Introduction To Deep Fryers
Deep fat fryers are almost a must if you want to satisfy the enormous demand for popular fried foods like French fries and fried chicken (including nuggets, fingers, and wings). But a commercial deep fryer is also an incredibly versatile piece of restaurant equipment. It can be used to diversify and embellish a menu, or maximize check totals by offering your customers tasty and creative fried appetizers, entrees, side dishes, and desserts.
Check-Building Fried Foods
- Appetizers: fried cheese sticks, shrimp, fish nuggets, calamari, onions, mushrooms, egg rolls, dumplings, wontons, tortilla chips, vegetables such as string beans, cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli, and more.
- Entrees: fried fish, shellfish, cutlets, chicken-fried steak & chops, chimichangas, falafel, samosas, and more.
- Side Dishes: Fried onion rings, plantains, kale, tater-tots, pickles, okra, hush puppies, fried mac ‘n’ cheese, corn-on-the-cob, and more.
- Garnishes: fried onions, leeks, shallots, herbs (leaf basil, sage, and rosemary) root vegetables (shoestring parsnips, sweet potatoes, and carrots), coconut shavings, and more.
- Desserts: fried pies, doughs, fritters, funnel cakes, churros, and a host of novelty items like fried ice cream, butter, Twinkies, Snickers, Oreos, cheesecake, and more.
Further, deep frying is a relatively fast cooking process, and fried foods tend to travel well. They are a great way to maximize your take-out and delivery business. Whether you’re talking about buckets of fried chicken, bags of French fries, or boxes of fresh doughnuts, fried offerings have been a mainstay of some of the most successful fast food take-out chains ever.
What Are You Frying?
When shopping for a commercial fryer, the first question you must ask, is: What are you planning to fry? The bulk of commercial fryers fall into one of three primary categories. Additionally, there are a few specialty fryers available for unique applications.
Primary Commercial Fryer Types
- Open-vat Fryers – Versatile and well-suited for most frying needs, Open-vat fryers are best suited for unbreaded or lightly breaded foods like French fries, chicken wings, egg rolls, hush puppies, and cheese sticks. The term “open-vat” refers to the unobstructed heating area inside the fryer pot. They are easy to clean and usually value priced. The bottom of the fryer pot features a “cold zone” where sediment and food particles can settle out without continuing to cook and degrade the oil, but in open-vat fryers, the cold zone tends to be narrow. It quickly overfills if frying foods that are heavily coated with batter or bread crumbs.
- Tube-type Fryers – Tube fryers have a much wider cold zone to trap more sediment and food particles, so they are a better choice for heavily breaded items like chicken, fish, or battered onion rings. Tube fryers can accomplish the same tasks as an open-vat fryer, but they are slightly more difficult to clean. The oil is heated by several tube shaped heating elements that are permanently affixed near the bottom of the fryer pot and special brushes may be required to clean around and beneath the tubes.
- Flat-bottom Fryers – Best for delicate or specialty items that float near the surface, like tempura, taco shells, and funnel cakes. Flat-bottom fryers feature a shallow, open, flat bottom. They don’t have a sediment zone, so they are not well suited for high volume tasks.
There are a host of specialty fryers designed for specific purposes. Conveyor fryers are used for high production applications. A conveyor belt carries product down into a tank of hot oil, and then raises it back out of the tank on the other end once cooking is complete. Special doughnut fryers are designed for high volume doughnut production with optimal results. Corndog fryers feature special clips that hold onto the wooden stick while submerging just the cornbread coated hotdog into the fryer pot. Small countertop fryers are available for small operations, light duty, or specialty items. Finally, pressure fryers are used almost exclusively for fried chicken. The combination of higher temperatures, faster speeds, moisture retention, and tumbling action inside the fryer tank, makes them ideal for fast food fried chicken operations. A Kitchen Spot Expert can help you decide whether one of the primary fryer types, or one of these specialty fryers, is best for your menu.
How Much Are You Frying?
Selecting the right size fryer depends on how much you are frying.
