3 key considerations to improve food quality through oil management.
By Jeff Kiesel
Food quality is something that all food industry professionals must continually improve, and now with new technologies it is easier than ever to do so. Through oil choice and management, restaurants can make their fried food taste better, yield better quality, and keep customers coming back for more. Choosing the right type of oil for your establishment can be difficult, so here are some things to keep in mind as you try to find a type of oil that fits your restaurant’s needs.
Obviously, flavor is a main concern in restaurants, particularly for chefs. Sometimes oil is chosen based on personal preference. In the United States, consumers are accustomed to the clean taste of canola or soy oils. When choosing an oil to use, chefs should make sure the food’s flavor is not masked by the oil, the food has a crisp, tender bite and is not too limp or too crunchy, and the food should have a nice, golden color.
Performance & Price
Another concern in choosing a type of oil, perhaps even more important than taste, is protecting your operation’s bottom line. When purchasing oil, it is important to consider not just cost-per-pound, but also cost over time.
When considering performance, it should be noted that oil with an extended fry life can last twice as long as commodity oils. However, filtering can also extend the life of any oil, which reduces cost. In terms of price and availability, consider the types of oils your supplier offers locally. It is important for a supplier to monitor crop success, biodiesel mandates, and world demand.
Functionality & Fry Life
Although outside factors like the ones above should affect the oil you choose, internal procedures like oil maintenance are also critical in oil choice. Proper oil maintenance is a significant influencer of food quality because oil is affected by what you’re frying and how. Factors that are important to keep in mind are temperature, smoke points, filtering, testing and changing.
Temperature: The ideal temperature for frying is between 325 and 350 degrees, depending on the food and it is essential to not fry foods at too high a temperature since that causes oil to oxidize faster.
Smoke Points: Smoke points are the stage at which heated oils begin to smoke and the molecular structure of oil breaks down. As with temperature, it is important to not cook food in oil past the smoke point. This can produce toxic bitter compounds that can affect both the flavor and nutrition of the food.
Filtering: As mentioned above, it is important to regularly filter oil to make it last longer. Not filtering oil properly can affect the flavor of the food. You can test the oil after filtering through sensory methods — looking at the oil to see any visible changes — or the use of a test kit.
Oil should be filtered at least twice a day. Some steps to follow when filtering include: filtering for a minimum of 5 minutes per fryer vat, filtering the oldest oil first, adding powder to polish the oil, using fryer filter paper, cleaning the fryer vat while filtering to remove any food particles, checking oil with test strips after filtering, rotating fryer vats as needed, tracking filtration, disposing of oil with manager approval.
Changing: When oil turns dark brown, starts to smell or impacts taste, it should be replaced.
In addition to filtering oil twice a day, the top and sides of the fryer should be skimmed every 15 minutes. Loose food particles should then be disposed of.
A schedule should also be established for turning off vats, which helps the equipment preserve oil and conserve energy. Fryers should be covered when not in use to decrease the likelihood of contamination from substances and particles not intended for the fryer.
Finally, the fryer calibration should be checked on a quarterly basis and should only be filled to the appropriate oil levels. Fryer systems need recalibration over time and checking the calibration regularly helps make sure your fryer is working its best. Make sure your oil is not too hot by comparing the temperature of your fryer to the temperature reading on a food thermometer placed in hot oil and adjusting the fryer’s temperature accordingly.
Following the above guidelines will help extend the life of your carefully chosen oil. Choosing and maintaining the right kind of oil for your restaurant will not only help you save money, but will also keep your customers happy as they enjoy delicious food that has been fried to perfection.
— With more than 25 years of senior leadership experience, former GE executive Jeff Kiesel is CEO of Restaurant Technologies, Inc., a technology innovations-driven company making the restaurant and hospitality trade safer and smarter and, in doing so, more efficient and profitable. Clients include McDonald’s, KFC and Marriot Hotels. Email the author through the company website at www.rti-inc.com.