6 Tips for Choosing a Deep Fryer

Whether it’s serving up crispy golden fries, juicy chicken fingers or decadent deep-fried Oreos, a deep fryer is a food-preparation workhorse in most restaurant kitchens.

A wide range of fryer models is available to meet the needs of diverse foodservice environments — from concession stands to high-volume fast-food restaurants to upscale dining establishments.

Ask yourself these six questions before you choose which fryer to buy.

1. What’s on the Menu?

The type of food you plan to prepare is the most important consideration.

“Understanding what you fry now and what you may fry in the future is critical for designing a fryer station,” says Ed Doyle, founder and president of Real Food Consulting, a foodservice consulting business in Cambridge, MA.

If heavily breaded or battered foods are on your menu, a tube-style gas fryer is an ideal option, as it has a large sediment zone (or cold zone) below the burner tubes that allows crumbs and small pieces of food to accumulate as they fall off during cooking.

And if you’re serving up a large variety of food, you probably need to invest in more than one unit. “Segregating fries, proteins and seafood is key to addressing flavor transfer and the ever-increasing allergy issues every operator is facing,” Doyle says.

2. How Much Food Will You Prepare?

The volume of food you plan to serve determines how large and powerful your fryer needs to be.

“Choosing the right size for your needs is important,” says Alan Lake, a chef and restaurant consultant from Chicago. “Overcrowding equals inferior product. Anything that overlaps in the oil leads to an uneven fry.”

A fryer’s tank capacity not only determines how much food can be placed into baskets, but also affects recovery time, or how quickly the oil returns to the proper cooking temperature after food is submerged in it.

“If a restaurant is slammed from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, a smaller fryer may not be able to recover quickly enough and will end up cooking at a lower temperature,” says Jan Spence, owner of Jan Spence & Associates, a Jacksonville, FL–based business consulting firm. “Food will end up absorbing more oil and coming out greasy.”

Gas fryers typically heat up more quickly and to a higher cooking temperature than electric fryers, but electric models have a faster recovery time between frying cycles.

3. Do You Have Space Constraints?

If your establishment is small or floor space is limited, an electric countertop model may be your best option. “Tabletop electric fryers are ideal for a corporate café, deli or location with only a few fried menu items,” Spence says.

4. How Will You Maintain the Equipment?

Freshly battered products, such as fish filets or chicken wings, require the oil to be filtered and changed more frequently than frozen products, such as French fries and pre-breaded chicken nuggets. Investing in a fryer with a built-in filtering system or hiring an external filtering service minimizes the hassle of frequent draining and oil replacement.

Spence says restaurants can prolong the life of oil by turning down the fryer temperature during slow periods, covering the fryer at night to minimize oxygenation and using a skimmer to clear particulates between frying cycles.

“Most restaurants will get into a pattern and set a policy for when the oil needs to be changed,” she says. “This ensures that it happens on a regular basis and staff can’t defer the task, because it’s generally considered the nastiest job in the kitchen.”

5. Have You Taken Safety Precautions?

To minimize the risk of injury or fire, it’s important to set safety policies and train staff on correct usage and maintenance of the fryer.

“Maintain a safety zone, marking off an area at least three feet around the fryer, and make sure no one stands in that area,” says Ernest Grant, outreach coordinator at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, NC. Minimizing the number of people and the time they spend at the fryer is an easy way to avoid accidents like scalds, slips and falls.

If not properly used and maintained, fryers can be dangerous. “There’s always potential for an explosion to occur during or after the cooking process,” Grant says.

Restaurants also need to be adequately prepared to respond to a potential fire. “Make sure there’s a properly charged fire extinguisher accessible, and someone who’s trained to use it,” he says. “Water will only spread a grease fire.”

6. Have You Considered Your Energy Use?

Recent improvements in fryer efficiency ratings mean more burner heat output is transferred directly to the oil and less excess heat is pumped into the kitchen.

“High efficiency translates to better temperature accuracy and therefore more consistent results,” Doyle says.

If lowering your restaurant’s carbon footprint is important to you, Lake suggests selecting a model that’s Energy Star® rated. “While they can be a bit more expensive up front, you can save in the long run by amortizing costs like lower utility bills,” he says.

Ultimately, selecting the proper equipment and using it effectively can help you deliver highly appealing, nutritionally balanced fried foods.

“Treating your staff, frying equipment and fry shortening as an investment in customer satisfaction and retention is the most important step in delivering distinctive fried foods that stand apart from your competition,” Doyle says.

Mike Plotnick is a writer, publicist and social media convert who helps businesses elevate their stories. Based in St. Louis, Mike has overseen PR and communications programs for a diverse range of organizations. He enjoys fitness, chocolate and the St. Louis Cardinals. Connect with Mike on Google+.

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