You’re ready to add fried food to your menu, but do you really know what size fryer you need in your commercial kitchen? We’re going to answer questions that every cook, professional chef, or foodservice manager should ask themselves before purchasing a commercial fryer.
Whether you’re starting up a country style restaurant that offers fried chicken, a tavern that has a killer selection of appetizers, or it’s time to expand and add another fryer in your professional kitchen – this article is for you. Research with confidence using our exclusive guide carefully written by foodservice industry experts.
What kind of food will you be frying?
You should have a strategy on how you will be augmenting your menu. Are you offering a new food or appetizer, or are you increasing your output to meet increasing demand? Fryers are great for french fries, chicken wings, fish and pastries – but not all at the same time.
Question #1 – Can I cook different types of food in the same fryer?
Generally speaking, you don’t want to mix flavors.
If you’ve used your oil to cook several batches of battered fish and use the same oil for your chicken – your chicken may very well have a fishy taste. If your french fries share your chicken oil, your fries may have a slight hint of chicken.
Just remember, it’s best to use either a fresh batch of oil for each food type or providing each their own fryer.
Question #2 – Can I fry frozen food?
The answer is, sometimes.
Frying a batch of frozen fries, a couple spring rolls, chicken nuggets, or mozzarella sticks is quite common – however it’s important to remove as much ice as possible to reduce the amount of water that will vaporize and splatter when you fry frozen food.
When preparing larger or thicker food items, especially if it is protein-based (such as chicken), it’s a good idea to slack or thaw your food before frying to help ensure everything cooks thoroughly and the center reaches safe temperatures. If there is very little ice on your ingredients, slacking should be sufficient. The FDA defines “slacking” as,
The process of moderating the temperature of a FOOD such as allowing a FOOD to gradually increase from a temperature of -23°C (-10°F) to -4°C (25°F) in preparation for deep-fat frying or to facilitate even heat penetration during the cooking of previously block-frozen FOOD such as shrimp.
However for larger or ice-covered food items, thawing them in the refrigerator (keeping them out of danger-zone temps) can improve cooked-through. It also reduces the violent evaporation of ice crystals. Remember to only thaw what you need! Bringing food in and out of freezing temperatures can degrade your ingredients and negatively impact flavor.
Note: The inside of your chicken should reach 165°F, and fish should reach 145°F. When in doubt, check the temperature. It’s better to break the crispy skin to insert a thermometer than serve chicken that hasn’t reached safe temperatures!
Question #3 – How long does it take to cook food in a commercial fryer?
Although many factors play a role in cook times, the USDA has listed approximate frying times to help give you a point of reference:
Approximate Deep Frying Cooking Times
|Food||Cooking Time||Oil Temperature|
|Chicken Pieces||13 - 20 minutes||375 °F|
|Chicken Fingers||6 - 8 minutes||350 °F|
|Turkey||3 to 5 minutes per pound||375 °F|
|Fish Fillets||3 - 5 minutes||320 °F|
|Shrimp||4 - 6 minutes||320 °F|
USDA’s guide for how long popular food items take to cook in a fryer.
How much food will you be frying?
When shopping for the right sized commercial fryer for your food service venue, it’s critical to understand how much food you plan on frying.
It may seem intimidating to calculate, especially if you are just getting started, however it’s well worth your time to determine how many french fries, chicken wings, onion rings, and other sides or appetizers you will serve in a given day.
The first thing you need to do is scope out the competition. Figure out who is selling similar food and buy a meal there. Order their onion rings, order their fries, order their chicken. Get it to go, and weigh it (or approximate). You don’t want customers talking about how small your servings are or have a lot of waste because you gave them too many.
Use your competition as a guide, however feel free to blaze your own trail. Maybe you have a family seasoning recipe that allows you to serve a smaller, yet more satisfying serving of fries. It’s your restaurant, just be aware of what others are doing.
Once you’ve determined your serving sizes based on costs and competition, you need to get an idea for how many people will be ordering your new appetizer, entree, or dessert. We’ll use french fries as an example:
How to calculate servings for frying food.
Determining Servings Per Day
Let’s say you have 600 customers per day.
