New Test Strikes Oil

by Tom Stroozas – CFSP, RCGC, CFE
Manager – Commercial Marketing Piedmont Natural Gas

The most recent client to conduct an equipment cook test at the Piedmont Natural Gas Cooking Technology Center in Charlotte was a prominent national quick service chain headquartered in the Southeast. Since their primary product is produced by frying, they elected to evaluate their current brand fryer against some of the other popular and well-respected brands available on the market today. Considering that their current supplier has been a standard spec within their stores for nearly twenty years, could another brand unseat them as their future fryer of choice?

Along with standard fryer tests, this newest evaluation also incorporated very precise monitoring of flue-gas temperatures which are very good indicators of burner efficiency, and a subject one rarely if ever thinks about, oil loss through the frying process. Although operating costs will vary from fryer to fryer, it is the oil loss that can make the biggest impact on your overall bottom line!

Throughout this evaluation process we cooked in the heavy load mode since we were only comparing gas fryers to other gas fryers and know about their superior recovery characteristics compared to electric. The test process involved cooking 32 pieces of fresh, breaded chicken for 13 minutes at 325ºF. This enabled us to do 4 drops within a one-hour period, and provided the benchmark needed to evaluate energy consumption, efficiency, recovery, filtration, hedonics and oil loss.

The energy consumption varied by unit as expected, since the BTU inputs were all different, ranging from 85,000 to 175,000 BTUH. The data acquired via the thermocouples was amazing and painted a true visual of each fryer’s operating efficiency and duty cycling, much like a printout of an EKG does for a cardiac patient. This test is how an operator can truly analyze burner performance and efficiencies to better select a smoother operating and more efficient piece of equipment.

The Importance of Filtering

When it came to oil filtration, we learned that properly filtered oil will result in improved food quality by lessening the amount of carbonized particulates (CP’s) that continue to float around the frying vat. These CP’s are the result of frying a lot of product without periodic filtering, or immersing product into the fry vat prior to proper temperature recovery. When product is force fried in this manner, it is common for the food product to become heavier (due to oil absorption) which causes more breading to fall into the fry vat and continue to cook out, ultimately carbonizing and imparting a less than satisfactory quality to the finished product.

In addition to affecting overall food quality, force frying prior to proper recovery causes breaded products to absorb oil, which led us to test the differences in oil loss for the various fryers being evaluated. The findings varied from zero in Brands A and C to 64 ounces in Brands B and D.

This notable disparity revealed that one could save more operating dollars by proper filtration and using a quicker recovery fryer than most all other evaluating factors combined. In the case of this operator, nearly $2,200 annually per fryer! Given that each store in the 300 + chain utilizes approximately 5 fryers, we’re talking almost $11,000 a year per store and over $3,300,000 chain wide.

The Bottom Line

A higher input fryer is not indicative of faster recovery. A faster recovery fryer will result in less oil loss through the frying process and deliver a superior and more healthy product to your customers. The reduction in oil loss alone can have the most significant impact in controlling costs that you once may have thought to be uncontrollable.

Oil filtering on a routine basis can extend the life of the oil up to 300%. In addition, refreshed oil performs better and consistently produces a higher quality product. This can result in a significant reduction of food waste.

Share This