By Rick Stier
The ultimate yardstick for frying is the quality of the food. The longer the frying oil is able to produce quality food, the more efficient the frying operation. For this to occur, the operator must manage the oil.
There are many factors to consider in an oil management program. Here are the seven most important ones:
Proper maintenance of the fryer
Proper cleaning of the fryer
Proper fryer operation
Management of frying temperatures
Avoiding contact with metals such as copper and bronze
Proper food handling
Filtering or treating oil
Part of the challenge is not just developing and implementing an oil management program, but maintaining that program during daily operations. This is complicated by the fact that most restaurants not only have high turnover (100% or higher each year), but the work force is often made up of young people who are not highly motivated.
Of the elements making up an oil management program, the most important of these are cleaning, maintenance, and filtration or treatment. Cleaning a fryer is a multi-stage operation consisting of rinsing the fryer to remove gross soil, boiling out the fryer with caustic, rinsing with clean water, and rinsing with an acid to ensure that any residual caustic is neutralized. Depending upon the condition of the fryer, it may also be necessary to scrub the fryer to remove any tar (polymer) that has built up on the unit. The polymer that builds on fryers is a function of both thermal and oxidative reactions.
Properly managing oil may also help keep the fryers cleaner. In fact, some operators have reported that one benefit of treating oil has been a reduction of polymer formation, which allowed the restaurant to not only reduce chemical usage but allowed them to adopt a “greener” cleaning chemical.
All pieces of equipment must be properly maintained on established schedules. This holds true for all fryers and associated equipment. If repairs are necessary or parts must be replaced, the replacement parts must be stainless steel. Copper or bronze fittings may be cheaper, but their presence will severely damage frying oil. In fact, exposure to these metals will destroy frying oil within hours.
Filtering or treating oil is another essential element when it comes to managing oil and functions on a number of levels. On one level, the treatment polishes the oil by removing food particles from the oil. These particles can act as reactive sites, which can damage the oil over time, especially if those particles contain metals.
Many call a filter system that simply removes particles a passive system, or simply filtration. Some systems have the ability to alter the chemistry of the cooking oil. These systems may remove water, adsorb metals, and eliminate oil degradation products such as soaps. Such a system is an example of active filtration, or a treatment.
To summarize, properly managing frying oil can have many potential benefits to the operator. These benefits may include but need not be limited to using less oil, yielding cleaner fryers, enhancing food quality, more efficient operations and improving operating costs. To achieve these benefits, the operator must first make a commitment to developing and implementing an oil management program, and then make sure that the program is properly maintained.