The Right Size Commercial Fryer
French fries are the largest category of fried foods, and in an attempt to provide a universal standard for comparison, many manufacturers size their fryers in terms of “pounds of fries per hour.” If you know how many pounds of product you go through in a typical shift, you can calculate your needs and round up to allow for growth and busier time slots.
Manufacturers also size their fryers by the amount of oil they hold. Small countertop models typically hold 10 to 30 pounds of oil. Floor models typically hold 40 to 100 pounds of oil. In general, you can multiply the pounds of oil by 1.5 to 2.0 for an estimate of how many pounds of food can be produced in an hour. So a 40 pound fryer should be able to produce 60 to 80 pounds of fried food per hour, while a 100 pound fryer should be able to produce 150 to 200 pounds of food per hour.
It’s not an exact science, and it may vary depending on the starting temperature of your food (refrigerated or frozen). It may also vary depending on the size and density of your food. Fish fillets, shrimp, and tortillas cook more quickly than thicker and denser foods like whole chicken parts or steak fries. A Kitchen Spot professional can help you evaluate your menu and operational needs.
The Right Number Of Fryers
When considering fryer size, consider fryer number as well. Assume you’re serving 200 pounds of food per hour, but roughly a third is chicken, a third is French fries, and a third is fish. Cooking different types of products in the same fryer can result in unfavorable flavor transfer. Chicken and seafood should be fried separately. Vegetables and meats should be fried separately. If you’re menu includes various food items from different categories, you might do better to purchase three smaller fryers and install them side by side, than to purchase one large high capacity fryer.
Electric Or Gas Fryer?
Open-vat fryers, tube fryers, and flat bottom fryers all come in gas or electric, so the choice comes down to utility costs and availability in your location.
Gas fryers tend to heat up more quickly. Additionally, depending on the price and availability of natural gas in your area, they may cost less to operate than electric fryers. Open-vat gas fryers feature gas burners that heat the fryer pot from outside and below. Tube type fryers feature gas burners that are housed inside the tubes at the bottom of the fryer pot.
Once electric fryers reach their optimal cooking temperature, they tend to hold that temperature better than gas fryers. Electric fryers are more efficient and typically easier to move because they’re not connected directly to a utility gas line. Open-vat electric fryers typically feature an electric heating element inside the fryer pot that can be lifted for cleaning.
Infrared technology, insulated fryer pots, heat reclamation technology, and advanced burner design, have all resulted in commercial deep fat fryers that are much more energy efficient than their predecessors. Both gas and electric models are now available with Energy Star ratings. Energy savings can significantly lower the lifetime cost of a commercial deep fryer, and in some jurisdiction Energy Star rebates are available when purchasing qualified units. A Kitchen Spot expert can tell you whether rebates are available in your area.
Do You Have Room Under A Hood?
Frying produces heat, smoke, grease laden air, steam, odors, and flue gasses. Virtually any commercial fryer, gas or electric, requires proper ventilation.
Type I Hoods
Type I Hoods meets local code requirements for grease removal and fire suppression. They are used above cooking equipment like broilers, ranges, ovens, grills, griddles, and fryers. They are permanent fixtures, typically wall or ceiling mounted, with baffles for grease removal. They also feature ductwork and fans that vent exhaust to the exterior of the building.
“Ventless Fryers” are growing in popularity. These units typically come with their own built in hood system mounted above the fryer pot. They employ multiple filters, and technology akin to that used by catalytic converters in cars, to scrub, clean, and cool fryer exhaust. Ventless Fryers, and other ventless equipment, are the perfect solution for installations where it is impermissible or impractical to install traditional ceiling ventilation. They are commonly used on the upper floors of high rise buildings, in historical buildings, mall kiosks, and kitchens with low ceilings. More expensive than conventional fryers, they often cost less than installing a new or additional Type 1 hood system.
Who Will Be Operating Your Fryers?
How much labor do you have on hand, and what is their skill level? Fryer technology has come a long way, and several manufacturers provide fryers that are highly automated.
