While preparing chicken and fries represents the most common application for a fryer, operators can use this piece of cooking equipment for such menu items as fish and vegetables. The type of foodservice operation and menu will determine whether an economy model or pricier high efficiency fryer represents the most suitable selection.
Foodservice operators can choose from a variety of fryer types and styles, from general use models to multi-purpose and specialty units.
A fryer’s capacity, specifically the amount of oil or volume of food in pounds it can handle at one time, determines its category. Although sizes can range from 20 pounds up to 80 pounds, units measuring 14 inches by 14 inches, which hold 45 to 50 pounds of oil, and 18 inches by 18 inches, with an oil capacity of 60 to 80 pounds, tend to be the most common types. Fryer wells come in a variety of widths, from 11 inches to 34 inches and depths of up to 34 inches. Operators can choose between countertop and floor models. Although the majority of fryers are gas, electric units are available as well. Operators can also choose from infrared and induction fryers.
Operations with limited footprints and low-volume frying needs can utilize ventless countertop fryers, which offer 2- and 3-pound capacities.
Geared for restaurants preparing high volumes of fried chicken, pressure fryers cook food with a combination of hot oil and steam. Pressure cooking raises the boiling temperature of the product’s juices, which keeps these liquids from boiling off. This can result in a juicier product that’s less greasy, relative to other frying methods. Also, because there is no flavor transfer between foods, these units can be used to prepare a variety of items simultaneously.
Foodservice operators can choose from three basic fryer configurations. Open pot designs include heating elements on the tank’s exterior, which provides more frying space and easier cleaning. These units are most often used for French fries. Tube type units carry gas through pipes located inside the pot, which serve as the heat source. Square, flat-bottom fryers are shallow, for use with more delicate items like fish.
Either dial or computer-controlled thermostats are available. The more advanced the controls, the tighter the fryer’s variance or tolerance, which provides added product consistency.
Operators can choose from a variety of options when purchasing a fryer. For example, central filtration systems can help extend shortening life and lower food costs. Self-cleaning units include stainless steel nozzles that attach to the basket hanger and connect to the plumbing system for easier cleaning of the vat’s interior and fryer’s heat exchanger.
Some units feature electronic controls that notify the operator when the preset cook time expires, while others automatically lift the baskets from the cooking oil to stop the cooking process. Automatic basket loaders and unloaders also are available as well as basket shakers that help prevent product from sticking together during the cooking cycle. Fryers with automatic replenishment systems sense when oil is depleted and top it off as needed.
Energy Star-rated fryers offer shorter cook times and higher production rates through advanced burner and heat exchanger designs. Fry pot insulation also reduces standby losses, resulting in a lower idle energy rate. Standard-size Energy Star-rated fryers are said to be up to 30 percent more energy efficient, while large vat commercial fryers with the Energy Star rating are said to be up to 35 percent more energy efficient than non-qualified models.
Both large vat and standard Energy Star-rated fryers must meet a minimum cooking efficiency of 50 percent for gas models and 80 percent for electric units, while also meeting a maximum idle energy rate. A standard-sized electric or gas fryer model that has earned the Energy Star rating can save 1,100 kWh per year or 50 MBtu per year in energy, respectively. Energy Star-qualified large vat electric and gas commercial fryers can save 1,790 kWh per year and 58 MBtu per year in energy, respectively, according to Energy Star.
One of the newest technologies is reduced oil volume fryers or low oil volume fryers. This design reduces the tank’s oil capacity without changing the fryer’s output. These units can cut oil costs in half, while doubling oil life.