Filtering Fryer Fat For Increased Profitability

In prior issues, we’ve reviewed equipment test protocols and how operators can evaluate and incorporate those results to enhance their operation and improve their bottom line. This month we’ll focus on the merits of proper fryer oil filtration and how it affects product hedonics, production and bottom-line profits!

Foods submerged in fat is unique as a cooking system in that hot fat is both the medium of heat exchange that cooks the food and an ingredient, since a certain amount is absorbed into the food as it cooks. It is this absorbed fat and crisp coating that gives deep-fried foods their texture and flavor that are so well liked. The fat, however, must be fresh and bland so as not to adulterate the natural flavor of the food itself.

 Heat, air, moisture and the drop off of particles from food breading and batters, as well as flour, are among the chief enemies of fat that ultimately lead to breakdown, either prematurely or at the end of its useful life cycle. Deteriorating fat immediately affects the taste and quality (hedonics) of fried foods. Once this breakdown starts, the process is irreversible, and the fat must be discarded or product quality will be compromised.

Filtering and adding fresh fat on a daily basis comprise two major methods of avoiding premature fat breakdown. Some gas fryers (both pressure and open vat models) are equipped with built-in or continuous filtration systems. Manufacturers also make portable filters that can be wheeled into position. The filtering process may be as simple as draining the fry vat of its fat through a filtering cone or paper or a cloth-lined sieve. This is a feasible method, but only practical for operators who do limited frying and who operate one or two small fryers. Large-scale frying operations, such as quick serve chicken or seafood houses, not only strain fats through cloth-lined sieves but also filter fats in some type of automatic filtering machine.

Adopt a Fat Management System

Where heavy-duty frying is accomplished with a battery of fryers, or even with a couple of large heavy-duty units, a system must be devised to keep the fat in good condition. For this purpose, an operator should consider adopting a fat management system. The steps to follow are:

    • Add fresh fat on a daily basis or after a prolonged period of heavy cooking to keep the vat at optimum levels. This will enhance overall production and assist the fryer in maintaining temperature.
    • Skim out as much sediment and floating particles as possible throughout the daily cooking process.
    • Prevent scorching of the fat through proper loading of the frypot. This is an extremely critical point if using a solid fat product, as air pockets or voids can cause the frypot to actually burn up. Liquid fat products are easier to use and eliminate the air pocket potential.
    • Keep fat splatters wiped clean throughout frying operations to prevent the gumming of fat on the fryer.
    • Lower the thermostat to 200 degrees or lower during long idle or off-peak cooking periods. And, when not in use, keep the vats covered to protect the fat from light, air and dust.
    • Avoid excessive frying temperatures. Most foods can be fried at temperatures ranging from 350°F – 375°F. Too low of a temperature will cause the product to absorb fat and will certainly compromise hold time and integrity.
    • Shake off excess breading from the products prior to frying. Foods should be as dry as possible to reduce the introduction of moisture into the fat. This will increase production and extend the overall life cycle of the frying medium.
    • Avoid salting foods over the fryer and keep batter spices to a minimum. Do not fry salted or cured meats unless under exceptional circumstances.
    • Watch your exhaust hoods and keep them clean. Any drips from the hood system into the fryer vat will cause immediate fat breakdown.
    • Keep your fryers meticulously clean, and
    • Filter your fats as often as necessary, but especially after each frying period.

The objective of filtering is to remove the greatest amount of unwanted solids, moisture and free fatty acids in the shortest time. Since maximum purification equals maximum life for the frying fat, the degree to which impurities are removed is extremely important.

Not all filtering mechanisms are efficient to the same degree. Where one may handle 30 pounds FPM (fat per minute), another might handle 50 pounds in an hour so size is an important consideration. Other features to look for include portability and ease of setting up without the use of tools; safety factors such as hoses with insulated safety grips to direct hot fat into the filter without the danger of spattering or spilling; straight drain pipes since curved piping can cause blockage, particularly where solid shortening is used.

Some of the newer automated filtration systems offered by many manufacturers incorporate built-in fat melting capacities or may be purchased with an optional fat melting mechanism. Where solid shortening is used, this is an excellent feature and well worth the added cost. Some machines utilize a reuseable paper filter. Others have reverse pumping mechanisms, particularly useful where fry pots do not have a drain valve. Some filter systems even use a diatomaceous earth substance, similar to swimming pool filters, which is an excellent porous material through which the fat is filtered.

Constant abuse of fat such as scorching, the introduction of excessive amounts of moisture, dirty fry pots, drips from exhaust hoods, the wrong type of breading and batters, faulty thermostats or frying at high temperatures will definitely take their toll. Attention to these issues will provide long-term benefits and definite bottom line improvements.

Bottom Line Results

Successful deep-frying is the result of using quality equipment, quality shortening and quality food that is properly prepared for the frying process. Each is dependent upon the other. Operators who train their fry cooks properly by assigning a regimen of cleaning and routine filtering will get maximum life from fryer shortening and the fryer itself. Most importantly, this will consistently produce a quality product that will keep customers coming back. And that is certainly the number one way to improve that bottom line!

Reprinted with permission from Cooking For Profit June 2003

About Energy Solutions Center, Inc.

Energy Solutions Center, Inc. (ESC) is a non-profit organization of energy utilities and equipment manufacturers based in Washington DC that promotes energy efficient natural gas solutions and systems for use by residential, commercial, and industrial energy users. The Center concentrates on the development of tools and resources designed to enhance the success of those utility customer service professionals responsible for enhancing customer productivity, efficiency, reliability and comfort.

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