With shrinking kitchens and aesthetic requirements for front of house equipment, it’s more important than ever to have compact and mobile options for catering appliances, fryers included. These particular foodservice stalwarts can be found in both countertop and freestanding versions, but in what circumstances is each type more applicable?
According to Steve Elliott, sales director, Valentine Equipment and Cuisinequip: “This depends on factors like available floor space and the menu. If there is limited space then often the best solution is a countertop fryer. However, freestanding fryers can be built into existing cooking ranges with some degree of modification, and we have worked on many projects where the head chef and menu requires the rapid heat-up and energy recovery of a freestanding fryer to achieve the results and capacities needed for their menu.”
Indeed he believes that the key benefits of countertop fryers like the Valentine TF55 twin tank unit are their space saving and ability to be located where needed, typically operated from a 13A power socket. But freestanding fryers such as the manufacturer’s latest Alpina and Evo 2200PP twin pump models offer “more options in terms of controls and oil filtration, higher power, greater frying capacities and quicker heat recovery,” he said.
In terms of which type is proving more popular, Elliott feels this it comes down to the site’s layout and floor space, detailing: “We have been very busy designing and constructing ranges with equipment like induction and adding in freestanding Valentine fryers for their power, heat stability and capacity. However, we also have a lot of orders for countertop Valentine fryers where space prohibits a freestanding/built-in solution.”
Over at Jestic, the Henny Penny brand it supplies has been selling well in its full size version. Jestic national sales manager Richard Norman reported: “We’ve noticed the demand for freestanding fryers, both of the open and the pressure fryer variety, has continued to increase year on year.
“If space allows for one, a freestanding fryer is always going to be more adaptable to a site’s specific need than a countertop alternative. Able to cook to more exacting standards, in larger load sizes, something which is ultimately key to the quality of the finished ingredients as temperature and cook time are both crucial. It is important that the recovery time is minimised in order to achieve the best results and therefore the bigger the frypot and the heating source, the quicker the recovery time.”
However, Norman acknowledged: “The best type of fryer to specify depends on the particular needs and size of the venue concerned. For example, if a café establishment is looking to produce a few bowls of chips over a lunchtime service, a countertop fryer would likely be adequate. Alternatively, for QSR and fast food sites in high footfall areas, a freestanding fryer will be required in order to maintain demand.”
While Grande Cuisine’s director Steve Hobbs revealed: “The two things most likely to affect the choice of unit are budget and available workspace. By and large, a freestanding unit will be better for a number of reasons – it will have a deeper tank, greater volume and higher performance, as well as being easier and ‘safer’ to drain and clean. That said, a tabletop unit has its place where floor space and/or power is limited and where ultimately the product being ‘fried’ is a secondary menu item such as a garnish or side order rather than a main menu dish.”
He underlined: “As with all equipment, the product should be specified and planned as part of the overall kitchen layout configuration and therefore it’s not just as straightforward as saying one is better than the other.”
Hobbs noted that Grande Cuisine is seeing rising demand for gas fryers. “This may well be a historical issue, i.e. replacing a legacy product like for like, or it may be restaurateurs looking to balance gas and electrical loads in the kitchen,” he commented. “In recent years gas fryers have become far more efficient, and easier to clean, and as result many of the old issues relating to them have become far less prevalent.”
Elsewhere, rexmartins commercial director Nick McDonald explained: “The principal differences between countertop and freestanding fryers are power and capacity. Countertop models tend to have a lower oil capacity and lower power. This means that capacity is lower, too. A freestanding fryer has more space for a deeper tank, which often extends into the base of the fryer. This is particularly noticeable in gas fryers where countertop models are, of necessity, somewhat shallow.”
He believes: “A countertop fryer is generally more adaptable, in the sense that it can easily be re-sited if the kitchen layout needs to change. It is also a more realistic investment proposition to have a number of countertop models which then offers the flexibility of adapting to menu changes.
“But where volume of output is high, then a freestanding gas or induction fryer is the best choice. However, higher capacity 700mm-deep countertop electric fryers are available, including those in the rexmartins 700 Series.”
McDonald continued: “In terms of utility, the typically greater depth of oil in a freestanding fryer makes it more adaptable in terms of coping with different types of fried food. A deep freestanding fryer, for example, is better suited to free frying battered fish than a smaller, shallow, countertop model.”
