Like many in the world of foodservice, you may assume that cooking oil performance is at its peak when you first start using it — but did you know there is actually a “sweet spot” closer to the middle of oil life?
It’s in this period of time that food taste is at its best. While customers may not know oil is to blame, they do notice when food tastes undercooked or burnt — despite your operation’s consistency with cooking temperature and timing.
The good news for operators is that, with the right tools and processes, it’s relatively easy to extend this sweet spot, resulting in prolonged oil life that delivers consistently better food quality while significantly lowering oil costs.
Understanding the enemies of oil
The sweet spot itself is somewhat of a moving target. Rather than being defined as a specific number of hours or days, it all depends on how well you counteract some of the most common enemies of oil life and performance.
Enemy #1: Heat
Frying may be a high-temperature process by definition, but as you cook, your oil is gradually breaking down. While quickly raising the temperature of new oil with constant heat can speed up breakdown, a less shocking approach can protect oil more effectively while it reaches cooking temperature. The “melt mode” feature on Henny Penny’s Evolution Elite open fryer achieves this with pulsing heat, while the “idle mode” feature protects the oil from excessively high heat by dropping the temperature during cooking breaks.
Enemy #2: Air
Simply exposing oil to the air is enough to break it down. Even at room temperature, oxidation begins to take place. That’s why Henny Penny recommends using vat covers between cooking cycles to help reduce breakdown. But oxidation actually occurs at an even faster rate when oil is exposed to high temperatures — another reason to keep tabs on Enemy #1, excessive heat. Remember — even if your oil looks and smells okay, it could still be breaking down from exposure to air while not in use.
Enemy #3: Moisture
Whether it’s carried by frozen and marinated foods or shaken loose from packaging while loading the fryer, it’s easy for water to find its way into your oil — causing a more rapid breakdown. Consider loading fryer baskets away from the vat to minimize the amount of moisture introduced into the oil.
Enemy #4: Foreign Substances
Though not as commonly linked to oil breakdown, foreign substances like seasonings, cleaners and soaps can also damage oil quality, so always be sure to salt fries away from the fryer and make sure equipment is thoroughly rinsed after cleaning.
Maintaining Oil Quality
Now that we’ve identified the main culprits behind oil breakdown, it’s time to focus on the best way to prolong oil life — namely, maintaining proper oil quality.
Tip #1: Frequent Filtration
It’s hard to overstate the importance of frequent filtration — and not just to remove large, visible chunks of food debris. Even down at the microscopic level, leftover food particles can react with oil and break it down. That’s why Henny Penny’s next-generation Evolution Elite with Smart Touch Filtration™ features built-in, 4-minute filtration and push-button operation — making it fast and easy to filter even during peak hours.
Tip #2: Oil Top-Off
Oil top-off is also critical, ensuring your fryer is operating at the proper oil level while infusing fresh oil into the cooking mix. This continuous mixing also allows the oil to be “broken in” much faster than with complete refills, further extending the coveted sweet spot. With Oil Guardian™ automatic oil top-off, the Evolution Elite helps high-volume operators maintain the right balance and get the most out of their oil.
Tip #3: A Well-Trained Staff
Even with a lineup of powerful, innovative features at your disposal, it’s important to make sure your kitchen staff understands the proper procedures for monitoring and controlling oil performance. A knowledgeable team is one of the best ways to ensure your cooking oil is properly used and maintained. And with the Evolution Elite’s iControl™ oil management system, it’s easy for operators to track proper filtrations and help keep staff on top of necessary actions.
Knowing When You’ve Hit the Oil Sweet Spot
You’re likely wondering what measurement to look for to know if you’re cooking in the sweet spot and if you’re successful in extending it.
From sight/smell observations to test strips and more scientific methods, there are various options for measuring oil quality, each with its own set of pros and cons due to reliability, consistency and the ability to operationalize.
Your choice of measurement will guide you in the oil quality results to look for, but what’s most important in hitting and prolonging the sweet spot is properly maintaining your oil through frequent filtration and consistent oil top off. At the end of the day, if you take care of your oil, you are virtually guaranteed to produce better-tasting food.
And with Henny Penny’s next-generation Evolution Elite with Smart Touch Filtration™, the innovative oil management features that operators need come standard and virtually run themselves—making consistently better food quality and thousands of dollars in annual oil savings fast and easy to achieve.