Fried foods aren’t just a staple of summer evenings at the county fair. They’re also a primary component on menus around the world. Frying is a cooking method that uses oil or fat, which can reach higher temperatures than water, to quickly cook and crisp a variety of different foods. This adds another layer of texture and flavor profile to enhance even the most mundane treats.
Read also: Which oil is best for deep frying?
Frying also enables operators to sear or carbonize food surfaces while also caramelizing sugars. Some commonly fried foods popular on American menus include french fries and potato chips, onion rings, breaded pickles and vegetables, chicken tenders, buffalo wings, seafood, etc. Given the mass popularity of fried foods, commercial deep fryers are an indispensable piece of cooking equipment for every commercial kitchen.
Fryers are generally grouped and rated based on:
- Power input – rated in BTU (British Thermal Unit) for gas models, or kilowatts for electric (read also: What are BTUs?)
- Shortening capacity – the amount of oil or fat a fryer can accommodate
- Production output – typically relayed in pounds per hour (often, you’ll see french fries used as the principal example)
In This Commercial Fryer Buying Guide:
To begin, it is best to gain an understanding of the four main types of commercial fryers on the market. Each features unique benefits.
The four main fryer types are:
Commercial Deep-Fat Fryers are the most popular type of commercial fryer in foodservice. They are available in liquid propane (LP) or natural gas configurations, as well as electric. Additional options include countertop models, freestanding floor models, or multiple battery units.
Deep-fat fryers come with either one or two wire baskets constructed of either nickel plate or stainless steel. These are placed outside of the frypot and used to load product into the shortening to cook. When cooking is complete, these baskets are removed and excess shortening drained back into the tank to finalize the product for service. Most fryers also feature thermostat controls and a timer.
Commercial countertop fryers save floor space by resting on top of worktables or counters, and are generally cheaper than their floor model counterparts. Power input for gas-powered countertop deep-fat fryers range between 45,000 to 75,000 BTUs. Electric countertop deep-fat fryers range from five to 21 kW.
Shortening capacities for countertop fryers typically range from 15 to 30 lbs. and production output between 25 and 60 lbs. of french fries per hour. Drop-in fryers work in tandem with countertop models to help conserve kitchen space. Both countertop and drop-in fryer models are ideal for small kitchen spaces, food trucks, or concession stands.
For high-volume operations needing to produce more than 60 lbs an hour, you’ll want to opt for either a freestanding floor fryer or a battery of fryers. Gas floor fryers usually range in input from 80,000 to 200,000 BTUs an hour while electric models range between 12 to 42 kW.
Shortening capacities for floor fryers range between 35 to 210 lbs., capable of cranking out 60 to 300 lbs. of fries an hour. These types of fryers are marketed more towards fast-paced restaurants, cafeterias, or industrial kitchens.
Battery of Fryers
Floor fryers can also be built into what is commonly known as a battery of fryers for high-production output. Installing batteries entails banking several fryers together for a continuous lineup. Although this may take up more floor space, it allows operators to accommodate specific production demands, ideal for preventing cross-contact among common food allergens. For instance, if peanut oil is a commonly used oil used to fry certain foods in your establishment, a battery of fryers will also enable you to have a tank dedicated to vegetable or canola oil as an alternative should a guest have a peanut allergy. Fryer batteries also alleviate the stress of ordering multiple units separately.
- Retention of natural juices
- Less grease due to reduced shortening absorption
- Less shortening used, thus reducing operational costs
The amount of product you’re wanting to produce is one of the biggest determinants in deciding which fryer to go with. The fryer’s tank capacity will inform you of how much oil it can hold, and therefore how much you’ll be able to cook at a time. Some manufacturers rate their fryers based on tank capacity, while others rate theirs based on production output (again, usually notated in terms of pounds of french fries per hour). An efficient commercial fryer will be able to produce a volume of either one-and-a-half to two time the weight of oil it holds. For example, a 50 lb. deep fryer should be able to produce 100 lbs. of fries and hour.