Tending The Fryer
A conventional, commodity fryer may do little more than just heat oil. It requires the attention and skill of an experienced fry cook to provide consistently good results. More advanced fryers feature lights or alarms that indicate when the oil has reached its proper cooking temperature or when the cooking cycle is complete. Some fryers feature a control panel where you can enter multiple cooking programs to accommodate various types or volumes of food. Some even feature automatic lifts to raise the fryer baskets out of the oil at the end of the cooking cycle. Automatic shut-offs turn fryers off, or put them on “idle,” to save energy when not in use. More automated fryers provide reliability, quality, and consistency, while using fewer or lower skilled employees.
Filtering The Oil
Fryer oil degrades due to water, food particles, oxygen, and heat, so fryer oil must be filtered periodically. Manual filtering can be a messy, unpleasant, and even dangerous job. It often requires a degree of training and supervision to get it done right and on schedule. Filtering preserves the taste and quality of your food. It also extends the life of your oil. Commercial fryer oil can represent a significant food cost, so frequent filtering gets you the most return for your dollar.
More automated fryers can shut off the heat, drain the oil, filter it using onboard filtering systems, refill the fryer pot, and top it off in minutes with the push of a button. They can also be programed to filter at preselected intervals. This reduces the amount of time, labor, and skill required to produce great fried foods. These units may cost more initially, but they pay for themselves in terms of food quality, oil savings, and reduced labor costs.
Low Oil Volume Fryers
Low oil volume fryers are growing in popularity for many of the reasons mentioned above. They can produce the same amount of food, in the same time, using less oil. They do so by having a shallower fryer pot with a smaller cold zone. Frequent and fast automated filtering keeps the smaller cold zone free of sediment so that food quality and cooking speed is maintained with less oil and labor.
What Kind Of Fryer Accessories Do I Need?
A variety of accessories make fryer operation and maintenance easier and more efficient.
- Frying Baskets – Most fryers feature fryer baskets that are filled with product and and lowered into the oil. A single fryer may accommodate multiple baskets. Having extra baskets on hand allows you to pre-fill baskets during busy shifts so that they’re ready to drop as soon as the previous batch comes out.
- Skimmer – A handled screen is useful for removing sediment and food bits from the fryer pot.
- Thermometer – If not a built in feature, a fryer thermometer is necessary for checking oil temperatures.
- Cleaning Solution – Special solutions are available to clean a fryer after the oil has been removed. The fryer pot is filled with water and cleaner, and the heat is turned on to “boil out” the fryer, removing soil and grease deposits.
- Cleaning Brushes – Fryer brushes help you scrub the walls and around the tubes in a fryer when cleaning.
- Filters – If your fryer does not feature on board filtering, you’ll need to invest in some type of filtering equipment. From portable filtering devices, to paper cones and a variety of handy tools, your Kitchen Spot Expert can help you choose a filtering solution for your operation.
How Much Does A Commercial Fryer Cost?
The initial cost of a commercial fryer varies greatly depending on size, features, manufacturer, and level of automation. While a no-frills commodity floor model fryer might have an initial cost of just a few hundred dollars, a high end fully featured model might cost thousands. It’s important to recognize, however, that the more expensive fryer might actually save you money over the life of the unit. Depending on your volume, a low oil volume fryer can save thousands in annual oil costs. An energy efficient model can save hundreds in annual utility costs. A highly automated unit can save on labor costs and help you maintain a high level of food quality that attracts more customers and keeps them coming back. Additionally a durable, high quality unit from a reputable manufacturer can save you big money in maintenance and replacement costs. A Kitchen Spot Expert can help you evaluate the lifetime cost of a commercial deep fryer and select the one to best fit your needs and budget.
Deep fryers are one of the most necessary and versatile pieces of cooking equipment in a modern commercial kitchen. Fried offerings can be prepared quickly and often require little preparation. Fried food travels well, and fried appetizers, sides, and desserts can be added to menus to boost check averages. A great deal of design and manufacturing technology has lowered user costs, thereby improving margins on fried food sales. Contact a Kitchen Spot Expert now to talk about a new or replacement fryer for your operation. Make frying part of your commercial foodservice operation’s success.