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How to Choose the Right Fryer Oil: What Oil Do Restaurants Use?

French fries in a deep fryer

Does your commercial kitchen rely on the deep fryer? Then you already know how much your choice of cooking oil matters. Your oil should have a smoke point that’s high enough to give your food the crispy golden crunch that your customers have come to love. Ideally, you’ll also want an oil with a neutral flavor or flavor that complements the food you’re cooking – and there are a multitude of cost and health considerations to keep in mind, too. With so many factors to consider, restaurant owners face a difficult choice. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you select the right deep frying oil for your restaurant.

Know Your Smoke Points

Choosing the right cooking oil requires an understanding of one of the basic scientific principles of cooking – namely, the smoke point. The smoke point refers to the temperature that a cooking fat can withstand before it begins to break down, at which point it begins to smoke, signifying that it is burning. Burning oil is a bad sign for your kitchen because it will impart an unpleasant, bitter taste into your food.

Ideally, your restaurant’s food would cook in oil that’s reached the perfect caramelization zone, which begins around 320° Fahrenheit (F). Once your oil reaches this temperature, starches and sugars begin to react and turn crispy and golden – achieving the fried texture and taste that your customers know and love. In order to achieve that perfect state, though, fried food has to spend several minutes cooking in oil that’s 320°F or hotter.

What Is the Ideal Smoke Point When Deep Frying Food?

It’s important that your fryer oil has a smoke point of at least 350° – 375°F. This way, you can cook your food in the ideal caramelization range for a long enough time without worrying that your oil will start burning.

To further complicate things, it’s important to note that the smoke point of cooking oil does not remain constant. The more you use your cooking oil, the lower its smoke point becomes. If you’re reusing yesterday’s oil, it will have a lower smoke point than when it was fresh – even if you’ve thoroughly filtered it. This is one of the many reasons we recommend an oil management system with filtration. It not only makes it easier to filter your oil, but also dispose of and replace your used cooking oil. Automated systems can help you maintain the smoke point you need to keep your food in the ideal caramelization zone.

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Should Cooking Oil Add Flavor?

Perfectly prepared fried food is delicious, and your cooking oil should bring out your food’s naturally scrumptious flavor. Typically, high quality cooking oil should not add flavor. Cooking oils that are neutral in flavor are very popular in commercial kitchens due to their versatility. These include vegetable oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil – all of which are known for cooking a variety of different foods well.

Or, maybe you do want your cooking oil to add some flavor. After all, sometimes the right fryer oil can really make a recipe sing. You can probably think of restaurants that are known for cooking with specific types of oil: they do this because it gives their food the characteristic flavor that keeps their patrons coming back. Peanut oil is an example of an oil that’s close to neutral, but offers a subtle hint of flavor that can enhance foods like fried chicken and french fries. Some cooking oils like extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, and coconut oil have strong and distinct flavors. For most restaurant kitchens, these oils aren’t a great choice because they’ll add a noticeable flavor to anything they cook. But again, maybe that flavor is what makes your restaurant special – if you’re well known for your fried coconut shrimp, coconut oil might be the perfect choice for that extra sweetness it gives.

Cooking Oil Costs Can Add Up

The cost of cooking oils can vary greatly, making it another important factor to consider. Let’s compare one of the least expensive commonly used deep fryer oils (vegetable oil) to one that’s more expensive (corn oil). At $0.09/ounce for vegetable oil and $0.22/ounce for corn oil, the price difference quickly adds up. Both vegetable oil and corn oil are known for neutral tastes, so if this is the only factor you’re weighing, vegetable oil is the obvious choice. However, corn oil has a higher smoke point, so if you’re cooking something that needs extra time in the fryer, it might be a better option for you.

The bottom line is that cooking oil costs can add up, and market factors are pushing them up further. The best way to manage your cooking oil costs is to analyze your menu, determine the best oil for your restaurant, and rely on a bulk cooking oil delivery service to provide fresh oil at the appropriate time.

Which Frying Oil Is Best?

It’s a tough decision. Your choice of cooking oil affects basically everything in your kitchen, and with all of the ramifications, it can make or break your restaurant. There are dozens of cooking oils for you to consider, but only a handful offer the right combination of smoke point and neutral flavor to be considered for deep frying. 

Here are some of the most popular cooking oils for restaurant kitchens and why we recommend them for deep frying:

  • Vegetable oil: High smoke point, neutral flavor, relative healthiness, and low cost makes vegetable oil one of the most popular and versatile frying oils used in restaurant kitchens today.
  • Canola oil: Along with vegetable oil, canola is one of the most ubiquitous oils in deep fryers today. It has a neutral flavor, low cost, and very high smoke point of up to 475°.
  • Peanut oil: Close to neutral taste with a subtle flavor that goes well with french fries, fried chicken, and other battered fried food. Peanut oil is slightly more expensive but still popular in fast food and restaurant kitchens.
  • Safflower oil / sunflower oil: Very high smoke point and highly versatile oil used in many restaurant kitchens for a variety of applications. Neutral flavor.
  • Corn oil: Has a slight corn-flavored sweetness and high smoke point. Often, a favorite for fried dough and other similar products.
  • Coconut oil: High flash point but very high in fat. Often used for fried desserts or foods that need a slight touch of sweetness.
  • Lard: White fat from pigs that’s very rich and flavorful but also very unhealthy. These days, you can still find lard in small non-chain fast food restaurants or upscale fine dining restaurants.

In most cases, we DON’T recommend these oils for deep frying:

  • Extra virgin olive oil: Has a very low smoke point and is not a great choice for deep frying.
  • Butter: Has an extremely low smoke point of 250 degrees Fahrenheit – lower than the caramelization temperature. Butter should not be used in a deep fryer, but is excellent for pan frying.
  • Grapeseed oil: Very high smoke point and one of the healthiest oils. Grapeseed oil is quite expensive, however, and for that reason is usually reserved for pan frying rather than deep frying. 

Find the Ideal Deep Fryer Oil for Your Kitchen

Want more information on how to select the right deep frying oil for your restaurant? Or how to save money buying your oil in bulk? Or how one of our oil filtration solutions can help your kitchen run more efficiently? 

Then reach out and speak with a local Restaurant Technologies specialist today!


A Crusader From the Heartland: PHILIP SOKOLOF – TIME

Best Oil for Frying: How to Clean Deep Fryer Oil & More (webstaurantstore.com)

How to Choose the Best Cooking Oil + Oil Smoke Point Chart (mountainroseherbs.com)

Smoking Points of Cooking Fats and Oils (thespruceeats.com)

The 6 Best Oils To Use When Frying—Canola, Peanut, Olive Oil (delish.com)

McDonald’s Broke My Heart | Revisionist History (pushkin.fm)

Vegetable Oils – Comparison, Cost, and Nutrition – Spend Smart Eat Smart (iastate.edu)

28 Cooking Oils Compared – Which Is The Best Cooking Oil For Your Health? – 28 Different Oils Compared (tastythais.com)

I’m Allergic to Peanuts. Will I Have a Reaction to Peanut Oil? — Allergy Amulet

Restaurant Technologies - Cooking Oil Delivery and Recycling for Commercial Kitchens by Restaurant Technologies Serving Customers Nationwide

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