Tube-Type Deep Fryers
Tube-type deep-fat fryers are designed with a series of tubes welded into the frypot near the bottom of the vat, housing gas-fired burners that evenly heat the oil they’re submerged in. Their versatility in frying a variety of food makes them the most popular type of restaurant fryer.
Other advantages of tube-top fryers include energy efficiency and a large cold zone that assists in preserving oil life, making them ideal for breaded foods that leave behind excess sediment. On the other hand, they can also be more challenging to clean than their open pot counterparts, and use a high percentage of oil. These tubes hold baffles to ensure the most efficient heat transfer that can weaken oven time.
Open Pot Fryers
Fryers with an open pot design are better used with foods with lower degrees of excess sediment, such as french fries or frozen items and nothing breaded, due to the smaller cold zone size. They don’t feature any tubes or burners in the oil themselves, making them easier to clean. Instead of containing tubes that house the heating element, these units feature the element on the exterior of the frypot, and are usually gas-powered.
In addition to more efficient cleaning, other advantages of open pot fryers include a reduction in the amount of oil required for the cold zone, and burners that are more reliable because they don’t require baffles. This means they’re less prone to breaking down. However, they’re not considered as energy efficient as tube-type fryers, and they have a much lower capacity for handling excess sediment.
Read also: How to Clean a Commercial Fryer
Commercial Gas Fryers
Before committing to a gas fryer purchase, you should know whether you have a natural gas hookup at the ready, or if you’ll need to opt for a liquid propane (LP) unit. The main benefits of a gas fryer include:
- More options for the frypot shape
- Since they’re more common, more employees will likely already be familiar with their operation so less need for training
- Heats and cools down faster
- Not as affected by power outages
Commercial Electric Fryers
For electric commercial fryers, you should know the voltage and phase requirements. Fryers are available in 208V, 240V, or 480V, and in single or three phase. Some electric units may need to be hardwired directly into the building’s energy supply, while others may simply plug right into an outlet with very little installation hassle.
Key advantages of an electric fryer include:
- No need to fret about gas leaks
- Simple installation
- Faster recovery times
- Smaller models are easier to transport
- Considered more energy efficient, especially during heat transfer thanks to the submerged burners (on tube-type designs)
- Exposure to oxygen is the primary cause of shortening breakdown
- High heat can destroy shortening; some brands are formulated to withstand temperatures between 200°F and 400°F
- Various physical contaminants like acid, food particles, water, and salt can also impact the shortening life
- Detergent residue left over from improper cleaning will also have a negative impact on the shortening
There are many ways to be proactive about extending the life of your shortening to glean the most bang for your buck. A solid fryer filtration system will have the biggest positive impact. Filter systems work to remove contaminants that break down the oil and can have a negative effect on the flavor profile of your fried delights. Some units have filtration systems built-in, but add-on filter systems are available in case yours doesn’t. These are usually mobile and can service multiple units that are equipped with a quick-disconnect hose.
Other factors that increase the longevity of your shortening include:
- Units with a larger tank capacity can hold more shortening; once the shortening is initially heated to the desired temperature, they tend to maintain it longer
- Cold zones that are designed into most modern fryer units work to catch food particles and hold them at lower temperatures to reduce burning or carbonization
- Fryers with a high BTU-input feature faster recovery to the desired cooking temperature after raw foods are added; with a faster recovery time, units don’t have to use high temperature setting to compensate for the addition of cold products, saving on energy and shortening costs
- A unit with sophisticated controls make it easier to maintain the desired temperature
A Type I exhaust hood ventilation system is required for any cooking equipment to collect and remove grease and smoke to reduce the risk of fires, maintain a comfortable work environment for kitchen staff, and abide by local health inspection codes. This means your commercial deep fryer will need to be placed under such a system.
There are four main components of an exhaust hood system: a vent hood that’s placed over the cooking equipment and works to remove grease, smoke, and odor; a baffle filter that captures and drains grease; a make-up air unit that’s usually installed outside and connects through duct work, and assists in bringing in clean air to replace grease-laden vapors; and an exhaust fan that suctions out low quality air.