Whereas Electrolux Professional UK’s training and demonstration manager Stuart Flint analysed: “While people might expect countertop fryers to be adaptable because of their size, it is actually freestanding fryers that boast the greatest choice of options in today’s market.
“For example, at Electrolux Professional, our 600 Fryer Range is available with a capacity of 9litres and extremely compact dimensions; making it perfect for smaller kitchens. At the same time, our 900 FryerHP range extends as far as 23litres in capacity with double well configuration. With such a breadth of choice available, we find most kitchens can benefit from a freestanding unit that they don’t have to worry about relocating or storing when not in use.
“As ever though, it is important that the frying capacity is a close match to demand. Over-sizing will take up an unnecessarily large footprint, while under-sizing will slow the workflow of the kitchen down significantly.”
He further reported: “Because of the range of options available, we’re finding freestanding fryers to be the most in-demand from dealers. With some really standout features such as accelerated temperature recovery, automatic cooking functionality, and advanced filtration systems, the latest generation of fryers really is capable of boosting a business’s bottom line by making fried food simpler and more cost-effective to deliver than ever before.”
At Taylor UK, it believes there is another way to do frying, as the Quality Fry brand it supplies to the UK has just launched a new automatic countertop fryer range, the Fast Chef Elite+. This Spanish-manufactured appliance is ventless, so it can be installed almost anywhere as it needs no extraction. David Rees, group marketing manager of HTG Trading, Taylor’s parent company, explained: “This is because the condensation filtration system removes the grease and moisture created during the frying process, then passes the dried air through a series of filters, including an activated carbon filter which removes any smells and cooking odours, before releasing the air back out in to the working environment.”
He feels that in general: “When specifying fryers, it all comes down to capacity and application. If the business is all about high volumes of fried foods, then what’s needed are big floor standing fryers. For smaller operators, where frying isn’t the main focus or is an add-on to the business, then a countertop unit will probably suffice. But a countertop, ventless fryer will always be the most adaptable option for many sites. The self-contained design of the Fast Chef Elite+ makes it the perfect add-on solution for any foodservice business looking to add a fried food offer to their operation.”
The best type of fryer to specify depends on which is the correct unit for a customer’s requirements, said Hendi national sales manager, Kenan Koymen. “It is also about managing their expectations with regard to what can be achieved in terms of capacity and production rates given the available space and the dimensions of the units.
“A 13A countertop fryer is more adaptable, providing it is fit for the requirements of the site. Their portability means they can be used pretty much anywhere and they are also easy to clean – many of them can be stripped down and the inner tank placed in the dishwasher.
“But freestanding fryers have a much greater capacity and are ideal for constant everyday use. Unlike countertop units, many freestanding fryers have built in filtration to help remove debris from the cooking oil – on a countertop unit filtration of the oil needs to be carried out manually.”
Koymen concluded: “If a site has a menu that features a high amount of fried food, say 30% or more, then they will almost certainly require a freestanding unit, as it is unlikely that they would be able to achieve the required volumes, or recovery rates, using a countertop unit. On the other hand, an operator who was producing relatively low volumes of a single product might well be able to have their needs met by a countertop unit.”
Euro Catering’s sales director Justin Towns detailed that the recovery time rule of thumb is: the larger the tank of oil, the more kW loading is required to maintain a fast recovery time of that oil. “So a countertop 6litre fryer is going to use a lot less power than a 20litre freestanding unit.”
He advised: “Smaller kitchens can find a countertop fryer sufficient and not pay over the odds for their energy consumption by unnecessarily heating up a large volume of oil. However, a countertop fryer may rob a kitchen of vital preparation space, so that consideration also needs to be taken into account.
“Time and again, operators let themselves down by buying on price and then having a fryer that does not produce a good fried product. If the oil is not getting hot enough, quickly enough, the quality suffers. Keenly priced fryers, like our heavy-duty American Range fryers, are always in demand, but for those dealers who are seeking to satisfy a deeper requirement of the menu, we have two high demand speciality fryers in our range – the BKI freestanding pressure fryer and the Palux Frystar.”
Towns surmised: “A freestanding fryer is likely to be more adaptable, as it has a bigger capacity range and can cope with all volumes of demand, whereas a countertop fryer will struggle with heat recovery time.”