You know you will start serving French fries for lunch and dinner which make up 75% of your patron visits, which is 450 people. (This works even better if you know about how many individuals you serve each day.) Remember to count people, not families.
Next, determine how many people will order food that will either come with fries, or how many will order fries à la carte. You determine that of the 450 people eating lunch and dinner, 315 of them will order of fries. (About 70%)
600 customers per day – 150 from your breakfast crowd = 450 customers
450 x 0.7 (Percent of meals that include fries) = 315 servings per day
Determining Serving Size
Next, decide what your standard serving size will be, as well as how many pounds of potatoes you will need each day.
40 years ago, the standard French fry serving was 2.4 oz., however many restaurants today will serve upwards to 5-7 oz. or more. For our example, we’ll use a modest 4 oz. serving size.
315 customers x 4 oz. of fries each = 1,260 oz. of fries per day
Now you can calculate how many pounds of potatoes you need keeping in mind that there are 16 oz. in a pound.
1,260 oz. ÷ 16 oz. = 78.75 pounds of potatoes per day
You always want to round up. Accounting for waste, we’ll add 10% more to the amount of potatoes per day, which means roughly 87 pounds of potatoes per day. You’ll use the extra potatoes the next day after all, and your employees tend to be a little generous when serving French fries.
Determining Servings Per Hour
Now you know how many potatoes to buy, however it’s just as (if not more) important to determine how many of those servings you will be serving per hour. For this, you’ll need to estimate the maximum number of servings per hour.
You know you’re frying 315 servings per day. You estimate 40% are served within 2 hours for lunch, and 40% are served during your busiest 2 hours at dinner.
Your fryer will need to handle 63 servings per hour, and to be safe, you’re going to buffer your estimate to 80 servings per hour.
315 servings per day x .4 (40%) = 126 servings during busy time (2 hrs)
126 ÷ 2 = 63 servings per hour
And you buffer that to 80, your maximum number of servings per hour.
Finally – What size commercial fryer do you really need?
From the last question, we’ve determined that you need to be able to serve 80, 4 oz. servings of fries per hour during peak times. This is equivalent to about 20 lbs.
The Rule Of Thumb
You can count on 1.5 – 2x the total weight of your fryer’s oil capacity per hour. In other words, a 40 lb deep fryer can output about 60-80 lbs of food per hour.
A smaller countertop fryer with 15 lbs of oil capacity should be able to produce 22-30 lbs of fries per hour. When you’re frying smaller items like french fries and onion rings, it’s safe to assume 2x your oil capacity. When handling larger items such as drumsticks, thighs chicken breasts, it’s safer to use the 1.5x in your calculations.
Why Get the Bigger Fryer
Technically, if everything goes exactly as planned, a 15 lb countertop fryer should do the trick. However we know all too well, (and have seen far too often) what works well on paper, is almost always underestimated.
Just as you did when estimating how many pounds of potatoes you’ll need, you also need to give yourself plenty of buffer on the fryer size.
In our example above, you may have planned on selling about 20 lbs of French fries per hour during your busiest times, but what you didn’t plan on was:
- You decide 4 oz. isn’t quite enough per serving after you receive customer feedback.
- Your servers want happy customers and bigger tips, so they may serve a little more than the official serving size.
- Serving fries is going so well, you decide to experiment with other fried appetizers and sides.
- You decide to put your new fryer to work first thing in the morning to start frying up donuts.
- The number of meals being served with fries was underestimated.
- You forgot that you have 2-4x more customer traffic during the 4th of July, Mardi Gras or Saint. Patricks Day.
Before you know it, you’re telling yourself, “We’re gonna need a bigger fryer!”
It’s imperative that you be very careful to not max out your fryer’s capacity, which leads to inadequate recovery times between batches and ultimately soggy french fries or under-cooked chicken.
In our example above, a 15-20 lb countertop fryer would probably be sufficient, however it would be safer to purchase a 40 lb commercial deep fryer. This would give you the ability to scale up comfortably. Just remember, over-estimate and (reasonably) round up on everything. You’ll thank us later.
We hope this helps you determine what size fryer you need for your restaurant, mobile food service, bar or tavern. Do the research, do the math, and you’ll be making money on your new appetizers and sides. Your customers will appreciate the added value to your menu offerings as well!
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