Cooking Oil Guidelines

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Getting the most out of your cooking oil.
Cooking oil and deep fryers are essential pieces of most food service kitchens in North America and have been since the first French fries were fried to perfection. Over the last 20+ years cooking oil has changed significantly. Cooking oils are now healthier, more stable and safer, however, very little has changed in how we manage the quality of cooking oil itself. Cooking oil represents a significant percentage of operating costs, and prices will vary widely depending on the oil type. Yet, the assumption can be made that a chain restaurant with 50 locations, and 3 fryers per location operating on a full-time basis will spend over $450,000 annually on cooking oil assuming it is changed every 12 days! Wouldn’t it be nice to ensure you’re maximizing the life of your oil? To get some additional insight we reached out to Dr. Peter Bordi from the Penn State Center for Food Innovation, an industry recognized cooking oil expert.

According to Dr. Bordi, “Most Food Service operators use outdated methods to determine oil quality, if any at all, and have no idea how much money they might be throwing away”. He also stated that “Instruments, like the testo 270 have been on the market for more than 10 years but have been slow to gain popularity over traditional low cost methods. However, the ROI for one of these instruments can be recovered within a quarter for locations that are discarding oil too early”. Traditionally managing cooking oil in food service operations can be broken down to four basic processes:

  • No oil quality management process – this is mainly reactionary based on customer complaints, odor, smoking, etc.
  • By defined date: Total replacement based on the number of frying cycles or pre-defined dates. This process leads to either oil being kept too long resulting in poor quality foods or oil being discarded too early.
  • Visual evaluation or Reference Kits: This process uses a visual assessment of oil color compared to a sample (reference) – can be challenging to ensure consistency due to varying lighting conditions in kitchens and production areas as well as eyesight differences among staff. This process can also create safety issues for employees when not completed properly.
  • Test strips that measure Free Fatty Acids (FFA): Test strips are a popular low-cost method but are slow to provide results, and very inaccurate which can lead to oil being discarded prior to the end of its usable life cycle.

Monitor Cooking Oil Quality

Replacing your cooking oil too early, or too late?
So how can you take the guess work out of when to change cooking oil? By using a simple, highly visual instrument that lets the operator know exactly when their oil needs to be changed. The testo 270 does just that by measuring the degradation of cooking oil. It reads the amount of a substance in the oil known as Total Polar Material (TPM). TPM is a generic term for various substances, produced during use, that degrade the quality of the oil.
All cooking oil follows a similar life cycle which is illustrated in the below graph. As you can see the ideal product quality is delivered between a TPM % of 14-22%. This is the range that you want to keep your oil in as long as possible.

Two key factors that support the use of the testo 270 are that it impoves product quality and lowers operating costs. The higher the level of TPM in the oil the more the taste, appearance and consistency of the oil is negatively affected which in turn results in poor quality fried foods for your customers. For example, French fries, can become hollow inside, dry, and unappetizing. They can be left with a brown appearance due to excessive levels of fat permeating the product and prolongede exposure to high heat. In the food service industry, you are only as good as the products you serve and serving poor quality fried foods will negatively impact customer satisfaction. Experts like Dr. Bordi agree that by using the testo 270 to measure the quality of cooking oil quality after filtering is the easiest way for food service operations to ensure consistent product quality.
When we refer to the example of a restaurant that changes their oil every 12 days, by using a testo 270 this chain determined that they could extend the life of their cooking oil life by 6 days and still maintain the same level of high quality standards. That translates into an oil cost savings of $150,000.

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