A fry for help

Jestic believes electric fryers are cheaper to purchase and easier to clean.Jestic believes electric fryers are cheaper to purchase and easier to clean.

With an ever-growing list of things to consider, the gas versus electric fryer decision is increasingly difficult for dealers to make. Catering Insight’s Emma Calder investigates what factors should deem which power source is most suitable for certain operators.

With an ongoing wall of sound cluttering the debate, dealers are baffled as to whether gas or electric is the best solution. While there are environmental considerations that should be accounted for, it is as important as ever to protect the bottom line.

With an increasingly lengthy list of things to keep in mind, suppliers have educated Catering Insight in what dealers need to consider and advise their dealer clients regarding the gas versus electric fryer choice.

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Energy efficiency and green-practices take second place to fitting out the most suitable kit for the space, with electric solutions being favourable where there is excess power supply, according to Lincat.

Development chef Paul Hickman said: “The key thing to consider is the existing power supply to your customer’s kitchen. If electricity, it will inevitably have an upper limit. If they are currently operating at or near to it, a gas-powered fryer may be the only way to avoid the additional expense of upgrading the supply.”

While power limitations can throw a spanner in the works for those looking to choose an electric fryer, gas is equally capable of introducing complications.

If the client specifies a gas fryer, the operator will have to have an adequate gas supply with enough pressure and capacity to power the fryer and any additional items of equipment that might require gas, like an oven and hobs.
Even if there’s a small amount of wiggle-room in the electricity supply for just one more unit, dealers have to consider the existing kitchen and operators’ other equipment needs before giving fryers priority.

One of the most important aspects of fryer selection for Lincat’s Hickman is what other equipment is needed for the caterer. He said: “If customers are choosing a fryer in addition to other equipment, and the electricity supply is limited, there may be certain pieces of equipment, for example an oven, that they may prefer to be powered by electricity.”

Valentine’s Jon Bartlett added: “The supplier that fails to advise their client of this fact may have a dissatisfied customer because their various gas-powered equipment may not operate to the required performance during busy times. An important consideration for installing an electric fryer is that the operator will need spare electric capacity on their board.”

The key thing isn’t to just choose gas or electricity because you think one is more energy efficient than the other, but to decide on preference and then look for energy efficiency within that fuel range, according to Euro Catering’s sales director Justin Towns.

He told Catering Insight: “Where a chef does not have a preference, or has no gas supply or spare electricity capacity available, the dealer should be looking at their menu with them, or discussing what they would like to offer to customers in the future, and then highlight the options available to them. They should also not forget that a chef may be looking for a fryer for event catering or food wagon catering, so LPG-fuelled options should not be overlooked.”

Where a client is sat on the fence, suppliers should then take upfront and running costs, cleaning, maintenance and regulations into account, which is when gas and electric offer substantially varied options.

Jestic’s national sales manager, Richard Norman, said: “Due to their very design, with the element being submerged in the oil itself, electric fryers are cheaper to purchase, easier to clean, more efficient, generating quicker heat recovery times, and offer greater reliability.

“What’s more, the location of the element reduces the amount of welding required, in turn making the frypot stronger to deliver the longevity expected by the operator.”

While electric units bolster long-term savings and easy cleaning, they also offers clients more wiggle room thanks to less stringent regulations.

Steve Hemsil, sales director for Welbilt UK and Ireland, added: “Gas fryers usually come with a much longer list of regulations, especially surrounding the initial installation and then following that the actual use of it, so the install for an electric fryer will ultimately be less complex, as will the day to day use of the unit.”

With so many things to consider, some aspects have to take a backseat. For Euro Catering, energy efficiency isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of fryers.

Justin Towns, sales director at Euro Catering, explained: “We feel that we shouldn’t get too hung up on energy efficiency, even though it sends out a good message. First and foremost, the operator, be it the chef or the pub landlord, wants a piece of equipment that performs the task well.

“If you choose a piece of equipment on the basis of it using less energy, this can cost you customers. For this reason, we tend to look at it from the point of view of the caterer who wants to sell great-tasting fried food which is not drenched in oil and which can enable them to branch out into different menu items.”

While it is not always possible to place efficiency centre stage, Welbilt acknowledges the difference an electric unit can make in the move towards more sustainable energy efficiency.

“Fryers have historically not been considered particularly friendly energy consumption wise,” said Hemsil. “However, thanks to many advancements in technology this is no longer always the case, particularly with electric fryers.

