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Fried and True

Fried and True

September 1, 2006
Source: Food Service News

Fryer Management Program Helps to Trim Costs, Improve Food Quality and Reduce Accidents, Burns.

With North America’s propensity for fried foods, deep fryers are key to almost every commercial kitchen, but oftentimes given the least amount of attention. However, an outsourced fryer management program that assumes all fryer cleaning and maintenance tasks addresses a number of critical issues:

  • It reduces the constant threat of accidents, burns and other injuries associated with the dangerous task of removing oil and cleaning or “boiling out” deep fryers. According to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) during a two-year period, emergency rooms treated almost 45,000 injuries suffered by teenage restaurant workers and nearly half of the injuries involved hot grease.
  • Because a fryer management program increases the life of cooking oil, some restaurants can see their oil costs reduced by as much as 60 per cent, sometimes resulting in thousands of dollars in savings each year.
  • The improved quality of cooking oil translates into better-tasting food. ABC Research Corporation, a full-service food-testing laboratory in Gainesville, Fla., found that effective filtering removes almost half of the polar compounds that cause the degradation of cooking oil. Accurate temperature checks also ensure that thermostats are not out of calibration, resulting in food not being cooked properly.
  • Effective ¡maintenance can extend the lifespan of deep fryers. While manufacturers say fryers should last four to five years, misuse and poor maintenance can sometimes cause fryers to break down in as little as 18 to 24 months. With fryer costs ranging from $900 to $ 1,900, the replacement costs can be considerable.
  • Commercial kitchens can realize savings of 50 percent simply through improved fryer practices that go beyond filtering, alone. Knowing when to optimally dispose of degraded oil in order to extend its cooking life, when to turn fryers on so that oil isn’t wasted and ensuring that food is cooked at the proper temperatures are all practices that result in lower costs and improved food quality.

Yet many kitchens overlook the fact that producing a fried food product is one of a kitchen’s most expensive tasks because of the cost of cooking oil. The use of cooking oil can be one of the most expensive product overheads in a kitchen. The costs can add up quickly given the 4.5 billion pounds of French tries that Americans consumed last year along with hundreds of millions of pounds of chicken wings.

Still, many commercial kitchens give their deep fryers the attention given a bothersome fly on a hot, summer day. You’re annoyed at having to deal with it in the first place, but forget about it as soon as it’s out of sight. That being said, cooking oil filtration is often done in one of three ways:

Minimal Intervention. It consists of straining the oil through a paper filter. It’s a crude approach but better than doing nothing at all.

Built-in Fryer Filtration Systems. Many deep fryers have this feature but it is ineffective because it is a gravity-fed system that simply strains the oil. Most built-in filtration systems are capable of filtering contamination particles to 250 microns in size. An outsourced fryer management program can filter to a level of two to three microns. For comparison’s sake, a gram of salt is equal to 60 microns and the human eye can see particles to 40 microns.

Conversely, the services of an outsourced fryer management program include vacuum-based cleaning of fryers and micro-filtration of cooking oil, accomplished by pumping the 35O-degree oil through a filtration system. Because the oil is filtered while heated, its viscosity is reduced and filtering improved.

Still, among the biggest concerns of operators is that the cleaning and maintenance of commercial fryers remains a dangerous task for food service employees who are not properly trained, often resulting in serious burns, falls and other injuries. Consider:

  • Researchers have found that tens working in fast-food restaurants are six times more likely to be burned than teens working in any other industry.
  • The food service industry experiences the highest number of burns of any employment sector, about 12,000 each year. Cooks, food handlers, kitchen workers and wait staff are all listed among the top 50 occupations at risk for on-the-job burn injury.
  • One l6-year-old crew cook in a Minnesota fast-food outlet was burned over much of his body as he was pushing a container of hot grease outside to filter it. As he reached the door, the container slipped and the lid popped off, spilling the scalding grease all over him.

Many of these accidents occur because deep fryer maintenance is often left to young and inexperienced teenagers. Most restaurants simply throw away their cooking oil late at night after the kitchen has closed, often leaving the task to teenagers who are pressed for time and take shortcuts. It usually takes an hour for the hot oil to cool down, but impatience gets the best of many unlucky workers.

Performing accurate fryer temperature checks using state-of- the-art equipment is another often overlooked task for many kitchens. Inaccurate thermostats increase the danger and risk of oil reaching “flash point” which may cause a fire.

Using a fryer management service is somewhat akin to having insurance. The program’s benefits – reduced accident and labor claims, improved morale because an unwelcome task has been eliminated and lower labor costs because employees have more time for other responsibilities – are often overlooked until an unnecessary and preventable accident occurs.

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