It’s a common misconception that cooking oil is frying and performing at its finest when you first start to use it. Everything new is better, right? Not when it comes to deep frying. Closer to the middle of your oil lifespan, there is a period of time where your oil will be performing better than ever, producing amazing taste. This is called the frying oil “sweet spot”.
Wouldn’t it be ideal if it were possible to extend the sweet spot so you can achieve tastier food for longer? Well the good news is that it is! By using the right tools and processes and applying fundamental knowledge, you can achieve a prolonged oil life span. As a result, you achieve an extended sweet spot.
The point at which you enter the sweet spot is variable. It cannot be defined by time passed. Instead, how you manage your oil and curb the common culprits leading to poor oil performance and life span, will be the leading factor.
Although frying is a high-temperature process, too much heat too quickly can cause your oil to start to break down earlier and quicker than it should. Oil deteriorates more rapidly at 180 – 185 degrees celsius and is only tolerable up to 165 – 170 degrees celsius.
An option that would be less shocking to your oil is to consider fryers that can make use of a pulsing heat mode to more gradually heat up oil. In addition to that, lowering the heat during cooking breaks can help to protect your oil from excessively high heat while not in use.
Too much moisture being introduced into your oil will lead to a more rapid breakdown. When loading the fryer, make sure to reduce the amount of water and other moisture accidentally entering your oil. This excess moisture could be shaken out of packaging, for example.
3. Exposure to Air
Exposure to oxygen is what causes oil to begin to break down, with oxidation already beginning to take place at room temperature. Naturally, exposure to oxygen is inevitable when food is fried. However, to reduce deterioration from exposure to excess air, use vat covers between frying periods when the oil is not in use.
4. Foreign Substances
Metallic materials and trace metals introduced into the oil with food coating, marinades, batters and salts are linked to oil breakdown. Make sure that no excess amounts of these substances enters the oil. For instance, considering seasoning food away from the fryer.
Cleaning agents entering the oil through badly rinsed equipment can also contribute to lower oil performance and quality. Always make sure your fryers and equipment are properly rinsed after cleaning.
You now know the biggest enemies contributing to rapid oil breakdown. Now how do you maintain proper oil quality so that you can get the most out of the oil sweet spot? Fry oil management is the most important task for any kitchen. Here are the 3 most vital tips to consider:
Your oil filtration process is arguably the most important element of your fry oil management to prevent pre-mature oil breakdown. Proper filtration can increase the lifespan of your oil by up to 50%. The purpose of this filtration is not just to remove the large and visible debris seen in your oil. It is also to remove the fine sediment, fatty acids, carbon deposits and soluble impurities not so easily seen by the naked eye.
2. Oil Top Off
Topping off your oil, or oil top off, describes the process of infusing fresh oil into your used cooking oil. The addition of fresh oil into your used oil, and finding a good balance, allows the oil to be within the margins of the optimum frying sweet spot for longer.
3. Trained Staff
It is of paramount importance that your kitchen staff and fryer operators understand the correct procedures required for fry oil management. Careful and knowledgeable monitoring and control of your oil is a key factor to optimum sweet spot frying.
Regardless of the innovative features and products on the market for keeping your fry oil in tip top condition, without the correct execution and at the right times, these products will simply just be costing your company money.
The truth teller of whether you are successfully frying within the sweet spot margins is the overall quality in taste and appearance of the fried foods leaving your kitchen. However, there are also various options for measuring the oil quality itself. This includes smell and sight observations and more scientific methods such as utilizing frying oil test strips to test FFA (free fatty acids) concentrations.
Whichever quality testing option you decide to use will guide you toward the kind of oil quality results you need to look for to reach the sweet spot. But ultimately, as long as you are constantly practising industry standard oil management in your kitchen with trained operators – hitting the sweet spot is almost guaranteed!