Commercial Fryer Buying Guide

Commercial Fryer Buying Guide Banner - french fries



Deep frying has become a method of elevating food products to new heights of eating pleasure, ranging from chunks of chicken meat to golden sponge cake treats.  Deep fryers are an essential mainstay of nearly every commercial kitchen.

With so many commercial deep fryers available, it can be a challenge to choose the fryer that is right for you and your business.  But don't be overwhelmed! No matter if you operate a gourmet restaurant, a concession stand, a food truck, or a diner, there is a deep fryer model out there that will meet your needs.  We can help.

This buying guide provides you with some basics about deep fryers as well as some specifics that will help you make the right choice.


What is a commercial deep fryer?  A commercial deep fryer is a piece of foodservice equipment that cooks foods in a quantity of super-heated oil, typically for appetizers, entree items, and dessert/sweet treats.  The hot oil reaches a temperature usually above 325 degrees Fahrenheit, but for some items requires the temperature to approach 400 degrees Fahrenheit, for proper cooking and food safety.  When the food item is placed in the hot oil, the natural moisture of the food product boils rapidly. The moisture does not escape the food item since oil does not mix with water. The hot moisture remains inside the food, meaning the food actually steam cooks itself.

But how do you choose the right fryer equipment for the specific cooking tasks of your establishment?  Read on!

 

Types of Deep Fryers


Fryer Type Pros Cons Power

Open Pot Fryer Image

Open Pot

 

Ideal for pre-breaded items - Mozzerella sticks, jalapeno poppers, onion rings, chicken tenders, french fries

  • Easy to clean
  • Large open well ideal for fryer baskets

 

  • Small volume, narrow sediment zone fills quickly and can clog drain
  • Not for high-sediment breaded items
  • Longer heat up and heat recovery times than tube type fryers



Gas or
Electric

Tube Type Fryer Image

Tube Type

 

Ideal for any well-battered or breaded items - Chicken patties, fish fillets, onion rings

  • Handles high-sediment, denser food items that drop
  • Large sediment zone removes particles from cooking zone

 

  • Difficult to clean due to fixed heating tubes
  • Sediment not removed can change flavor of food and break down oil




Gas

Flat Bottom Fryer Image

Flat Bottom

 

Ideal for dough-based and low-density - items that float - Funnel cakes, fried dough, doughnuts, well-battered fish and shrimp, tortilla chips, taco shells, fried butter, fried candy bars

  • No heating elements to obstruct cleaning well bottom (some models)
  • Batter and sediment cannot carbonize on burners if they are outside of frypot

 

  • No sediment zone means particles can carbonize on bottom
  • Burned sediment can be difficult to clean
  • Not for high volume frying or high sediment items
  • Longer heat up and heat recovery times



Gas or
Electric

Ribbon Type Fryer Image

Ribbon Type

 

Ideal for breaded or battered items and items that float - from funnel cakes to french fries

  • Faster heat up to cooking temperature
  • Quicker heat recovery between batches

 

  • Difficult to clean under and behind ribbon element
  • Food items can touch the ribbon element and burn/scorch