Though required, a challenge with ventilation systems is space and extensive duct work (read also: Evaluating What’s Behind the Walls of Your Restaurant). There are ventless exhaust systems available that help alleviate these constraints, allowing for cooking equipment to be installed in areas they have previously not been able to go. Ventless fryer units are ideal for smaller spaces, like food trucks, bars, and pop-up kiosks, in historic buildings where the ductwork is outdated or non-existent, or in ghost/delivery-only kitchens.
A few other key considerations that you should be familiar with include:
Some fryers come with programmable controls for more automation to assist in cooking processes that your operation uses regularly. Others feature solid state or manual controls.
Programmable controls allow operators to program multiple factors, such as temperature and cook time, to control the cooking process with a simple push of a button. This ensures consistent results each time while saving on labor. Some high-end fryers even feature options to adjust the temperature or cook time based on the current quality of the fryer.
Fryers with manual controls are usually less expensive than programmable fryers and they’re pretty straightforward to use. However, they’re unable to automatically adjust settings and require more hands-on operator use.
A fryer’s recovery time refers to the amount of time needed for the oil to return to the desired cooking temperature after raw foods are inserted. If the oil temperature decreases too much or fails to rise fast enough, there’s a greater risk of fat absorption and a greasier product.
Energy Star Rebates
ENERGY STAR® rated products are given this designation for designs that reduce energy usage, thereby contributing to a cleaner environment. Products with an ENERGY STAR® label reduce utility costs and, in some states, qualify for sizable rebates. Learn more about ENERGY STAR® rebates here.
- Locate and secure the thermostat probes on the frypot. These are often fragile and can be damaged or lose calibration if hit with a scrub brush.
- Using a fryer brush, which are specifically designed with a bed to assist in the scrubbing of hard to reach burner tubes, scrub excess sediment off the walls and the bottom.
- Confirm the valve is closed and the burner tubes or heating elements are covered. Then, fill the frypot halfway with hot water. Add a cleaning solution.
- Turn the thermostat off and drain the water.
- Rinse thoroughly with clean hot water, ensuring the drain valve remains open.
- Confirm the drain valve is open and rinse thoroughly with clean hot water.
- Dry with a clean towel.
- Refill with oil and secure a cover over the frypot until ready to use.
Pitco fryers come in both electric and gas and feature integrated oil management technology with data designed to enhance accuracy and customize reminders for sensor, filter cycles, and auto oil top off that replenishes lost oil with fresh supply. Take advantage of an estimated 50% in oil savings due to less usage, and additional automated processes that cut operating costs while enhancing employee safety efforts.
Vulcan fryers offer ease of operation and maintenance to maximize productivity while minimizing costs. Many Vulcan fryer models also feature faster recovery times than traditional fryers, and many are ENERGY STAR® rated. They deliver consistent results for the best-tasting foods faster than ever, and are available in gas or electric with a range of oil capacities.
Frymaster fryers come in diverse options to meet specific demands. Some are strategically designed for oil conservation, while others for high production output, and some built for reliability at a value price.
Additional Cooking Equipment Buying Guides:
- What to Look for When Buying a Convection Oven
- Commercial Combi Oven Buying Guide
- Commercial Ranges: What to Know Before Buying
- Griddles vs. Charbroilers
- Griddle Me This: Choosing the Right Griddle for Your Kitchen
- Now Steaming: How to Choose the Right Steamer for Your Kitchen
- What to Know About Restaurant Exhaust Hood Systems
- Insulated vs. Non-Insulated Holding and Proofing Cabinets
Chase joined Central Restaurant Products in February 2016 as a Content Specialist, bringing to the role years of various foodservice experience, including front-of-house service (slingin’ chicken wings and libations with a smile on his face) and back-of-house food prep using heavy-duty commercial cooking equipment to prepare for peak dining hours at his university’s dining hall.
He puts this experience to use writing for Central’s Resource Center, website, and print catalog. ServSafe certified, he enjoys educating on food safety in the commercial setting, researching new dining room and tabletop trends, and sharing innovative solutions to enhance operational efficiencies. He also enjoys (in no specific order) long hikes with his dog, bingeing 90s sitcoms, red wine, and live music.