Decades of health campaigns warning of the dangers of saturated fats have done nothing to dampen British appetites for fried food.
The Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA) says demand for fryers is as strong as ever in the restaurant trade. “The push towards healthy eating has not really dented the British public’s appetite for chips and other deep fried food.
Fryers are an integral part of most commercial kitchens and look long to remain so,” observes CESA director Keith Warren.
The guilty pleasures of the weak-willed public may be bad news for their waist lines, but certainly not for equipment manufacturers and dealers, which continue to profit from commercial fryer sales and associated service contracts.
“There has been talk of fried food falling out of favour due to health concerns, but our experience is that it’s just as popular as it ever was,” says Nick McDonald, marketing director of Lincat. “That said, there is a greater understanding that fried food must be eaten as part of a healthy diet, and people are beginning to adopt healthier frying methods.”
McDonald explains that new cooking techniques can reduce the amount of fat that fried food absorbs. Many chefs are choosing to steam their chips prior to frying. This allows the chips to be fried just once in hotter oil, which reduces the quantity of oil that is absorbed by the potato and therefore produces a healthier, less fatty chip.
Lincat’s latest fryer, the Opus 700 Vortech, is designed to cater to this trend, because it maintains the consistent very high temperature required to prevent chips going soggy. “Fast reaction electronic temperature control, as featured on the Opus 700, can make a huge difference,” says McDonald.
Valentine Equipment is also focusing on computerised temperature controls for its latest range of fryers. “The Valentine Evolution computer fryer has a sensor fitted in the tank that monitors the temperature of the oil,” says Steve Elliot, national sales manager for Valentine Equipment. “This information is continuously fed into the computer in order to analyse the peaks and troughs in the cooking process so that the fryer can, by using algorithms, control the temperature of the oil. This cooks the food at the optimum temperature and reduces oil consumption,” he adds.
Valentine’s customers translate that science into better food. Tom’s Kitchen, a Chelsea brasserie run by celebrity chef Tom Aikens, is a fan. “Just as I was recommended Valentine by others, I would gladly recommend them to my fellow chefs,” says Aikens.
Brasseries and other mid- to high-end restaurants continue to maintain fryers among their commercial kitchen armoury, but it is pubs and quick service restaurants that dominate demand in the UK, according to John Shepherd, international brand manager for FriFri, a sister company of Lincat.
“That’s great news for FriFri, because these outlets are looking for high capacity, but often have limited space. Our range, which offers maximum output from a minimum of floor or countertop space, meets their needs exactly,” he adds.
Steve Morris, sales director at Jestic, agrees that QSRs and pubs are providing the volume business for fryers, but he also says higher-end restaurants are looking at replacing units with modern and more sophisticated fryers.
“Operators are looking at the total cost of frying, including oil and energy savings. This means that, although buying a more expensive fryer may have a higher upfront cost, the energy and oils savings more than make up for this,” he suggests.
Jestic is the UK distributor for Henny Penny, which offers two ranges of fryers: the standard OF series and the Evolution Elite low oil volume fyers. Both ranges feature in-built filtration and digital control panels.
They are available in a variety of sizes from single-well fryers right through to four-well frying suites with the option of integrated chip dumps, split vats and auto lifters.
“The biggest innovation in the fryer market is the introduction of the low volume energy fryers, such as our Evolution Elite. These fryers save on both oil and energy costs,” Morris explains. “We are also seeing more customers moving towards fully programmable fryers, which not only offer better consistency but also reduce wastage,” he adds.