Electric



  1. Open Pot Fryers: The open pot fryer is given that name because the cooking space is larger in volume than other types of deep fryers. The open pot in a gas model is entirely clear of heating elements. The elements are on the outside of the metal well which they heat up, and which in turn, heats the oil. The fry pot in an electric model requires that the heating elements sit in the cooking oil at the bottom of the well, but the majority of the well is unobstructed. The electric heating elements directly heat the oil and typically fold up out of the way when cleaning the empty pot. Note that all open pot deep fryers are easier to clean than other types of fryers.
  2. Tube Fryers: Tube type deep fryers utilize tubular heating element that sit directly in the well. There is a large sediment zone beneath the heating tubes which is cooler and less likely to burn crumbs and food particles. The tube type deep fryers are all gas-powered. The tube type models heat up more quickly and typically have higher maximum cooking temperatures than open pot fryers. However, since the tubes are often fixed in place in the well, it can be difficult to completely clean the sediment zone, which can lead to changes in food flavor.
  3. Flat Bottom Fryers: Flat bottom fryers are typically shallower in depth and are suitable for light duty applications. Because of the flat bottom, these models have no sediment zone beneath the heating elements. This actually makes it harder to clean since the crumbs and other food particles will burn onto the bottom just beneath the heating elements and difficult to reach. Gas models have heating elements outside of the frypot. Flat bottom fryers distribute heat in a fashion that makes them ideal for flat, dough-based items such as donuts, fried dough, and funnel cakes.
  4. Ribbon Fryers: Ribbon fryers combine features of both flat bottom fryers and tube type fryers. Like flat bottom fryers, the ribbon fryers are shallow in depth. The heating element is, as you might guess, a thin, metal ribbon that curls around in the bottom of the oil well. Since the ribbon shape has more surface area, the heating element heats the oil faster and recovers its cooking temperature more quickly than tube type fryers. The ribbon fryer models also offer a wider frypot, so more flat-style food items can be cooked at once, provided they float, like fried dough and funnel cakes. Ribbon fryers are all electric commercial fryers.



Gas versus Electric

Fryer Type How it works Pros Cons

Gas Fryer Image

Gas

 

 

Gas deep fryers use either natural gas or liquid propane that heats up inside tubes or other heating elements.
Heating elements can be either in the oil or beneath the frypot. If the elements are outside the frypot, they must first heat the metal of the frypot, which in turn heats the oil.

 

  • Faster heat up
  • Higher maximum oil temperature
  • Natural gas and liquid propane sources can be less expensive than electricity in some regions

 

  • Restricted mobility and installation options
  • Initial setup and hook up of gas lines more costly than electrical wiring

Electric Fryer Image

Electric

 

 

An electric powered deep fryer uses an electric heating element that typically runs directly through the oil in the frypot.

 

  • Element in direct contact with oil for greater heating efficiency
  • Not tied to gas line means greater mobility and increased installation options
  • Faster heat recovery between batches

 

  • Longer heat up time
  • Lower maximum oil temperature



There are several things to consider about your particular deep frying requirements before you can choose either a gas powered model or an electric model.

These are Heat Recovery Time (see below), Operational Costs, and Installation Options.

When replacing any fryer that you have had in operation for some time, you should consider selecting a new model with the same power source in order to prevent the need for installation of new gas or electrical lines. However, if you are able to invest additional funds, you can gain a variety of benefits, including increased energy efficiency and heat recovery times, depending upon the deep fryer type.

 

Deep Fryer Accessories

Deep fryers typically require several accessories for efficient operation. RestaurantSupply.com carries several of these items from multiple manufacturers. The list below is not exhaustive.

  • Fryer Baskets: The most common fryer accessory, a fryer basket holds food product while it cooks in the oil and keeps the items from falling to the bottom of the frypot. Foodservice businesses typically have several extra fryer baskets on hand to rotate in to the workflow.
  • Fryer Oil Filter Paper: Oil filter paper is a specially-woven paper material that is used in fryer oil filtration units (either external to the fryer or integrated in the fryer oil system. The paper allows oil to pass but strains out food particles to keep volumes of oil free of contaminants.
  • Fryer Oil/Shortening Filter Units: These filtration units can be portable and external units or optional modular integrated units that pump used oil out of the fryer's cooking vat. The filter unit filters food and other particles from the fryer oil or hot, liquified shortening before returning it to the frypot, in order to extend the usefulness of the oil.
  • Fryer Oil Disposal Units: Oil disposal units are a vital part of an efficient and environmentally sound waste management program. Most disposal units can be connected directly to fryer drains for quick removal of oil that has reached the end of its usefulness.

 

Fryer Cleaning

No matter what kind of commercial foodservice equipment you invest in, proper care and maintenance will keep it functioning at optimum levels for as long as possible. Commercial deep fryers are no exception to this plan. To extend the life of both your deep fryer equipment and the cooking oil it uses, certain activities must be performed on a regular basis.

