The Optimal Solution Depends on the Type of Product
Producing the best potato chip depends on many factors, but the fryer is usually at the top of the list. Likewise, determining the best fryer design for a potato chip processor also involves many factors. Ultimately, product quality has the highest impact on the decision; however, floor space, production capacity, acquisition price, and the method of heating cooking oil are also important factors. By working with a fryer manufacturer with solid experience custom-designing fryers for each potato chip processor’s unique requirements, the processor can be assured that productivity and product quality will meet expectations and will lay the groundwork for future growth.
The first factor to determine the best fryer design is determining the type of potato chip being produced. Does the processor wish to produce a conventional chip or a “hard bite”? Conventional chips are typically produced in a continuous fryer whereas hard bite chips are typically produced in a batch fryer.
Batch fryers are used exclusively for hard bite, slow cooked potato chips due to their unique temperature profile. The high-moisture content of potatoes requires a specially designed batch fryer. Potato-specific batch fryers use a kettle of static, hot oil which is direct-heated by a gas burner firing under the fryer pan or by heat-transfer tubes immersed in the oil. These tubes can be heated by a gas burner, steam, or thermal fluid.
As each batch of potato slices enters the oil, the cooking oil temperature initially drops and then gradually increases as the moisture in the potato slice is boiled off and the burner system regains the proper frying temperature. This “inverted bell curve” temperature profile produces the distinctive hard-bite texture that has made these chips the fastest-growing segment of the potato chip market.
The art of adjusting this oil temperature profile gives processors the ability to create subtle differences in chip texture. Once these cooking parameters are set, sophisticated batch fryers use a programmable logic controller (PLC) to assure repeatable frying of each batch of chips. PLC systems give operators control of multiple machines and process functions, pre-programmed product menus, and complete data management at the touch of a single display screen. Heat and Control® Batch Fryer capacities range from 35 to more than 500 pounds (16 to more than 227 Kilograms) of finished potato chips per hour.
ADVANTAGES OF BATCH FRYERS
- Low cost (compared to continuous fryer systems)
- Adjustable temperature curve produces chips with unique textures
- Multiple batch fryers can be handled by one operator because automatic slice stirring systems perform the cooking and unloading of the finished chips and eliminates the hazardous, labor-intensive task of manual stirring and assures maximum chip uniformity by stirring each batch the exact same way each time.
- Minimal floor space
- Increased versatility: cooks other types of root crops in addition to potatoes
Although batch fryers give processors several advantages, the production capacity is limited by the fryer’s surface area and heat input capability, and due to the large oil volume, the oil turnover rate is relatively slow. Also, operators must periodically stir the product to cook uniformly and to prevent slices from sticking together in clusters. The Heat and Control Chip-Stirr system automatically stirs slices during cooking and then directs the finished chips to the discharge/drain conveyor.