The frying game

Decades of health campaigns warning of the dangers of saturated fats have done nothing to dampen British appetites for fried food.

The Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA) says demand for fryers is as strong as ever in the restaurant trade. “The push towards healthy eating has not really dented the British public’s appetite for chips and other deep fried food.

Fryers are an integral part of most commercial kitchens and look long to remain so,” observes CESA director Keith Warren.
The guilty pleasures of the weak-willed public may be bad news for their waist lines, but certainly not for equipment manufacturers and dealers, which continue to profit from commercial fryer sales and associated service contracts.

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“There has been talk of fried food falling out of favour due to health concerns, but our experience is that it’s just as popular as it ever was,” says Nick McDonald, marketing director of Lincat. “That said, there is a greater understanding that fried food must be eaten as part of a healthy diet, and people are beginning to adopt healthier frying methods.”

McDonald explains that new cooking techniques can reduce the amount of fat that fried food absorbs. Many chefs are choosing to steam their chips prior to frying. This allows the chips to be fried just once in hotter oil, which reduces the quantity of oil that is absorbed by the potato and therefore produces a healthier, less fatty chip.

Lincat’s latest fryer, the Opus 700 Vortech, is designed to cater to this trend, because it maintains the consistent very high temperature required to prevent chips going soggy. “Fast reaction electronic temperature control, as featured on the Opus 700, can make a huge difference,” says McDonald.

Valentine Equipment is also focusing on computerised temperature controls for its latest range of fryers. “The Valentine Evolution computer fryer has a sensor fitted in the tank that monitors the temperature of the oil,” says Steve Elliot, national sales manager for Valentine Equipment. “This information is continuously fed into the computer in order to analyse the peaks and troughs in the cooking process so that the fryer can, by using algorithms, control the temperature of the oil. This cooks the food at the optimum temperature and reduces oil consumption,” he adds.

Valentine’s customers translate that science into better food. Tom’s Kitchen, a Chelsea brasserie run by celebrity chef Tom Aikens, is a fan. “Just as I was recommended Valentine by others, I would gladly recommend them to my fellow chefs,” says Aikens.

Brasseries and other mid- to high-end restaurants continue to maintain fryers among their commercial kitchen armoury, but it is pubs and quick service restaurants that dominate demand in the UK, according to John Shepherd, international brand manager for FriFri, a sister company of Lincat.

“That’s great news for FriFri, because these outlets are looking for high capacity, but often have limited space. Our range, which offers maximum output from a minimum of floor or countertop space, meets their needs exactly,” he adds.

Steve Morris, sales director at Jestic, agrees that QSRs and pubs are providing the volume business for fryers, but he also says higher-end restaurants are looking at replacing units with modern and more sophisticated fryers.

“Operators are looking at the total cost of frying, including oil and energy savings. This means that, although buying a more expensive fryer may have a higher upfront cost, the energy and oils savings more than make up for this,” he suggests.

Jestic is the UK distributor for Henny Penny, which offers two ranges of fryers: the standard OF series and the Evolution Elite low oil volume fyers. Both ranges feature in-built filtration and digital control panels.

They are available in a variety of sizes from single-well fryers right through to four-well frying suites with the option of integrated chip dumps, split vats and auto lifters.

“The biggest innovation in the fryer market is the introduction of the low volume energy fryers, such as our Evolution Elite. These fryers save on both oil and energy costs,” Morris explains. “We are also seeing more customers moving towards fully programmable fryers, which not only offer better consistency but also reduce wastage,” he adds.

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Beyond the British love affair for chips, there are several strengthening restaurant cuisine trends that will keep demand for commercial fryers sizzling. “Scandinavian and Japanese flavours are globally large, with Brazilian and Korean waiting in the wings,” predicts Wendy Hewett, managing director for HH Developments, which distributes Autofry in the UK.

Autofry claims to be the market leader in ventless, fully enclosed and automated deep frying technology. Being ventless means there is no need for extraction systems and its integral fire suppression system makes it ideal for use in enclosed commercial kitchens.

The company offers both single and double counter-top models as well as a double basket floor-standing model. “Our customer base varies from the independent cafe owner to large hotel and restaurant chains,” says Hewett.Elliott at

Valentine believes that, ultimately, features such as efficient thermostats and insulated oil tanks will come to shape buying decisions as users realise there is money to be saved when operating a fryer. He predicts this will drive market growth.

“Commercial fryers are valuable pieces of commercial equipment as they have a low carbon footprint, yet maintain high yields,” he says. “Deep-frying has traditionally been an energy intensive function and, with the hike in energy prices showing no signs of reversing, it has never been more important to consider sustainability when choosing a fryer.”

The role of the commercial fryer will always be more at the workhorse than the show pony end of the spectrum, but it remains an essential element for almost every operator, and current innovation makes it a piece of equipment that can lead a dealer’s sales proposal.

Advances in waste management, energy efficiency and computerised temperature control are all reasons to suggest an upgrade of a trusted fryer during your next sales call.

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Fryer factors

The UK’s leading fryer suppliers are happy to debate the subtle unique selling points of their current product lines, which for dealers can make the choice of which models to stock and sell even more difficult. CESA’s Keith Warren provides a simple step-by-step guide to educate customers:

Size matters

Countertop fryers are good options for operators with limited space. With oil capacities from 6.8kg to 13.6kg, their production is in the range of 10kg to 35kg per hour. For larger catering operations, full-size floor models or batteries of fryers are the way to go. Full-sized fryers can turn out 28kg to 136kg of French fries per hour from wells with a 6kg to 95kg oil capacity.

Cost control

Fryers are big consumers of oil and energy. Before they buy, customers should compare the manufacturers’ running cost figures; a more expensive machine that costs less to run may pay for itself in a very short time. A ready supply of spare parts is essential — a cheap fryer that can’t be repaired will quickly turn into an expensive option.

One fryer or two

If customers have widely varying trade from day to day, suggest multiple fryers so they don’t heat or use oil unnecessarily. For example, using three small-size pans on a Saturday night and only one on a Monday will save costs compared to using one large-capacity pan all week long.

Gas or electric

In terms of choice of power supply it is a balancing act. Electric fryers are cheaper to buy than gas fryers, whereas gas fryers are cheaper to run and the bigger models have a higher output capacity. Gas fryers are more expensive to install and service than electrical fryers because of the need to check the gas system. Gas fryers need to be installed by a Gas Safe engineer and are not available as table-top models.

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