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June 2008

Best Practices: Fryer Care
By: Michael Romico

Some simple, ongoing steps can keep your greasiest equipment running reliably for a long time.

If you read our April cover story on the latest in high-efficiency fryer technology, you might've wondered, as we did, if high-efficiency models require more preventive maintenance than other models. For the answer we turned to John Schwindt, v.p. of operations at Hawkins Commercial Appliance, Englewood, Colo.

"People think high-efficiency fryers have more parts and cost more to service, but it's not true," says Schwindt. "I haven't seen a difference in repair costs."

That may be because most fryers on the market today, whether high-efficiency or not, have auto ignition and solid-state controls, which levels the maintenance playing field somewhat. An area of difference, however, is the high-intensity burner technology found on high-efficiency models. These burners tend to draw in more air when they light, says Schwindt, which attracts greasy airborne particles. Regular wiping is the best way to keep these burners free of greasy debris.

In addition, high-efficiency fryer owners will want to watch blower intakes. Regular cleaning of blower vents with a soft brush and dry towel is needed to ensure peak operation, says Schwindt.

Watch Your Fry Cook
Beyond these points, Schwindt says that caring for a high-efficiency fryer is similar to caring for traditional units, no matter how long they've been in service. He says basic maintenance actually starts with the ways a fry cook functions. In other words, a messy fry cook will mean more maintenance headaches.

"I've seen cooks drag baskets across a bank of fryers and get grease all over the place. They shake the baskets and the grease splatters," Schwindt says. That grease accumulates and attracts dirt and grime that over time become difficult to remove. It may be distracting to wipe up during a heavy rush, but Schwindt says the buildup of grease trickling down the seams or across the front of a unit leads to problems later.

"It's a lot easier to keep it clean [as you fry] than it is to go back later and clean," he says.

Remember To Filter
Another key is to follow the manufacturer's filtering schedule. Fall behind on the filtering schedule, which is usually required at least once a day, and you'll see oil performance decline, food quality suffer and carbon buildup in your tank, Schwindt says.

Some advocate cleaning fryers at the start of day, but Schwindt says the end of the day makes more sense. "You don't want those food particles sitting in the grease overnight and changing the quality of the oil," he says.

Operators should be aware of other factors that may make fryers more susceptible to dirt and grime. For example, a breading machine adjacent to your fryer will release flour into the air that can clog fryer burners and blowers.

Wipe down your fryer with a dry—yes, completely dry—cloth or rag. Used regularly, a dry cloth can extend the performance life of your fryer. Schwindt says avoid wet or even damp rags for this task, as they can introduce unwanted moisture to tanks and parts.

Warning Signs, Proper Training
Schwindt says there are several signs that maintenance problems are plaguing your fryers. These signs include:

  • Cooking that takes 10% more time, or less time, than before. That could be a symptom of burners starting to clog with debris or residue.
  • Oil or grease routinely found in one area despite repeated cleaning. That could signal a leak. Schwindt ranks this as a very common oversight. He adds that small leaks always become bigger leaks if left unattended, and leaks lead to lost efficiency and costly repairs or unit replacement.
  • A drop in gas pressure. During routine maintenance, quick-disconnect gas lines are usually unplugged. Were they snapped back in completely? That's a routine oversight that can cause headaches.

Schwindt recommends making sure employees are well-trained to follow preventive maintenance schedules, though he admits that can sometimes be a hard sell. "People doing the cleaning aren't always happy about it," he says.

One way to make tasks more appealing is to emphasize that regular light cleaning minimizes the need for occasional heavy cleaning. Schwindt says routine draining and rinsing of fryer tanks is a key first step to performance longevity. He suggests that you keep it simple: A quick drain and rinse out of debris is all that's needed with a well-maintained tank. Do this and there should be no need for cleaning with chemical compounds or heavy brushing of the interior. Schwindt has seen overzealous workers actually damage internal parts with unnecessary brushing.

And what about those messy cooks mentioned earlier? If you can't control their sloppy frying and you want to keep grease from splattering into unwanted areas, Schwindt recommends making sure the dividing strips along gaps between fryers and screens are in place to keep grease from getting down into the controls.

Schwindt says these routine chores can be easy to overlook in busy kitchens, and easy for unsupervised employees to ignore. But he warns: "Don't take these steps for granted."

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