Oil management is a small but vital task that has ramifications well beyond simply extending the life of a key ingredient. Properly handled oil will help keep equipment running smoothly, yield better-tasting fried foods and reduce the risk of fire.
Cooking oil will last longer and produce better results if restaurants follow three basic rules: keep it clean, keep it at the right temperature and keep a watchful eye on it.
Filter, filter, filter
One of the biggest threats to oil is foreign matter. As foods are cooked in oil, they deposit particles that adulterate the oil, which has a domino effect. The food particles contribute to the breakdown of the oil’s integrity, raise its smoke point, have the potential to negatively impact the flavors of food cooked in that oil and contribute to a soggy, greasy product. Dirty oil also tends to leave hard-to-remove residue on the kettle’s fry pot.
Keeping a fryer clean takes commitment. It starts during the cooking process, when efforts should be made to keep as many crumbs, ice crystals (water also accelerates oil aging) and salt from contaminating the oil. Operators should fry frozen foods while frozen, load fryer baskets and shake them away from the oil before depositing them in the kettle. And foods emerging from the fryer should be seasoned away from the oil.
Experts recommend skimming the top and bottom of the kettle to remove floating food particles after each frying load and filtering oil at least once a day, depending on the volume and types of food fried. Breaded items create more loose particles, for instance, while fries cook cleaner. Filtering can be done by pouring it through wire mesh or paper filters or with portable oil-filtering units that attach to the fryer, pumping oil through an internal filter and returning it to the fryer. Some active systems can also remove water and other matter that contributes to degradation.
Because air is a potential contaminant, keeping a lid on the fryer vat when it’s idle will cut down on potential contamination as well.
Watch that thermometer
Overused or overheated oil not only deteriorates faster, but it also develops a lower smoke point, raising the potential for kitchen fire.
Don’t rely on the fryer thermostat to keep the oil at the right temperature; if the thermostat isn’t working properly, the oil could be subjected to unsuitably high temperatures, compromising the quality of the final product as well as oil integrity. A good practice is to check the temperature daily and recalibrate as needed.
Frying temperatures should never exceed 375F. Between meal times, the thermostat can be set to 200F.
Put oil to the test
Daily testing can indicate when it’s time for fresh oil—and a completely new batch is preferred to topping off a fryer with new oil.
Experts recommend several ways to determine whether oil quality has degraded to the point where it should be removed. Operators can use an oil test kit, or they can rely on sensory cues: a darkened color, a thicker consistency, foaming or smoke all indicate it’s time for a change, as does an off odor.
This post is sponsored by Stratas Foods