The Innovator Blog

Pivotal Principles for Processing Potatoes

Q&A: Discussing the industry’s most advanced frying systems and industry-leading innovations in filtration, heating, and oil management.

French Fry and Potato Chip Frying Systems

What are the latest innovations in the field of equipment for frying, as part of potato processing?

Heat and Control is pioneering a new range of French Fry equipment covering the full range of throughputs from 3 tph to 40 tph.

We also have the industry’s most advanced vacuum frying systems, batch fryers, continuous fryers for hard-bite chips and more.

Along with fryers, Heat and Control is leading with innovation in filtration, heating, and oil management.

Please describe the solutions in your portfolio and how they stand out from your competitors.

French Fry

Heat and Control fryers provide the optimum oil flow control for even cooking of product even in the largest of fryers. Full control of zone flows and minimizing oil volume are other key features. Reliability, minimum operator intervention and highly effective CIP systems all help control operating costs and maximize production.

Batch Fry

Heat and Control’s MTKF thermal oil heated kettles provide uniform gentle heating and the most precise control of the temperature profile available. We also have a range of innovative continuous fryers for hard-bite product that can truly match kettle-style characteristics.

Potato Chip FryerPotato Crisp Fryers

Heat and Control continues to lead with the world’s best Potato Chip frying systems, as used by all major producers. The difference is our fryers’ ideal oil flow and product dwell control, ensuring minimum variation in cooked moisture levels and best product quality.

Custom Solutions

Our experience over 70 years means we can provide solutions for any new product innovation our customers come to us with.

Please discuss how you adapt to processors’ needs, and what customization options are available in your frying equipment?

We have well-developed solutions to most applications and can advise new partners on ideal ways to process their product. Chances are, we have experience with their product and have within our standard range the right equipment to deliver a premium solution. We can tailor a package to the customer’s needs and ideas with variations in preparation, heating, filtration, seasoning and packaging. Depending on the raw material and type of product texture required, we can mix and match different types of washing, blanching, electroporation, salt washing and drying all from our regular playbook. We explain the benefits of each piece of equipment and how it will deliver the result the customer wants. Whether it is a simple, entry-level PC processing line for an emerging market or a world-leading French Fry line, new customers can rely on Heat and Control to supply a system that will deliver the goods.

When working with developed industry partners, Heat and Control can customize solutions to a wide range of individual requirements. Fryers will be engineered for particular cook times, product throughput and temperature profiles. We can tailor oil filtration systems to suit particular products, from battered French fries to peanuts and more. OEM requirements such as PLC brands, belting types and others can all be accommodated with our partners.

Where a client has local constraints such as water supply, waste disposal, high energy costs or a combination, we have the experience to work with them on the best solution. Water saving, waste treatment and minimization, efficiency and energy recovery are all areas Heat and Control has focused on and developed a range of solutions.

What are some of the technical challenges specific to potato fryers and how does your equipment overcome them?

Within the field of potato frying, each product type presents its own challenges.

For French Fry, we focus on oil quality, minimizing system volume and providing hygienically designed systems with no stagnation points or debris-collecting areas. We have our own filtration systems, using cyclones to concentrate the fines and belt or paper filters to continuously remove them from the oil stream. Control of oil flow in the fryer is a Heat and Control specialty ensuring all product is cooked consistently and handled precisely. Providing a system that can run continuously with high reliability and a thorough CIP system are typically emphasized by our French fry clients and has resulted in Heat and Control developing world leading equipment in this market.

Potato Crisps have their own challenges. While oil quality management is somewhat simplified due to the high oil pickup of the product, frying down to “crisp” requires extremely tight control of oil flow and product dwell (time) in the fryer. (Minimal) chip-to-chip moisture variation is the key characteristic that defines quality crisps, with the benefits of best taste, shelf life, energy usage and lowest defects. Of course, success here starts up-stream of the fryer, with the control of product flow into the fryer setting up the conditions for the ideal outcome. Over 70 years, Heat and Control has developed mastery of these systems and is the choice of all major crisp producers worldwide.

Batch frying to produce hard-bite chips requires a focus on even heating through the pan, precise temperature control and correct agitation of the product to ensure even cooking and minimum clumping. Our systems can be adjusted to provide a wide range of products from curled, artisan style to a flatter, modern style chip. Hardness and texture are driven by the temperature profile which is fully adjustable.

On all frying systems, maintaining oil quality and a good working environment means managing the steam and frying vapors. All Heat and Control fryers have engineered hoods and extraction systems that open for easy cleaning and provide a safe and comfortable work environment.

How do you ensure an optimum oil flow and the even frying of potato chips in your equipment?

Traditionally, oil flow was optimized by trial and error, measuring flow patterns and monitoring product outputs (e.g., moisture levels across the fryer width). Many of our fryer designs originated this way and over decades of experience represent a highly refined solution. Our customers have confidence that our Potato Crisp fryers will deliver extremely consistent and top-quality product.

Today, when developing new frying systems or enlarging existing platforms, we leverage the technology of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to visualize and optimize our oil inlet and outlet geometry. We combine pipework distribution and final baffle elements to ensure the oil flow is even across the full width of the fryer, not just left-to-right but also without intermediate peaks that can be seen in finished product moisture variability or coloration. It is also critical to minimize stagnant trap points for fines and sediment which can degrade the oil over time.

