Just as investing in the right commercial fryer is a tough yet vital task to any food service business, choosing the best fryer oil can also be tricky. There are so many factors to consider and once they’ve been addressed, it’s essential to understand how to look after it. Getting it right will not only reduce outlay on this potentially pricey ongoing cost but will also guarantee fried foods that will keep customers coming back for more.
We all know fried foods aren’t particularly the healthiest option but this still doesn’t stop them being one of the most loved and most ordered areas of the menu. Whether producing chips with a crisp crunch and fluffy filling, beautifully battered fish or a side of onion rings or mushrooms, frying is an essential aspect of every catering operation.
Here we break down the important areas of choosing and managing oil in an easy to digest guide.
This may sound rather redundant – obviously frying oil will be used for frying but the temperatures typically operated at, the types of foods being fried and the length of time the fryer will be in operation for will all play a part in the final selection of oil. Start with the basics and keep these in mind throughout the whole process. If a type of oil ticks all other boxes but doesn’t meet your core requirements then it’s obviously not a wise choice.
The smoking point of any oil is the temperature at which the oil begins to visibly smoke – not a good thing and definitely something to avoid. As commercial frying is carried out at high temperatures it’s vital to choose cooking oil with a high smoke point. It’s always best to look for oils with a smoking point starting at 200°C – 235°C / 400°F – 450°F and above.
Unrefined oils will have a low smoking point and so begin any search by concentrating on refined products. Also consider the level of free fatty acids (FFAs) in any given oil; the lower the better. Low FFAs result in a high smoke point.
All oil will also have a flash point and fire point. These are the temperatures at which oil will ignite however this is typically considerably higher than the smoking point.
All oils will have slightly differing flavours and could ultimately have an effect on the flavour of food once fried. Often the taste of different oils will be better suited to and complement the frying of different ingredients, for example, best for fish, best for vegetables or general all-purpose oil. Taste transference can have a major impact on the final flavour of a dish however if this is something you wish to avoid, there are oils available that limit or prevent this transfer.
The public are very aware of the health implications of frying in this world of nutrition and fitness. Aim to use oils with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats with minimal saturated and trans fats.
When serving the public it’s vital to adhere to all food safety and allergen guidelines. If using peanut oil, for example, it could be disastrous for the customer and your business if you serve someone with a peanut allergy. If using any type of oil that could potentially cause a reaction, there are strict regulations requiring that the information be clearly stated.
Oil can be expensive especially if frying is a big part of the business such as in fish and chip shops. As it’s a necessary ongoing cost it should always be factored in to any budget for running costs. Consider the price of different oils and if there is any discount for bulk quantities. If buying in bulk to reduce cost, always make sure there’s plenty of storage space to house extra stock.
Choosing the right cooking oil is only the first part of the task. Having an effective oil management system in place is vital to prolonging the life of oil and achieving the best results, both with regards to flavour and visual appeal.
Areas to consider include:
- Skimming oil – regularly removing larger food debris from oil will help to slow the rate at which it breaks down leading to a longer life expectancy.
- Oil filtration – oil should be filtered at least once a day depending on how often the fryer is in use and the quantity of foods being produced. Filtering oil extends life expectancy and reduces the frequency of oil changes, saving money in the long run. Commercial fryers can now be purchased with an integral filter system that requires little manual intervention. Alternatively separate oil filtration units are available capable of filtering hot oil without coming into direct contact. With rapid filtering cycles, fryer down time is minimised for less disruption during long shifts. The Vito Oil Filtration range is a great solution for any kitchen looking to effectively cut oil costs down to size. Compact and simple to use, Vito offer the V30, V50 and V80 models suitable for all capacities.
- Correct coverage – when oil isn’t in use is should always be appropriately covered; luckily stainless steel lids are usually included with the purchase of commercial fryers. Covering fryer tanks minimises oxidation and carbonisation – the natural degradation process of cooking oil. This simple act can help retain better colour and flavour for longer.
- Minimise moisture – always remove as much moisture as possible from foods before placing in the fryer. It’s also vital to completely dry tanks after cleaning before refilling the fryer. Water doesn’t play well with oil.
- Oil testing – regularly testing frying oil can help to determine overall quality and when it’s ready for an overhaul. Some testing tools will also display the temperature of the oil allowing accurate, comprehensive data to be recorded for future reference. Testing will help to maintain the high frying standards that businesses have become accustomed to.
- Responsible disposal – knowing how to correctly dispose of used cooking oil is essential in a world where the environment is a growing concern. Educating staff about FOGs and preventing the build-up of ‘fatbergs’ using tools such as grease traps could be the difference between a healthy environment or a large fine.
- Staff training – all kitchen staff should receive adequate training, not only on how to use and look after equipment but also all the additional responsibilities that comes with it. This may include but is not limited to, when to test oil, how to filter oil, when oil needs changing and when to top up oil levels. Failure to carry out these small but important tasks could lead to off tasting food, food being undercooked leading to hefty fines (as seen in recent news where a chicken shop fell ‘fowl’ of the law) and even increased fire risk.
There are many different methods for testing cooking oil. The most reliable way of determining whether fryer oil needs changing is to invest in a digital tester such as that from Vito.
Alternatively there are a few telltale signs to look out for. Please note, never wait for all of these indications to occur – even if only one is apparent, this signals that it’s time for an oil change.
|SMELL||Can you detect a burnt smell from freshly fried foods or when the fryer is in use?||✔|
|TASTE||Does food have a burnt or charred taste?||✔|
|COLOUR||Is there a darker colour or burnt spots to fried foods?||✔|
|SMOKE||Notice that oil is visibly smoking with a tinge of blue?||✔|
- Choose a cooking oil with a high smoke point, generally recommended at least 200°C – 235°C / 400°F – 450°F and above.
- Oil requirements will differ between businesses so never base oil management on the routines of others. The frequency of oil changes will depend on the type and quality of oil, the foods being fried, regularity and standard of general equipment maintenance and whether a filtration system is being used.
- Put comprehensive oil management in place.
- Use oil filtration where possible to extend the usable life of oil.
- Regularly check and monitor oil levels in fryers; low levels are not only damaging to equipment but can results in undercooked food.
- Routinely test oil to give a good indication of when an oil change is required.
- Don’t leave oil in a fryer for extended periods when not in use. Remove, filter and store in a suitable container somewhere cool, dark and dry.
- In line with new legislation surrounding acrylamide, commercial catering operations must observe simple steps to limit the presence in foods – this is applicable to all businesses that sell and serve fried foods for public consumption among others. All staff must "be aware of acrylamide as a food safety hazard and have a general understanding of how acrylamide is formed". Commercial kitchens must be able to evidence all relevant measures taken to limit acrylamide production, using appropriate sampling to monitor levels. All processes and results of testing must be succinctly recorded.
- Responsibly dispose of used cooking oil. Contact your local authority to see if there are any specialist services available in your area.
- It's not all about the oil. Keeping your frying equipment clean and well maintained will help get the most out of oil.