Getting Smarter About Frying
Seven proven solutions and tips for preparing high-quality fried items.
Consumers love fried foods, and operators are discovering more ways to menu everything from appetizers to desserts that are fried. Whether they offer traditional favorites like fried chicken or the latest on-trend items such as katsu sando, operators know there are certain keys to success when it comes to frying high-quality, delicious foods that customers demand and are likely to return for.
Here are seven proven solutions and tips on how to improve frying performance, increase the bottom line, and deliver consistently delicious fried foods.
1. Use a high-quality frying oil
One misconception about frying oil is that a kitchen can use inexpensive, low-quality frying oil as long as the staff filters the oil, tops it off and changes it frequently. The reality is that by paying less upfront, the operator can end up spending money on replacing the oil more frequently. That means the foodservice establishment ends up paying more and the kitchen staff has to spend more time to properly manage the frying oil.
As with many other ingredients, paying more upfront for a quality product pays off in the long run. Premium cooking oils may cost more per case than a commodity oil, but they actually cost less per serving because high-quality oils last longer and maintain food quality better than traditional oils.
Consumers want fried foods that are crispy and hot outside, moist inside and taste like the food, not the oil. Premium frying oil does just that by preventing off-flavors from changing the flavor and taste of the fried foods. High-performance frying oils offer more stability and break down much slower than cheaper commodity oils.
Breakdown refers to the structure of the oil changing because of factors such as exposure to high heat, moisture, oxygen or food particles. As the oil breaks down, it can start to develop an undesirable flavor and has a higher potential for flavor transfer, so the French fries from today’s lunch taste a little like the fish from last night’s dinner service.
2. Watch the temperature
Heat is one element that can quickly break down frying oil. To ensure you get the most out of your oil, it is best to fry at 350 degrees, so that the food cooks thoroughly and the oil lasts longer. Check the temperature periodically and make sure the fryer thermostat is in good working condition. During extended periods of down time, make sure to either turn off the fryer, or turn down the temperature to 200° F so that you’re not overheating the frying oil unnecessarily.
3. Keep it dry and frozen
Just like heat, moisture can also accelerate the breakdown of oil. When frying frozen foods, it is important to fry foods frozen right out of the freezer and never thawed. Make sure to remove any excess frost or ice particles. Avoid refreezing thawed foods, which can lead to excess ice buildup. If you have to thaw foods, make sure you pat it down to remove excess moisture.
4. Air is not your friend
Another common cause of frying oil breakdown is oxidation or exposure to oxygen. To minimize oxidation, don’t splash or pour in food from too great a distance. Splashing can lead to air getting pushed into the frying oil. Also, during down or slow frying periods, make sure to cover the fryers to further protect the oil from oxidation.
5. Filter the cooking oil
Operators that save money by using premium oils often find they can spend more on better filtering equipment or on fryers that automatically filter the oil. Filtering is recommended whether the fryer contains premium oil or commodity oil. It is ideal to filter daily. When filtering, either turn off the fryer or lower the oil temperature to 200° F to ensure crew member safety. When not filtering, operators should be skimming frequently to remove food particles from the oil. Food particles left in the fry oil will continue to burn which can contribute to a faster breakdown of the fry oil and lead to off flavors in the fried food.
6. Incentivize staff to test, filter and change the oil
Employees can be incentivized to share in the overall savings that proper frying oil handling can bring to the establishment. An engaged employee is more likely to stay on the job, which can help decrease turnover, an ongoing challenge in the foodservice industry. Finding new employees, and training them to perform tasks such as filtering and changing the oil once a week, is difficult, and becomes a wasted effort if the employee leaves. One way to combat this is to offer rewards to key crew members to perform cooking oil handling tasks efficiently, and enable them to play a role in the success of the restaurant.
7. Choose a sustainable option
Premium cooking oils provide a longer fry life, so the kitchen staff changes the oil less frequently. For example when using premium oils, operators that discard the oil twice a week could find that they only need to change the oil once a week. Using less oil not only saves money but also leads to less oil waste and less packaging waste. That’s good for the operator and good for the environment.
For operators that want to take their sustainability efforts one step further, Ventura Foods® offers the PURE® Program, a national network of service providers that collect used cooking oil and re-divert it for use in biodiesel production to offset fossil fuel usage. By participating in the PURE Program, operators can qualify for credit that can be used to offset the cost of their oil purchases.
Switching to a premium frying oil can help operators save time and money, and also prepare better quality food that consumers are craving. By using these tips to lengthen the fry life of the oil, operators can make their investment go even further, while meeting consumer demands for delicious fried foods and encouraging diners to become repeat customers.
For more information, or to schedule a fry test, contact a knowledgeable sales representative from Ventura Foods®.