BACK STORY: Don’t Hang That There!
Cookie Mahon, Owner of American Kitchen Machinery & Repair, Philadelphia, hated to be the bearer of bad news, but there was simply no way her company could allow the damaged fryer back into service at a local restaurant. “The owner had to buy a new fryer, and she was not happy about it,” Mahon says. “But I’d rather have her upset than allow that fire hazard to be reinstalled.” The problem, it turns out, is a very common one for commercial fryers: employees pull hot fry baskets out of the oil but instead of hanging the basket on the basket hanger designed into the fryer’s backsplash, they hang the baskets on the exhaust flue that runs along the back of the fryer, just above the hanger. “It happens all the time, especially in chains,” she explains. “The fry cooks are rarely told why the practice is not only wrong but actually very dangerous.” Mahon’s techs brought the fryer into the repair shop for a deep cleaning, but there was so much tacky grease and debris built up along the edges, sides and dropped down to the bottom of flue that no amount of cleaning or power vacuuming would remove it. “When debris drops down to the bottom, it builds up right by the burner flames; it’s very dangerous. That grease is so tacky, the vacuum just can’t get it.” Exacerbating the issue is the design of different makes of fryers. “Some have hangers that are so well designed, it’s the only place you’d hang the basket. On other makes, the hanger is so poorly designed that flue opening is easier to hang the basket on than the hanger!” Another issue is having the right basket. “Baskets are not always interchangeable between different brands, so if you have an old basket from a different fryer brand, it might not fit the hanger of the new brand. That’s when the flue edge becomes the hanger.” One final discovery that gave her pause was the fact that not all brands feature removable flues. “We can remove most flues, and that enables us to do a really thorough cleaning,” she explains. “If the flue doesn’t detach, that can be a problem when it gets dirty.”