THE Quarterly Product Knowledge Guide: Oil-Filtration Systems

Thanks to oil-filtration systems, the days of kneeling in front of a fryer with a filter cone and a stock pot, anticipating the flow of boiling-hot oil, are over.

Oil-filtration represents a proven way for restaurant operators to save money and improve the quality of the fried products they serve to their customers. Operators who filter their oil two to three times per day will save, on average, $2,000 per year on oil per fryer, according to most industry experts.

There have been many changes to oil filtration the past few years, led mainly by an emphasis on safety. Customers now have options from portable filtration to simple, economical built-in types to hands-free options. These make it simpler and safer to filter oil on a regular basis, which results in better-quality food and flavor.

Portable filtration represents the most economical way for an operator to filter oil. Portable filters range from 50- to 200-pound capacities. These systems offer different types of filter media, from simple paper to a fabric envelope. This method involves rolling the machine to the fryer, emptying the oil into the filter pan, placing a wand inside the oil pot and turning the machine on. This approach allows the operator to wash down the sides of the fry pot to get as much sediment into the filter pan as possible. The drawbacks to these systems include the need to store and transport the machine. In some cases, the machine is stored in the back of the kitchen and never used.

Built-in filtration has become popular over the last several years. When the filter system is part of the fryer system, the operator is much more likely to filter the oil on a regular basis. Using a built-in filtration system is also safe and fast. The process itself might take 5 to 6 minutes before the fryer returns back to the set temperature and can resume cooking product. A longer filter of the oil, or polish of the oil, might take up to 10 minutes total. The polish process is usually done at the end of the day so the oil is fresh and clean for the next day.

The latest technology on the market includes hands-free filtration and built-in oil quality sensors. As long as the filter pan is clean and the filter media is in place, the operator can punch a few buttons on the front of the fryer and the filtering process starts. The doors can stay closed, and there are no more levers and handles to pull. The operator can check the oil quality in real time as well, which adds about 30 seconds to the filter process. An oil quality reading then displays on the computer control and tells the operator how much longer they have until the oil should be disposed.

The effectiveness of oil-filtration systems and the speed of the process varies.

Another difference is the accessory that filters particulates down into the oil. Some systems use paper, which is disposable but needs to be replaced after each use and can be costlier over the long term. Mesh screens and fabric filters are also available, and operators can wash and reuse both. Fabric provides a filtering level to half a micron, paper filters to between 25 and 30 microns, and mesh screens filter 50 to 60 microns. Operators can use filter powder to clear contaminants and polish oil to extend its life.

Several fryer systems also have options for an oil recycling hookup. This allows a third-party oil supplier/recycler to use the pump on the filter system to pump the old oil to a recycling container and haul the oil away.

Fryer filtration-monitoring-technology equipment can be utilized to determine when the oil was last filtered, when the oil should be changed and how much oil is being used.