Choosing the right deep-fat fryer for your operation is vital. Bruce Furness, general manager at Olympic Catering Equipment, has no doubt that it is a key decision. "Too small, and the fryer restricts productivity; too large and it wastes energy."
Capacities vary from very small counter-top units that are suitable for dishes such as breaded mushrooms to multi-units that are ideal for fast-food chains and are packed with features such as automatic basket lifts, digital controls and automatic filters.
"The best equation is a small quantity of oil with a high power input, as this helps speed up temperature recovery," Furness says. "In general, the rule ‘little and often' applies, so the perfect fryer is small and powerful."
According to Falcon development chef Neil Roseweir, a chef should look for four main things - heat-up time, recovery time, ease of cleaning and safety. Fast heat-up is particularly important in quick-service businesses or pubs in order to avoid delay between taking an order and serving food.
"Likewise, a quick recovery time is important," explains Roseweir. "When the cold food is placed in the fryer, the oil temperature will drop. If the fryer takes a long time to recover to the correct temperature, oil is absorbed into the food. It is also important that the fryer doesn't overheat, as exceeding the correct temperature can cause the oil to break down and reduce its life."
Moreover, overheated oil is
a safety hazard. "You should always buy a fryer that is fitted with a safety thermostat that kicks in if the normal thermostat fails," recommends Roseweir.
Falcon is launching a new range of three slim-line fryers, all including design and safety features that take in Roseweir's essentials. Rapid heat-up and recovery times mean that the fryers can heat oil from 20ºC to 170ºC in six minutes and take two minutes 30 seconds to heat from a standby temperature of 100ºC back to 170ºC.
In addition to Roseweir's recommended features, Hobart advises that you ask yourself the following when looking at deep-fat fryers.
lWhat is the capacity - is it sufficient for the types of food being fried and the size of the items?
lWill you be using frozen food, freshor both? This reflects on the recovery times and having a lighter-duty model may mean the food stays in the oil for too long.
lIs it mobile, for ease of cleaning? Does it have castors lockable at the frontfor safety?
lAre the controls confusing? Are trip re-sets standard? Does it have a melt-down option to heat up fat or oil slowly to increase the oil's life? Does it have pilot and cooking lights?
lIs it filter-ready - can a filter system be added quickly or will it require additional cost to modify?
lAre the drainage port holes large enough to prevent clogging?
lWhat are buying or leasing options?
lWhat training is given to staff?
Most manufacturers claim to satisfy some, or all of these points. Hobart itself has its GFD range, which comes in 35lb, 45lb and 65lb capacities, complete with electronic ignition, flame failure and deep cool zone and its own Filtration program. The fryers can be purchased through Hobart's in-house financial services package. The same capacity fryers are also available from sister company Wolf.
Buttress, meanwhile, has its Halcyon series of fryers which have some 250 copper studs welded to the underside of the tank. Buttress says this vastly increasesthe available heat transfer area.
"The unique tank design makes it particularly well suited to high-output operations," says managing director Steve Loughton. "The copper studs transfer heat very quickly and efficiently to the oil. This guarantees 65% efficiency, representing a leap forward of more than 25% in comparison to other fryers on the market."
Bartlett's range of fryers includes the Fry-Logic, with a 25-litre oil capacity, load capacity of 2.5kg (5.5lb) and chip cooking capacity of 50kg (110lb) per hour. The company says it reduces fat absorption and cuts oil consumption by up to 30%. Electronically operated and gas-powered, the Fry-logic has a water-boil efficiency exceeding 80%, compared with 55% in conventional fryers, says Bartlett. Rapid heat-up comes from an advanced modulating burner, and the construction of the heat exchanger allows the heat to be transferred directly to the cooking oil, resulting in minimum heat loss and a consequent reduction in recovery time. A built-in microprocessor determines if and when a melt cycle is necessary and oil temperature is maintained at 50ºC.
Microprocessing also plays a significant part in the Welbilt Frymaster range. Its Computer MagicR system adjusts cooking time for consistency of product, whatever the size of the load. It signals when the load is ready and raises or lowers the basket lifters automatically. Other features include controlled boil-out at a 80ºC, recovery test time, and programmable shake and hold times. The system can be fittedto any fryer.
Other Frymaster features include an electronic time controller that times the cook operation and gives an audible signal when the time counts down. It automatically selects temperature values and stores the current time and temperature settings when the unit is turned off. Frymaster's Turbo Jet MJH50 series is said to use up to 43% less energy than conventional fryers.
On Frifri fryers from MCE, a preheat system gently raises temperature to 98ºC, preventing excessive heat from carbonising the oil while it is still cool, thus giving increased oil life, says the manufacturer. And stainless steel heating elements in the electric models prevent contamination build-up and increase element efficiency. Recovery time is key, agrees managing director David Miles, and all models are guaranteed to achieve recovery of cooking temperature within the set frying time.
According to Miles, the factors required to achieve a perfect fried product are correct temperature at the start to seal the product on introduction to the oil; a drop in oil temperature thereafter to cook the inside of the product satisfactorily; and a subsequent recovery of temperature to brown and crisp the product before the cooking time has expired.
All the FriFri models can be fitted with Frymatic, an automatic oil filtration system that enables the oil to be filtered whenever the operator wishes, and at any temperature.
V-shaped tanks, which give a natural cool zone, are another feature fitted to several manufacturers' models. Blue Seal says its Vee-ray range, with its unique, patented infra-red burners, is moreefficient in its use of gas, bringing maximum heat for cooking and lower flue temperatures.
Zanussi and Electrolux models also have V-shaped wells for speedy heat-up and recovery - and this shape also allows for easier cleaning. The Zanussi models come in capacities of seven, 12, 16, 20, 24, 32 and 40 litres, and as either free-standing or counter-top versions.
Electrolux has just launched its new 700-Line medium-duty fryers, with 16 models in the range.
Blue Seal's range also has the Filtermax filter system fitted, which sits below the pans to make use of otherwise redundant space. It is wheeled out when necessary and is fitted with a powerful pump to cope with solidified fat. A reverse motor allows for total system flush out. Blue Seal claims it can drain, filter and refill a 26-litre tank in 10 minutes. The latest Valentine Series 2000 range has a built-in pump filtration unit, enabling the operator to filter and pump the oil in one self-contained operation.
However, oil filters become redundant when the fryer doesn't use oil, like the Airfrit, from Eloma. This machine,which can be used for pre-blanched fries, onion rings, hash browns, chicken nuggets and other items, works on hot air, rolling the products around inside a rotating drum. It reaches pre-heat in under two minutes and once it reaches cooking temperature can be programmed to remain there, so there is no need for further pre-heating. n