generally, kitchen managers are the best judges of when oil should be discarded. Less-experienced restaurant workers may be tempted to throw away used oil too soon. Automated oil management systems have lockout functionality, which requires a key to dispose and thus can be better controlled.
2. Don’t just count the days. When deciding whether to discard used oil, consider the general quality of food coming out of the fryer, including taste, aroma, color and texture. It’s best to manage oil on a “vat-by-vat” basis, as opposed to revolving around a day of the week or crew convenience.
3. Know your chemistry. Oil expands as it’s heated. So check oil levels in vats on a regular basis and top-off as needed. However, do not overfill the vats.
4. Monitor temperatures. One main enemy of fryer oil is heat. Combined with oxygen in the air, heat accelerates oil breakdown and degrades food flavor. Be sure to turn off unneeded vats and use fire-up and shutdown schedules. It’s also important to check vat temperatures on a regular basis and regularly recalibrate thermostats, if needed.
5. Filter regularly. Filter oil on a daily basis. Never underestimate the importance of filtering cooking oil. One missed day can reduce oil’s fry life significantly and negatively impact food quality.
6. Filter before you throw. Before disposing used oil, filter it. Premature oil disposal can take dollars off the bottom line.
7. Size matters. It’s important to ensure the correct filter paper or pad size is used, as well as guaranteeing the filter box screen and weights hold the paper or pad firmly in place so crumbs are unable to bypass it.
8. Steer clear of water. When placing food into the fryer, never empty frozen products into baskets over vats. The ice that comes in contact with frying oil attacks fat molecules and imparts a smoky flavor. Also ensure the filter box is thoroughly dry before inserting the filter paper or pad.
9. Eliminate soap. Soap used to clean fryers is also an enemy of cooking oil. It can react with oil to degrade food flavor and color and also causes oil to smoke. When cleaning filter boxes do not use degreasers or soap, spray with hot water only.
10. When possible, upgrade your approach. Consider leveraging an automated oil management and filtration tracking solution. This will allow for easy monitoring of oil activity performance and identify problem areas that may be diminishing food quality and consistency and negatively impacting your bottom line.
Managing fryer oil as an asset is as important as choosing the right fryer equipment, or selecting the correct oil formula. In the end, it will result in cost savings, improved food quality and increased satisfaction to those that matter most: your customers.
Rob Slattery, director of product development for Restaurant Technologies, Inc., works to cultivate innovation across RTI and develop new solutions to meet industry needs as they continue to change and grow.