Consider the cooking oil / shortening itself. Keeping the oil clean is a step in improving the overall functioning of the fryer. Filtering the oil should be a regular task each day, and sometimes more than once, based upon how much food product has passed through the fryer station. Oil filtration happens by draining or pulling the oil through a filtration system that can be either integrated into the fryer unit or an external, portable unit that can be attached to the fryer. A portable filtration system makes additional sense when you consider that you can utilize it for several deep fryers, instead of needing to purchase a dedicated filtration system for each fryer. Either way, the impurities and contaminants in the cooking oil will be removed so that the oil can be reintroduced into the fryer for continued use without the possibility of flavor alteration by burned food particles.

In addition, every day, possibly between shifts, the deep fryer should be entirely cleaned. This means not only draining the oil (possibly into a filtration system, a disposal system, or some other receptacle), but also removal of all food sediment in the frypot and/or filter pot. A simple method that some manufacturers recommend is boiling water in the cooking well. Just be certain to fully dry the frypot, removing all water to prevent oil splatter and potential burns or fires when you heat the oil up the first time after cleaning.

 

The Importance of Heat Recovery Time

Recovery time is the time that it takes for the oil in the deep fryer's pot to return to normal cooking temperature when either cold food product is placed in the oil or after hot cooked food is removed from the oil. At these times, the temperature of the oil decreases. Therefore, time must pass while the oil is reheated by the heating elements until it again reaches proper and safe cooking temperature.
The recovery time of a deep fryer unit will affect the efficiency of a commercial kitchen, since waiting between batches or adding time to batch cooking means slower serving cycles. If food product is added to the oil before it reaches proper cooking temperature, it must remain immersed in the cooking oil for longer period of time, allowing the food to absorb extra and unnecessary fat. Longer reheating or cooking times also increases energy consumption and impacts operational costs.

Note that some obvious science must be acknowledged. For example, the larger the vat capacity (i.e. the volume of oil that needs to be heated), the longer it will take to increase its temperature. More oil takes longer to heat up. Therefore, units with larger cooking capacity will cost more to operate over time. Smaller units, such as countertop deep fryers, will have a smaller volume of oil that needs to be reheated each time, so they will typically save money and energy over time. An efficient compromise is the split pot style deep fryer with multiple, separated, but side-by-side frypots with smaller volumes of oil that can be quickly reheated. This style of deep fryer offers the same or possibly an increased capacity for simultaneous cooking as a single pot deep fryer.

While recovery times may vary by minutes, over time these waiting periods add up and can be a significant loss of resources and efficiency. In addition, as equipment gets older, the recovery time may increase, depending upon how well the unit has been cleaned and maintained over its lifetime.

Unfortunately, manufacturers do not include recovery time as part of the specifications on their deep fryers. The generally accepted real world understanding of deep fryer recovery times is that any fryer with an element directly immersed in the oil will recover cooking temperature more quickly than a fryer with comparable oil volume, with the heating elements outside the frypot well. This is because the fryers with external heating elements must first reheat the metal of the well before the temperature of the oil can be increased by heat transfer.

In addition, when comparing fryers with gas heating elements or with electric heating elements immersed in the oil, the gas fryer initially heats up more quickly and can reach higher temperatures, while the electric fryer recovers more quickly between batches of food.

You will need to decide what works best for your commercial kitchen application. If you operate a high-volume kitchen with continual demand for deep fried menu items, you will need a fryer with faster recovery time between batches. For example, a countertop deep fryer with electric heating elements directly immersed in a frypot with a smaller volume of oil will have more rapid recovery time than other deep fryer models. If your operation only occasionally needs deep fried food items, you can select a gas-powered fryer with quick initial heat up for a single batch of food product. An analysis of both specific menu item demand and your kitchen's workflow will help you determine just how much recovery time will impact your business.

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