Chef Vincent Barcelona, director of culinary sales at Stratas Foods, admits that his company occupies an interesting place in the market. A seller of foodservice oils, Stratas Foods would certainly sell more oil to its customers if deep-fryer oil was changed more often. Instead, Stratas Foods dedicates time and resources to educating those same customers on how to prolong oil life.
“Yes, you could say we’re in the business of selling oil,” Chef Barcelona says. “But we’re really in the business of taking care of our customers. What’s good for them is good for us. If you’re not protecting your customer, that will come back and bite you in the end. It’s just not how we operate.”
As food costs rise and labor continues to be an issue, Chef Barcelona—a James Beard recognized Chef who opened and ran multiple concepts in the New York metro area—says there’s never been a better time to double down on implementing an oil management program that extends fry life. The benefits of properly managing oil are numerous, including saving money, as well as the fact that food coming out of the deep fryer tastes better and when using high oleic frying oils—the list goes on.
Here’s a look at three areas where Chef Barcelona would recommend brands focus in order to get more fry life out of their oil. Mastering these three things will help restaurants save money, and they’ll quickly notice a positive change in the quality of their fried foods.
Know Your Colors
The color of oil in a deep fryer can say a lot about when oil should be changed. Stratas Foods offers a Fry Test Kit, with bilingual instructions, that can help staff easily monitor when oil should be changed. The kit includes tools to skim particulates, and outlines best practices when it comes to filtering oil.
Fryer oil will darken for a number of reasons, and it’s important to understand the causes. The primary culprit of oil darkening is, of course, frying food. But other causes can include normal oxygen exposure, carbon build up from leftover food particles, the salt in batters and coatings, excess water, prolonged high temperatures, and even exposure to light.
While some restaurants might be accustomed to having a day, or certain time, that they regularly change oil, that can prove to be costly and ineffective if the oil still has plenty of life left.
“It’s definitely worth educating your staff on some little things surrounding this,” Chef Barcelona says. “For example, light exposure can shorten oil’s fry life. Salting or seasoning food over the deep fryer can, too—it’s important to implement a system where team members are constantly paying close attention to little things like this during service hours or down time.”
In order to keep light exposure to a minimum, deep fryers should be covered during downtime.
The Stratas Foods Fry Test Kit offers a skimming tool to help keep up with oil maintenance. Regularly skimming oil is something that should take place in addition to filtering the oil twice per day, Chef Barcelona says, to ensure oil quality and actually extend the life of the oil.
“Skimming and continually taking debris out should really be looked at as step one,” Chef Barcelona says. “It’s something you’re going to get a lot of life out of.”
One of the best ways to extend fry life, Chef Barcelona says, begins before the oil is poured into the fryer. That is, deep fryers must be properly cleaned before they are refilled. Many things can go wrong during this process, and if staff isn’t properly trained to take some key steps, operators will pay the price over the long haul.
“If somebody had explained this part to me when I was running restaurants, I would have been grateful,” Chef Barcelona says. “When you’re cleaning a deep fryer, following the right steps is really important. Everything from thoroughly rinsing out all the soap residue, to ensuring the fry baskets are cleaned—those are little things that go a long way.”
These tips and tricks—in addition to many more insights—are resources offered free of charge to customers of Stratas Foods. It’s another area where Stratas Foods is looking out for its customers rather than just trying to move more oil.
“I think one thing I would tell operators is that this may not happen overnight,” Chef Barcelona says. “But it happens quicker than you think. We usually start with fry tests in the busiest stores and evaluate the performance of oil management at a location. Once they see the results of what we’re able to do in extending oil life, they usually roll it out to additional locations. Because this is about the bottom line—profits and money. And that’s a huge incentive for everyone involved.”
For more on oil management and a Stratas Fry Test Kit, visit the Stratas Foods website.