National Chain’s Fryer Challenge II


National Chain’s Fryer Challenge II
GFEN Tests Fryers for Chicken Chain
by Tom Stroozas – CFSP, RCGC, CFE
Manager – Commercial Marketing Piedmont Natural Gas

As promised last month, we will now move into the second part of this three part series and discuss the recent findings from a GFEN test conducted at the Piedmont Natural Gas Test Kitchen for a national QSR in the chicken business. In keeping with tradition, we shall leave the operator anonymous. Our focus will be on the latest gas vs. electric fryer tests.


This process involved the testing of four popular brands of 18 and 20 inch gas and electric fryers specified by the client, one of which might not have even been in the game had it not been for the results of the GFEN Annual Fryer Challenge that we conducted on behalf of the gas industry in May 2003. The cook process this time was for a single product – fresh fried chicken!

We ran a total of 74 tests to collect the data necessary to properly evaluate overall run time energy consumption, cold start to cook temperature time and various load recoveries. Although these factors are all different, they all interact when evaluating which fryer will cook the most product in a given time period, with the lowest energy consumption and oil loss.

Figure 1

We also evaluated the hedonics of the finished product. From previous issues you will recall that by hedonics we mean the subjective qualities such as color, texture and taste of the product. In an effort to better diagnose these factors, we developed a chart that allowed for a quick appraisal in areas from the crust to the meat itself. (see figure 1)

An important part of the testing was the evaluation of the products’ internal temperatures (remember, poultry products MUST be cooked to a minimum of 165°F internal temperature for safety integrity) for all four pieces of chicken products: breast, wing, thigh and leg. (see figure 2)

Figure 2

The gas fryers all had varying inputs, ranging from 72,000 BTU/h – 120,000 BTU/h for the 20 inch models and 65,000 BTU/h – 110,000 BTU/h for the 18 inch units, for a total of 6 gas fryers. There were only two electric models selected: a 20 inch unit at 20kW and an 18 inch unit at 22kW.

During the cold start-ups with both fuel sources, we noted some surprising results. The gas models got up to the 340º F cook temperature with times varying from Fryer B’s 14 minutes (the fastest) to Fryer D’s 58 minute snail’s pace. (see figure 3) The two electric models took from 14 minutes to over 50 minutes so cold start-ups were fairly comparable between the gas and electric units.

The dramatic difference was in terms of energy cost. Due to electricity’s demand factor, the electric fryers cost more to start up. Looking at it from a pure cost view, the fastest gas fryer cost 23 cents to get up to cook temperature versus 29 cents for the fastest electric unit. (Gas cost was calculated at 95 cents/therm, electric cost at 7.5 cents/kwh). This equates to a 26% savings with gas fryers! (see figure 4)

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

The actual cook tests reflected similar variances. Protocols called for cooking light loads (20 pieces), medium (40 pieces) and heavy loads (60 pieces) of fresh breaded chicken at 340°F in a free float for 11 minutes. (see figure 5) The product was then held under heat lamps for 30 minutes with hedonics recorded at various stages of the hold cycles. (see figure 6)

After a one-hour cook cycle, we noted the energy consumption for the 20 inch models and compared them to the start-up times which showed that although Fryer B got up to cook temp first, it came in third place in the overall cook cycle energy consumption; proving the point that the first horse out of the gate may not always be the first across the finish line. In this case, Fryer A, the fryer with the highest BTU input, did the most efficient job in the energy category. (see figure 7) Fryer A got the best energy use marks in the 18 inch category as well.

Hedonically, the chicken produced in all of the gas fryers was similar as far as the crust and meat attributes were concerned, except in the heavy cooking loads. Here is where Fryer A really took the lead with it’s virtually instant recovery and steady cooking curve. It was obvious that this fryer could not only produce consistency in heavy load situations, but because of the steady cooking curve, produced a product that was still palatable and sellable (after the 30 minute hold) to the client’s customers. (see figure 8) Similar results were noted with the competing electric fryers, but with higher energy costs. Of particular interest was a noted difference with chicken cooked in an electric fryer as being noticeably greasy after the 30-minute hold.

Figure 7

The end results of this Challenge provided the client with the information needed to make a substantiated and intelligent choice when it comes to selecting fryers for their foodservice operation.

Next month, we will conclude this series with the customer’s Convection Oven Challenge! In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about how GFEN can assist you in evaluating your cooking equipment, log on to and look for the test facility directory of participating natural gas companies.

Figure 8

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