For Superman it is kryptonite. For Achilles it was his heel. It seems for every hero there is a potential weakness that stands in their way. Frying oil may not be faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive, but restaurants depend on it and when someone depends on you, you get billed as a hero in their book. And just like Superman and Achilles, oil has plenty of enemies to worry about.
On average, oil is the second largest item in a restaurant’s consumables budget right after proteins. With that in mind, extending oil life should be a point of emphasis for restaurant operators.
Most restaurants may not even realize how much they are spending. For instance, a kitchen with two frying wells, with 50 pounds of oil in each that they replace every three days, equates to 200 pounds of oil per week. If that restaurant is spending 75 cents a pound on oil, this works out to be $150 per week in oil costs. Doubling the life of that oil can save you $75 per week, or $3,900 per year.
Fortunately, protecting your oil from the items that degrade its quality is not all together a difficult task, especially if you know what you’re fighting against.
There are five particular enemies that endanger your oil life on a regular basis, and one simple way to remember them all: HAMMS.
Heat – Considering oil requires heat to cook, this is a necessary evil. However, monitoring your heat and not cooking at temperatures beyond what is needed is the first step to saving oil life. As a general rule, any time you can reduce cooking temperature by 18 degrees Fahrenheit, you effectively double the life of your oil. Another way to avoid heat-related degradation is simply by utilizing the features that are built into your fryer. Setting your equipment to “idle mode” will lower the set point of your oil while it’s not in use, thus reducing your oil’s exposure to unnecessary heat. One last way to avoid excessive heat is to make the switch to a pressure fryer, which allows you to cook at lower temperatures. Pressure frying can give you twice as much life out of your oil over open frying.
Air – This is another ubiquitous enemy that is not 100% unavoidable, but with a little diligence anyone can help extend their oil life by protecting it from air exposure. Just by using vat covers at night or during off-peak hours, you can greatly reduce the effects of air and any other materials that might creep into your oil.
Moisture – Yes, there is moisture in proteins, so in open frying circumstances, the more protein you fry, the more moisture you release into your oil. A pressure fryer — which by the very nature of its operation seals the moisture into the protein, preventing it from infiltrating your oil — is yet another solution.
Beyond turning to a different frying method, always load your frying baskets away from the fryer, especially when loading frozen food. Excess ice crystals falling into the vat only help to decrease the life of your oil.
Trace Metals/Salt – One very simple step to keep in mind to avoid degradation caused by trace metals or salt; salt your French fries away from the fryer. Even small amounts of stray salt can begin to reduce oil life, and after a while a little bit turns into a lot.
Soap – While your thoroughness and cleanliness should be applauded, unless you’re using a vinegar rinse, you could be costing yourself oil life. Equipment cleaning chemicals are alkaline in nature. Alkaline chemicals combined with oil creates soap, which breaks down oils and causes foaming. The acid in the vinegar will neutralize the alkali chemicals and protect your oil.
Now that you’ve limited your oil’s exposure to HAMMS, the absolute best thing you can do is stick to a routine of fast and frequent filtrations. These filtrations will not only add the most life to your oil, saving you big bucks in the long run, but they will improve the quality of your oil, allowing you to reliably turn out the quality food that your customers love.
When your oil does make it to the end of its hopefully long and useful life, you’ll want to know. Determining the end of your oil’s life is equally important to ensuring a quality product. To understand the many methods of oil testing, be sure to check out our previous blog, How should you be testing your oil quality?