The past few years have seen unprecedented increases in food costs. Cooking oil has been especially impacted as a result of supply chain issues and skyrocketing global demand. Of course, if you run a food service business and you’ve watched your profit margins, you already know this, and you’re searching for answers.
The good news is that many restaurants are highly inefficient with how they manage cooking oil — and that’s good news because it means there’s room for improvement. Practices that allow you to get the most cooking life out of your oil fall broadly under the category of “oil management.” The best and most sustainable way to reduce your cooking oil cost over the long term, cooking oil management is a valuable skill for any kitchen operator to master.
What Is Oil Management?
When thinking of ways to save money on cooking oil, one of the most obvious is to simply use less of it. But how? The key is getting the most cooking life out of the oil currently in your fryer. In other words, keep it clean and fresh-tasting for as long as possible. There are proven ways to do this.
First, it’s important to know about the six greatest enemies of fryer oil:
- Air: Air bubbles can be introduced in the oil, causing oxidation, which accelerates breakdown of the oil.
- Carbon: Bits of food break off (often batter or breading) and carbonize and cause a chemical reaction in the oil.
- Excess heat: Cooking oil is exposed to tons of heat, but it’s useful to try to limit it as much as possible when not needed. Oil subjected to constant heat breaks down more quickly than oil that cools down intermittently.
- Soap: Soap causes chemical reactions in cooking oil, giving it an unpleasant alkaline flavor.
- Salt: Don’t oversalt food before it goes into the fryer. Salting afterward ensures that more sticks and preserves the longevity of your oil.
- Water: Oil and water DO NOT mix! Water breaks down oil through hydrolysis and oxidation and causes oil to smoke and splatter.
The fundamentals of oil management boil down to limiting exposure to these oil enemies. If you can do this, it will help ensure the oil in your fryer stays relatively fresh and clean for as long as possible. Of course, it’s also a bad idea to continue using the same oil for too long. Once it’s time to replace it, don’t delay. Don’t let customers taste food that was cooked in subpar oil — it will leave a bad taste in their mouth that outweighs any potential savings that could be gained from reusing the oil. Oil management is a balancing act. Don’t wait too long to replace oil, but don’t replace it too soon either. For many restaurants, oil management has declined since the beginning of the pandemic and ensuing labor shortages. Restaurants are often short-staffed now, and in order to meet the immediate needs of guests, tasks like oil filtration fall lower on employees’ priority lists even though they can have an outsized impact on the bottom line.
How Skimming and Filtering Help Your Cooking Oil
Carbon bits will get into your deep fryer no matter what, and when they do you should try to get rid of them as soon as possible. That’s what these two incredibly simple oil management best practices are all about:
- Skimming: Every half hour or so, any employee who is operating the deep fryer should take thirty seconds and collect any bits of food debris that are floating on the top of the oil with a mesh skimmer. These bits contribute to the accelerated breakdown of the oil.
- Filtering: We recommend filtering deep fryer oil twice per day, or once per day at least. Regular filtering removes large amounts of food debris and other particles that degrade the quality of the cooking oil.
Skimming and filtering are tasks that are easily forgotten in a busy kitchen, but they’re so important that it’s worth making sure they get done.
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Leave Oil Management to the Oil Management Experts
What if we could make oil management so simple that you never had to worry about it ever again? Total Oil Management makes this possible. Total Oil Management is a closed-loop system that automates every step of the oil management process from beginning to end. When you sign up, a technician will come and install two tanks that connect to your deep fryer(s) — one for fresh cooking oil, and one for used grease. All with no upfront costs! The system enables you and your employees to automatically dispose of used oil and refill your fryer with fresh oil. It’s like cooking oil on demand — allowing you and your crew to focus on more important things.
Cloud-Based Fryer Oil Filtration Monitoring
Total Oil Management makes it easy to filter cooking oil, but how do you know when it’s the right time? Our Fryer Oil Filtration Monitoring system tracks the frequency and duration of all filtering activity, and any deviation from your standard schedule prompts an email alert. This ensures you always know what’s going on in your kitchen.
Metrics you can access anytime, anywhere include:
- Daily oil usage
- Oil filtering times and durations
- Current oil levels
- Past trends of oil usage
- Past dates for delivery and disposal of cooking oil
Magnesol® Powder Works
Filtering technology has evolved, and if you’re still doing old-fashioned cone filtering it’s worth looking at what else is available. Filtration machines make the process easier, and allow you to use filter media like MAGNESOL. MAGNESOL is a food-grade compound that’s added during the filtration process and acts like a magnet for food debris and impurities in the oil. It turbo-charges your filtration, giving you oil that stays clear and clean for longer and foods that are consistently crisp and delicious.
Nix the Mix
Mixing oils is a bad idea. While it may seem like you can get more value out of an expensive oil by blending it with a less expensive one, all oils are not the same. There are obvious flavor profile distinctions, which can be especially problematic for large chains whose brands are built on consistency across different locations. Different oils also have different smoke points. Not only can oils catch fire at different temperatures, but they can also break down differently which can alter flavor or release unhealthy chemical combinations into the food.
Give It a Rest
Any time spent at cooking temperature breaks down oil to some degree, so it makes sense that one way to preserve its longevity is to shut off the fryer when not in use. Chart out times of day when the fryer isn’t used as much and consider whether the cost savings would make it worthwhile to turn it off completely. Also, keep in mind the additional cost benefit of conserving energy the fryer would have been using. Consider covering your fryer when it’s not in use because oil can be sensitive to light. Covering it also protects it from contamination by particles not intended for the fryer.
How Do You Know When Your Deep Fryer Needs Recalibration?
Fryer systems differ, but most require periodic recalibration. Compare the temperature of your fryer to the temperature reading of a food thermometer placed in the hot oil. If it’s off, call a technician to have it recalibrated. Checking calibration regularly ensures your fryer is working optimally and you’re getting the most life out of your cooking oil. If the calibration is off and the oil is hotter than you think it is, it will degrade much more quickly.
Never Overfill Your Fryer
Don’t fill the fryer above the recommended fill line. It’s a waste of perfectly good cooking oil, and it can easily become a safety issue, with hazards ranging from oil burns to fires.
You Can Reduce Your Cooking Oil Cost
Every kitchen has different demands, but each should be able to reduce their cooking oil cost by implementing some combination of oil management best practices. If it seems like too much trouble, it might be time to ask yourself if it’s still worth it for your business to be doing its own oil management at all — or if an automated oil management system could do more for you. Automated oil management systems like Total Oil Management take the hassle out of changing and filtering your oil — giving you happier employees, reduced cooking oil costs, and better cooking oil quality overall.
Reducing your cooking oil cost requires a concerted effort, but it’s certainly doable. As long as you create a plan and commit to monitoring usage, cooking oil is one of the few food costs you can reduce that doesn’t affect portion size or sacrifice ingredient quality.
Is Total Oil Management Right for You?
The reality of oil management is that it’s a dirty and demanding job if you try to do it yourself. There are undoubtedly any number of other things you could be doing with your precious time that would have a bigger impact on your business. That’s why you should entrust your oil management to Restaurant Technologies. We are specialists when it comes to oil management, and we customize Total Oil Management to your space and your cooking needs. We’re proud to work with businesses of all sizes and types from coast to coast —from nationwide chains to mom ‘n pop shops. Contact us today to learn if our Total Oil Management solution can take your food service business to the next level.