There’s no doubt that fried foods taste good. It could be fried chicken, fried fish, or French fries, but most of us enjoy having something fried for lunch, dinner, or even a snack. Going out to dinner, it’s a good bet that many of the menu items from which we can choose are fried items.
But as health-conscious consumers pay more attention to the foods they eat and how they affect their bodies, they’re realizing that fried foods are better consumed in moderation or even eliminated from their diets entirely. And for those who operate a foodservice operation, dropping fried foods from the menu can even be an advantage when it comes to both marketing and operational efficiency.
Dining habits are changing, and fried foods are no longer the focus of a meal at local restaurants. If you’re a foodservice operator, it may be time to rethink the type of kitchen equipment you use.
Here are six reasons why it’s time to ditch your commercial fryer:
Saves on oil costs
The producer price index for raw cooking oil has dramatically increased over the past two years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Technomic, cooking oil costs jumped 24.6% in 2021 and then again in 2022 by 42.7%, making the cost of oil 77.8% more than it was pre-pandemic.
A review of prices for fryer oil shows that the cost of a 35-pound box ranges from $50 to as much as $100 or more. Commercial fryers need to be topped off daily and most operators discard at least some of the oil in the fryers every week or so. That oil can’t be poured down the drain or dumped into the dumpster. Although some recycling operations purchase waste cooking oil, in many cases an operator will need to pay for disposal.
Eliminates the labor involved in filtering oil and cleaning fryers
An operator who serves both lunch and dinner will likely need to filter the oil in the fryer after each meal period and at closing time to keep food tasting fresh. A conservative estimate for the time involved would be two hours a day. With many foodservice operations paying $15 an hour or more to attract workers, the cost involved in filtering frying oil could top $200 a week, or more than $10,000 a year. That doesn’t include the cost of purchasing filtering machines, which could run into thousands of dollars.
Improved employee safety
A typical commercial fryer maintains oil at 350° F or hotter. Chances are that anyone who’s ever spent time on the cook line has been burned by hot oil, and in many cases those burns are serious. A recent National Council for Occupational Safety and Health study found that 79% of restaurant workers reported being burned on the job in a given year. In 54% of cases, fryers were the source of the injury.
Eliminates the mess
Along with being a safety issue, commercial fryers are messy. At the end of the day, chances are the walls behind the fryer, the floor underneath them, and the vent hood filters above them are all covered in grease. Cleaning can likely consume an hour of labor each night. That adds up over the course of the year. Failure to clean vent hoods regularly puts an operation at risk of a grease fire.
Caters to health-conscious consumers
Few people are under the illusion that fried foods are healthy. One recent study found that people who ate the most fried foods each week were 28% more likely to have heart problems, compared with people who ate the least. Fried foods are falling out of favor with consumers, with health enthusiasts increasingly opting for grilled, low-fat, and plant-based items. Although there will always be a market for fried foods, the number of diners seeking an alternative to such items continues to increase.
Limited cooking applications
Unfortunately, commercial fryers are only good for one purpose: frying foods. Other cooking applications will require additional equipment. Even if they’re not being used, though, the fryers will still need to be kept at the proper temperature, meaning they’ll be running up the utility bill. And face it, most commercial fryers take up a great deal of space for an appliance that may be used infrequently.
A versatile alternative
Ditching your commercial fryer may be the first step on the journey to offering customers better-for-you menu items while at the same time creating a safer, more efficient kitchen but it’s only the beginning. The next step is to find a way to prepare foods without frying while still delivering flavorful menu items. How can that be accomplished?
One way is to incorporate commercial kitchen equipment that can perform multiple functions.
Alto-Shaam’s Converge® Multi-Cook Ovens, for example, provide up to three independent ovens in one with the freedom to steam, air fry, bake, grill and more at the same time without flavor transfer—all in a ventless, self-cleaning design.
Converge ovens bring together the flexibility of a multi-cook oven, the power of Structured Air Technology® and the versatility of combi cooking for endless cooking possibilities.
Another option might be Alto-Shaam’s Vector® Multi-Cook Ovens, which also utilize Structured Air Technology to offer up to four independent ovens in one. Each chamber provides independent temperature, fan speed, and cook time control, allowing kitchen staff to cook up to four different food items simultaneously with no flavor transfer. For added flexibility, Converge ovens offer controlled humidity in each chamber.
Multi-cook ovens also incorporate ChefLinc™ cloud-based remote oven and cooking management system, which features an easy-to-use dashboard for operators to seamlessly push and pull recipes, view oven status, collect and store data, receive detailed service diagnostics, and more.
And for those who want to deliver the taste of fried food without the oil, Alto-Shaam’s Converge or Vector Multi-Cook ovens can serve as the foundation of an air-fried food program. Structured Air Technology provides consistent, even vertical airflow from the top and bottom. This allows you to achieve the perfect crispy finish, delivering a healthier product to your customers, while also eliminating the associated labor and operating costs.
These ovens are programmable, allowing you to develop custom recipes based on the type, size, and shape of your food product.
To further support an air-fried food program, hot holding solutions are crucial to maintain ideal food temperatures and retain crispiness. That’s a key feature when determining how to cut food costs in restaurants, ensuring food prepared ahead of time isn’t wasted. Alto-Shaam’s heated holding equipment utilizes gentle, radiant Halo Heat® technology without added humidity or fans that can result in soggy or dried-out fried food. Unlike traditional heated holding or low-temperature cooking technologies, Halo Heat technology provides a precise, stable temperature that leaves food full of moisture and flavor.
Increased potential for any space
Alto-Shaam multi-cook ovens can revolutionize nearly any restaurant operation by performing the work of multiple kitchen appliances in a single unit.
Along with eliminating the expense and hassle associated with commercial fryers, Alto-Shaam ovens offer the opportunity for businesses of all types to offer a foodservice program. Although a fryer is impractical for operations such as bars or C-stores, many Alto-Shaam oven models are ideal where space is at a premium. Some also offer ventless operation, eliminating the need for an exhaust hood.
These ovens are just a few of Alto-Shaam’s commercial kitchen offerings. To see what else we have to offer and how we can optimize your kitchen operations, reach out to one of our experts.