The majority of electric units are more efficient due to most having the heating element sitting in the oil. Having the heating element within the oil is a quicker, more efficient way of heating the oil, compared to gas units where the gas burners sit on the outside.

Units with the heat source outside the oil will take a lot longer to heat and, as a result, will use more energy, which leads to even top-end gas fryers wasting energy through misused heat.

Kenny Smith, MD of Middleby UK, said: “Gas fryers, regardless of them being economy-standard or high efficiency models, always have waste heat exiting the flue which adds to the HVAC load of the restaurant and makes the kitchen work environment hotter.”

Despite energy usage scoring low in terms of priority, it is often an all-important side-effect of cutting costs.

Dealers looking to protect end users’ bottom lines with low-cost installation and running costs have made a noticeable shift towards electric, according to Jestic. “This significant lean towards electric fryers is partly down to the cost of purchase and install and partly down to the greater efficiency of the equipment,” added Norman.

“Through the design of the frypot and the element being submerged in the oil itself, the heat transfer is a more direct process, reducing energy wastage and ensuring less power is needed to reach the required temperature. In fact, it is widely quoted that electric fryers are around 85% to 90% efficient, with gas is substantially lower.”

From running costs to installation, electric fryers take the edge when it comes to cost savings. As there is no need for a gas interlock, which is essential when fitting a gas fryer, when installing an electric fryer there is automatically a significant cost advantage compared to gas models.

Valentine’s Bartlett said: “The nature of commercial kitchen space means that the best solutions should offer flexibility. As layouts change it may be difficult to move a gas powered fryer to a different location within the kitchen and may incur additional costs.”

Looking to cover every base, Hobart is offering a range of over 40 different fryers to suit the needs of any operation “from large US-style fryers for bulk frying to the smaller European-style more suited for à la carte menus. From freestanding to suited, single and double pan models are available in both gas and electric options,” said Hobart sales manager, John Stewart.

While more and more dealers are questioning what models are right for their clients, the sound wall is about to get a lot noisier due to rapid innovation set to hit the sector. Innovators are looking to address one of the key points of the battle; energy consumption.

One of the main features of fryers that guzzles energy at turbulent speeds is the amount of oil. In a bid to quash energy consumption the industry is looking to slash the volume of oil needed in fryers.

Valentine’s Bartlett told Catering Insight: “There will be a growing trend for fryers that deliver the same frying output using less oil and therefore consuming less energy. We expect to see an increased use of electronic thermostats in the control of the frying temperature and rapid recovery to cooking temperatures.”

As well as the sheer quantity of oil needed for fryers to function, the process of changing oil not only drives up running costs for end operators but it also causes energy consumption to spike.

Hobart and Jestic predict that innovators will be making waves in switching up filtrations systems in a bid to prolong the life of frying oil.

Jestic’s Norman, explained: “More and more customers are purchasing commercial fryers with inbuilt filtration, primarily because of the cost savings that the technology can deliver over the life of the unit. Going forward, we expect to see innovation in the way that fryers filter and in the medium that is used to actually perform the filtration process.”

Stewart, from Hobart, added: “We also expect further improvements around oil technology and filtration systems, which will not only prolong the life of the oil, but will extend the life of the equipment as well.”

In order to take these strides, Middleby UK expects to see sensors, internet connectivity and touch screen controls to give end users maximum control of their equipment.

Meanwhile, Welbilt is predicting a boost in the amount of emphasis placed on accessories and induction units, due to their growing demand with the industry.

Welbilt’s Hemsil concluded: “The ease of use is of particular importance and accessories such as filtration and basket lifts are now an essential feature for a lot of operators, especially those within restaurant chains. One key innovation which will no doubt be a focus for the next few years will be the introduction of induction frying, a concept that has already started to emerge within the market as well as advancements in the user interface to make operating the fryers even easier.”

Fundamental dealer checkpoints

Parry’s MD Mark Banton believes that dealer and operators should consider the fuel source, power rating, hourly cooking capacity, oil capacity and the overall cost of a fryer.

“Also think about the backup service available from the manufacturer to protect them if the unit requires repair during busy service periods,” he added.

His checklist for dealers comprises:
•    What the available power source is
•    Are you anticipating frying high batches of food?
•    Service times
•    Menu
•    Types of food been cooked (temperature, coating and quantity)
•    Is the unit from a reputable manufacturer that complies with regulations and are spares readily available?
•    Is the fryer easy to clean and dismantle?

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