5 Tips to Keep Your Deep Fryer from Burning Your Profits

Whether you specialize in fried foods or simply have a few fried items in your rotation, maintaining your commercial deep fryer is a crucial activity that directly impacts food quality, kitchen efficiency, guest satisfaction and your profit margin.

Here are five ways to keep your deep fryer in good working order.

1. Keep It Clean

The most challenging aspect of maintaining a deep fryer is keeping it clean, says Patrick Gebrayel, COO and “head meathead” at Heywood’s Provision Co. in Marietta, GA. “Clean the equipment, especially the areas down below, under the fryer tank,” he suggests. “Grease build-up will eventually become a fire hazard if it accumulates. I like equipment to be on wheels with disconnects for gas so it can be moved away and the area underneath can be cleaned. If you’re worried about the machine moving while in use, attach a clip and steel cable to the wall, and clamp it to the range/fryer so that it can only move a little bit. Safety first!”

Other cleaning tasks include:

  • Wiping down the unit’s exterior after each shift, or at least once daily
  • Sending fry baskets through the dishwasher every day. Don’t put them back on the fryer until they’re completely dry to avoid splattering
  • Deep cleaning the unit every three to six months, depending on the volume of frying you do. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for a “boil-out”

2. Change the Oil

“Old oil gives a very unpleasant taste to fried foods. You can tell right away,” says Gebrayel. “Old oil causes products to brown faster, so they look cooked but may not be. You can always tell by the French fries — they look brown, but are soggy.” If the oil is black and smoking, that’s another clear sign it’s time for a change.

Manufacturers recommend oil change frequency, but it also depends on the heat at which you run the commercial deep fryers, what you fry (breaded, battered, etc.) and the volume you produce. To get the real answer, run an experiment. Mark Ladisky, senior operations associate with Synergy Restaurant Consultants in Boca Raton, FL, suggests “cooking the same item in the oil twice per day for a few days and recording when you find the taste change.” Use that standard to establish a change schedule. Remember to plan this activity for times when the oil is cool and safely handled, such as in the morning before the first shift.

“The best way to maintain a good oil program is to dedicate a person and a time to maintain it,” he adds. “Don’t be afraid to discard oil — bad oil will equal bad food every time, so don’t ruin the food over a few dollars in grease.”

3. Change the Filter

Many folks overlook the filters, which make it easier to remove food debris from the oil. Filter the oil at least once or twice a day as a general rule.

Filters should be changed regularly. “Changing the filter is generally outlined by the manufacturer, and those guidelines should be followed,” Ladisky notes. But again, a little experimentation can help you set a filter-change schedule that meets your menu’s specific needs.

4. Manage the Temperature

Each time you change the oil, calibrate the unit to make sure the thermostat setting matches the actual temperature. This ensures “you are getting the correct efficiency from the machine, and that you’re not running the machine too hot or cold,” Gebrayel says. “The first thing a cook will do when they see a fryer slowing down is crank the thermostat up. This causes several problems. One, the machine will now run full out until it reaches the setting, which may cause some products to overcook, and it's really heating up the oil now, causing it to break down prematurely.” That could lead to returned food and higher oil consumption. “Second, do you think the cook will remember to turn it back down? Several hours later, your oil is smoking, and that's not good. Third, it can be a fire hazard. By getting it calibrated, you know the setting is the right one for good performance and safety.”

Ladisky suggests calibrating your commercial deep fryer this way: Set the unit’s temperature to the recommended level and heat the oil. When the unit registers the desired temperature, immerse a digital probe thermometer into the oil and check the reading. If it’s not the same as the unit’s, you can adjust the setting accordingly.

5. Maintain a Safe Environment

Safety needs to be part of every deep fryer maintenance program. One of the biggest dangers in the kitchen is grease on the floor, which leads to dangerous and costly slips and falls. Remind kitchen staff to keep the floor around the deep fryer clean and degreased during every shift. This keeps staff safely on their feet and reduces fire danger.

“All deep fryers should be equipped with a temperature-limiting device, which will shut off the fuel or energy in the event the cooking oil exceeds a temperature of 475 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Ernest Grant, coordinator of the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center’s Burn Prevention and Outreach Program. Check the gauge at each oil change to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with.

Every commercial kitchen should have an automatic fire-suppression system near or above the cooking area. “These systems release a special chemical designed to suppress the flames,” Grant explains. “A portable fire extinguisher may be used as a backup, but it must be a class K unit, intended to be used after the hood suppression system has been activated.”

Follow this advice to keep your deep fryer from burning your food — and your profit margin.

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