The other component of product variability is dwell time in the fryer. Each chip must spend the same amount of time in the oil at the same temperature profile to ensure maximum consistency. For our range of potato chip fryers, the combination of paddles and submerger belts have been developed over decades with subtle design points providing benefits to the finished product. Paddle profiles, penetration depths, relative speeds and more are tweaked to ensure the tightest control of dwell time in the industry. Building on this extensive experience over a wide range of different food types, when we develop a new fryer for a customer’s special product, we can be sure we will achieve a great result out-of-the-box.

What sustainability benefits like heat recovery and reduced energy/water consumption do your fryers offer?

KleenHeat Heat ExchangerEnergy and water conservation are everyone’s focus today. Heat and Control has been developing sustainability solutions for many years and can offer a range of refined products and solutions. Our potato washing systems are designed to use the lowest amount of fresh water to achieve the desired level of washing. Adding water clean-up and starch removal systems can further reduce this, saving both fresh water use, and waste-water discharge challenges. Cascading water from the cleanest parts of the system to the least sensitive unit operations is a complementary strategy. Of course, it is possible to go too far and end up with issues with product quality or excessive fines loading in the fryer. Heat and Control’s experience helps our clients avoid these issues.

Heat and Control leads the way with the most efficient oil heating systems. Our pollution control heaters (KHX) and standard HX have been developed with multi-mode (radiation-convection) heat transfer strategies as well as Combustion Air Preheat and modern burner control systems to provide best oil quality and minimum energy consumption. Insulated fryer hoods save energy and keep the factory cooler.

Pollution Control in Potato ProductionThe bulk of energy input to potato frying goes to evaporating water from the product. As a result, much of this energy can be reclaimed from the fryer exhaust by condensing the steam that is produced. Heat and Control engineers Stack Heat Recovery Systems (SHRS) tailored to the process and heat use for each client. This recovered energy can be used for space heating (office and factory in winter) or to drive Vapor Absorption Chillers which can provide AC for offices and packaging areas in summer. These are now developed technologies increasingly seen in the industry. In some situations, the recovered energy can be used upstream in the processing line itself – dryers for French fry and blanchers in French Fry and Potato Chip (lines) are typical examples. There are many inputs into deciding which system is appropriate in each application, such as energy cost, government incentives, corporate policy, and environmental regulations. Of course, intimate knowledge of the actual food production process in question is critical to achieving the best solution. Heat and Control’s experience and expertise in these areas is second to none.

What should processors consider when integrating a fryer into a (new/existing) production line?

The first decisions are around how much product is needed, and how fast the market will grow. Scaling strategies can be developed for all levels in the range, ensuring today’s investment continues to be productive in the future. Many of our fryers can be configured to cover a range of throughputs, meaning only minor upgrades in the future can greatly expand capacity. Bigger is not always better, so matching the system size to the required production rate is critical for product quality and system efficiency. Too large a fryer means oil turnover is too low and may result in poor control of product dwell or sediment build up. The type of heating system chosen can also help with future scaling – some of our heaters can be expanded on site, while thermal oil or steam heating may lend itself to ultimate flexibility. Heat and Control’s engineers can help guide your choices.

It is important that a fryer is matched to the upstream processes. Slicing, washing and other pre-treatments all have a major impact on the product as it exits the fryer. It is critical to ensure product is presented to the fryer uniformly and across the full cook width. Even the best fryer in the world cannot correct deficiencies in the feed to it. Quality product starts well before the fryer itself. Heat and Control has a range of end-to-end solutions for all products. In most cases, all equipment is manufactured in-house at Heat and Control. Where we work with external suppliers, Heat and Control’s experience and wide network ensure a good outcome.

Complete Potato Production Line Solutions

Please comment on the food safety aspect during frying and how important you consider this factor to be for food processors?

While frying inherently eliminates most pathogens, there are many other aspects to food safety that a quality vendor will consider. Contamination from inorganic sources must be eliminated. Painted surfaces, labels, plastic parts are ideally kept well out of the product zone. Often plastic parts are used in and around fryers – these must be engineered to minimize risk of entrainment in the product stream due to loss of material. The type of material and the means of attachment are critical. Heat and Control only uses food-grade plastics in our factories and can provide certification on request (FDA or CE as appropriate). We avoid metal-metal contact and minimize possible generation of metal “slivers” using our long experience in the industry. We minimize places where product can hang-up and over-cook, later re-entering the product stream as defects.

Pipework, fryer, and filters must all be designed to avoid areas where fines and particles can be trapped. All areas must be able to be cleaned effectively. CIP is the best solution as this minimizes labor cost and operator exposure to chemicals. Where manual cleaning cannot be avoided, it must be readily accessible and able to be inspected.

How do you see the market evolve for this particular segment of equipment?

There are several key trends in the industry. Scale is increasing – larger frying systems can be operated more efficiently but come with engineering challenges. Heat and Control is well placed to meet these challenges with experience and know-how. Automation, IoT and data management are also expected to keep developing and enhancing the efficiency, flexibility, and quality of food production. Sustainability in water and energy will only increase in importance and the state of the art is constantly evolving, as discussed above. De-carbonizing the industry will become a key goal over the next decade. Currently, fossil fuel provides the bulk of energy used in the cooking process. Transitioning to low carbon energy poses many challenges, which, Heat and Control is already working to solve. Fried potato products are only increasing in popularity and markets are still emerging in Asia, Middle East, South America and Africa. The future looks good for the industry and technology is helping to make the products better, safer, and more sustainable.

Originally published by

Oct 20, 2021
Written by:
Mick Walsh

Chief Engineering Manager, Australia

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