Operators should filter fryer oil at least once a day and more frequently for high-volume operations. Dirty oil not only negatively impacts the taste and texture of food, and increases the cost of fryer oil and utility bills, but it also can cause fryers to break down and may result in a grease fire.
Cooking oil is a vital and often expensive ingredient in any commercial kitchen. Customers buy products cooked in oil, and at the end of the oil life, the operator either recycles it or disposes of it. Operators who do not filter their oil can lose thousands of dollars per year — and possibly customers — without realizing it due to lower food quality.
Fryer oil filtration systems standardize filtration schedules and remove contaminants. Oil that doesn’t get filtered will break down due to the presence of food particles, fatty acids and ice crystals from frozen foods. Before it thickens and impacts the fryer’s heat transfer and cooking times, the oil color and smell will change. Dirty oil requires more frequent changing than regularly filtered oil. Regular filtering also doubles a fryer’s oil life, which saves money.
Operators can choose from several oil filtration options, such as portable systems, built-in systems and even hands-free products. High-end and value systems may make filtering easier, more economical and safer to filter oil on a regular basis. Most often used for smaller countertop fryers and units with removable fry pots, automatic filtration systems also work with floor model fryers. The less labor-intensive automatic systems serve as an alternative to manually filtering oil using a cone filter.
Built-in filtration has become a method of choice due to its simplicity and safe use. When a system is part of the fryer, operators are more apt to filter oil regularly. Built-in filtration systems are installed within a battery of fryers, often inside the cabinet of a heat-and-dump station. These automatic systems can complete the cycle in a matter of minutes, filtering oil between dayparts and even between batches with little downtime. It is not uncommon for an operator to extend its oil life by two weeks or longer using built-in filtration, which saves money over the long term.
In terms of time, the filtration process might take 5 to 6 minutes total, and then the fryer returns to the set temperature, ready to cook product. A longer filter of the oil, called a polish, might take as long as 10 minutes. Operators usually opt to polish their oil at the end of the day, so the shortening is fresh and clean for the next day.
Central filtration systems are suitable for high-volume operations as this type can extend shortening life, lower food costs and reduce oil costs by as much as 50%, per some manufacturers. Some models come with plumbed filtration systems that drain, filter and return shortening to the vat. If central oil filtration and recovery pumps run through the kitchen, piping to the fryer becomes necessary, as does room on the wall to accommodate the hose.
Portable filtration may emerge as an economical way for an operator to filter oil. Although portable deep fryer oil filtering systems can be more labor intensive, they are faster than manual filtering and work with any type of fryer. Sizes range from 50- to 200-pound capacities. These 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 method is effective and allows the operator to wash down the sides of the fry pot to get as much sediment into the filter pan as possible. Operators who use these systems will need to accommodate storing and transporting the equipment.
Hands-free filtration and built-in oil quality sensors represent the latest technology in oil management. Fryers that include computer controls may work well with these systems. With a clean filter pan and a filter media in place, the operator simply punches a few buttons on the front of the fryer to start the filtering process. The operator can check the oil quality in real time, which adds about 30 seconds to the filtering process. Oil quality readings display on the control panel so operators know exactly when they should dispose their oil.
The accessory that filters particulates down into the oil can vary depending on the unit. Some systems use paper, which filters to between 25 and 30 microns. The downside is units that use paper need replacing after each use and can be more costly over the long term. As an alternative, mesh screens and fabric filters, which filter to 50 to 60 microns, can be washed and reused. Fabric provides the finest filtering level to ½ a micron. Filter powder can be used to clear contaminants and polish oil to extend its life.
Some fryer systems offer an option for an oil recycling hookup that allows a third-party oil supplier/recycler to use the pump on the filter system to transfer the old oil to a recycling container that can be hauled away.
With fryer filtration monitoring equipment, operators can see how much oil is being used, when it should be changed and when it was last filtered.