*** This is part two in our series with food scientist, Rick Stier. To read part one first, click here.
Stier is a consulting food scientist experienced with frying oil and frying oil programs. He helps foodservice operators develop safety, quality, and sanitation programs with the goals of increasing profits for the establishment. He is a contributing editor for Food Engineering.
Filtercorp: Are there any health benefits to filtering your oil?
Stier: Good question. One would not be able to make a claim that oil filtration or treatment has health benefits. However, one could make a case that frying oil that is properly maintained and monitored is, in fact, healthier than oil that is not.
Along this same line of thinking, one could also say that foods fried in oil that is properly maintained and monitored can be potentially healthier. One fact that is known is that abused oils contain higher levels of surfactants than properly maintained oils. Surfactants increase contact time with the food, which increases heat transfer that can result in overheating of the foods.
Foods that are overcooked could potentially have elevated levels of acrylamide. In addition, it has also been shown that frying foods in abused oils may increase oil pickup by the food in question. Higher oil levels in a food would increase the calorie count and could mean the food is less healthy. This might also be interpreted as being a health benefit.
Filtercorp: What’s a common mistake when putting an oil program together?
Stier: The most common mistake that most companies make when establishing an oil management program is establishing incorrect target goals and criteria on which to base decisions. For example, some restaurant chains will change oil based on the calendar week, ie Monday and Thursday. This is certainly easy to manage but depending on sales volume, oil may be discarded prematurely or used beyond it’s fry life. Many QSR chains will use a ratio of oil usage by pound divided by every $1000 of sales. For example a 3 – 50lb vat fryer may have oil changed twice a week. Therefore 300 lbs of oil usage divided into 40 ($40,000) = 7.5 oil to sales ratio. The lower the ratio the better. Managers who have these goals will stretch oil quality only to hit this target. Obviously following a good Fry Oil Program based on food product, fry oil, and best practices, will prolong fry oil quality and extend oil life.
Filtercorp: How important is determining discard method?
Stier: The wise fryer operators, whether they’re industrial or foodservice operations, will take the time and effort to determine when to discard their frying oil. This is especially important in foodservice and restaurant frying. Discarding oil too soon wastes money. Discarding an oil to0 late can potentially drive away customers, and in some countries around the world, get the operator into hot water with the regulatory agencies.
Discarding frying oil should be based on food quality. In fact, the first recommendation that came out of the 3rd International Symposium on Deep Fat Frying in 2000 was, “Principle quality index for deep-fat frying should be sensory parameters of the food being fried.” Now, it is easy to evaluate food quality in a controlled environment like a research laboratory, but it is a different story in a plant or restaurant.
For this reason, it is imperative that operators need to establish discard criteria by conducting a frying study in a real world environment. The frying study must incorporate food quality and should include testing the oil itself. Tests that could be incorporated into these studies include quick tests and a range of analytical tests such as free fatty acids, polar materials, polymeric triglycerides, soaps, and others. The more tests that are done, the better the operation will understand what happens and better determine the discard point that ensures the production of high quality food.
Filtercorp: Do you see any future changes coming to the U.S. Market in the way we manage oil?
Stier: I see two possible changes in the future for oil management. One will be a realization by restaurant operators that properly managing oil is simply good business. These operators will hopefully take the time and make the effort to evaluate what kinds of systems are available for managing oil and then undertake a program to test these systems in their operations.
The second potential change would be the adoption of technology that allows fryer operators to actually measure when their oil is failing so it can be changed. These systems would be built into the fryers and provide a continuous readout of oil quality. Of course, the operator would have to work with the manufacturer and conduct the necessary fry studies to determine what their end point should be. As noted earlier, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to frying.
The First Step to Any Oil Filtration Program
As Stier mentioned, one of the most important things you can do is complete a frying oil study in order to establish benchmarks and parameters that will improve the quality of your frying program.
Take the next step today, and schedule your free frying oil assessment.
* Read part one of this interview here.