Flat bottom, open pot, and tube type are the main varieties of this equipment. The difference between them comes down mostly to the way their frypot – the vat that contains the oil - is designed. Some are flat, others are shaped so that loose food and breading can be caught at the bottom and stay cool, preventing the particles from burning. The type of food you'll want to cook will determine which one is the best choice.
Selecting a Fryer by Food Type
If you're serving mostly wet-battered, free-floating items like fish and tempura, go for a flat bottom model. This style features a simple, rectangular frypot. These are heated from underneath by gas burners and are designed for foods that will lose a lot of breading, most of which will float to the top and will need to be skimmed off. Sediment at the bottom will also need to be cleaned out several times throughout the course of operation. These are utilitarian pieces that can fry anything from catfish to candy bars (of course, not in the same unit), but require the most attention for cleaning.
If it's mostly frozen food you'll be serving, especially French fries and pre-breaded snacks like cheese sticks and jalapeño poppers, an open pot design might suit your needs the best. Like in a flat-bottom version, these have frypots that are heated from the outside. The main difference is the shape - these have bottoms that slope down into a cold-zone where sediment collects and stays cool, so it won't burn. These must be cleaned regularly, but can handle higher volumes than a flat-bottomed version.
For powerful, all-purpose frying, choose a tube-type model. These are heated from inside the frypot with tubes that contain gas flames, a design that lends itself to energy efficiency and quick recovery times. These have larger cold zones to catch more sediment than an open pot, so they're good for higher sediment, breaded foods like chicken.
Donut fryers come equipped with special racks that fit the dimensions of the frypot for lifting snacks in and out of the frypot safely and quickly. Funnel cake fryers are very similar, but they come with rings used to form batter into the shape of a cake. Finally, corn dog fryers include special clip rails that hold the famous dogs-on-a-stick in place while they fry.
Snacks and Appetizers
Although most countertop fryers are powered by electricity, there are a few that use gas. These compact models are designed for cooking in low volumes, either in places that only fry a few batches a day, or in establishments that need a separate unit to make special dishes and appetizers like onion rings that must be cooked separately to avoid flavor transfer.
Because a commercial fryer is one of the most in-demand pieces of equipment in the kitchen, lots of innovations have been made to make them more efficient and easier to use:
- Oil is gradually lost as it is absorbed by food and evaporated into the air, so automatic top off features keep oil at an optimal level. This can save labor time and keep your equipment running efficiently.
- Basket lifts are controlled by a timer and will automatically lift baskets out of the oil when the cooking time is finished. This can cut down on operator error, free up labor time to do other tasks, and prevent overcooked and burned food.
- High efficiency fryers are designed with cutting-edge features that conserve energy. Innovations like atmospheric burners can cook foods using less fuel than traditional technology.
- Most often, a commercial gas fryer needs to be installed underneath a hood to vent away grease-laden vapors and dangerous fumes from combustion. When room under a hood is not available, consider a ventless model that includes a built-in system to remove harmful vapors.
- Programmable controls can make operation simple, storing details like cook time and temperature for multiple recipes, so the user doesn't have to tend every step of the process. This is a feature that can reduce operator errors in kitchens where staff turnover is high.
- A melt cycle is essential for the efficient use of solid shortening, which can be burned and cause damage to the frypot if it's not brought up to the cooking temperature gradually. Some fryers also include features to preheat liquid oil, which can extend its life by avoiding rapid changes in temperature that can break the product down faster.
- Choose a fryer with a split pot if you want to avoid taste transfer as you cook two different products at the same time.
- Most restaurants that want to have popular sides like French fries on hand will have a dump station. To save a little room and a little money up front, choose a fryer with a built-in dump station.
- Filtering your deep fryer oil is the most important step you can take to extend its life and keep your fried products tasting fresh batch after batch. Choose a model with a built-in filter to make the process quick and painless.