Full Service Restaurant
10 Ways to Take the Sting Out of Fryer Oil Costs
Jan 27, 2022
Just how high has the price of fryer oil gotten? Hint: when people start stealing used fryer oil, you know it's bad.
A recent report from the Wall Street Journal featured a number of such stories from operators doing their best to protect and stretch their fryer oil supplies in the face of unwelcome price hikes.1
As of January 26, 2022, the spot price of soybean oil is $0.64 per pound, a 44% increase over the last year, down from a high of $0.72/lb. last June. In the five years prior to 2021, the price has hovered around $0.31/lb.2
The increase has set off alarm bells at restaurants and food manufacturers already contending with historic supply chain and labor issues.
What's behind the soaring fryer oil prices?
Call it the law of unintended consequences.
At a time when the government is trying to wean the country off of fossils fuels to combat climate change, federal and state mandates to produce more renewable fuels are cutting into the supply of edible oils.
Specifically, the EPA's Renewable Fuels Standard is diverting billions of gallons of soybean oil to the biofuel industry at the expense, some contend, of food manufacturers and restaurants, among others.3
At a public hearing on the standards, representatives for the American Baking Association noted that the U.S. became a net importer of soybean oil last September and October for the first time in more than a decade.
10 proven ways to stretch your fryer oil safely
So what can you do to mitigate sky-high oil prices? Preserving and prolonging the life of your oil can have a tangible impact on profitability. Here are 10 ways you can minimize the cost of oil without compromising the taste and quality of your food.
- Keep it clean. Throughout the day, skim any slivers and bits that find their way into the oil to preserve its longevity. Filter your oil at least once—preferably twice—a day. No matter how you filter it, don't let the oil cascade through the air, as it increases the rate of oxidation.
- Choose premium fries to reduce oil absorption. "Bargain fries" absorb more oil than premium fries during cooking. This deletes your oil faster.
- Never fill your basket over the fryer. Doing so can introduce slivers and ice crystals that accelerate oil breakdown.
- Switch to battered products vs. breaded products. Battered products shed fewer particles in your oil during cooking. These particles degrade your oil.
- Never salt your fries over the fryer. Salt accelerates oil breakdown.
- Cook fries at 345°F. Oil breaks down more quickly at higher temperatures. Recommended temperatures for frying is 345°F (174°C). When the heat goes up, oil breaks down!
- Don't overfill your fryer. Oil expands when heated, so don't fill the fry kettle beyond the "full line." It's always easier to add a little oil than take some out of a hot kettle.
- Clean and maintain your fryer. A faulty fryer can hasten the breakdown of your oil. Clean it regularly and check that it's heating properly. Your Simplot representative can show you how.
- Choose stable oil. Whether your oil of choice is liquid, creamy or solid, choose a highly stable frying agent. Liquid oils are the least expensive but also deteriorate fastest. Solid and creamy agents last longer but cost more. Producers of high-oleic soybean oil claim its durability can reduce the average fryer's oil changes from 100 times a year to 52 times a year.4
• Your oil should have a maximum free fatty acid content of 0.05%.
• The best frying oil provides taste, value, performance and good stability.
• Try to find an oil with an Oxidative Stability Index (OSI) of 15 hours or more.
• The smoke point should be a minimum of 425°F (218°C).
- Store it correctly. Follow the supplier's recommendations for storing oil, typically at a cool temperature. Remember to use lightproof containers for frying oil and shortenings.
The rising cost of fryer oil is driving up french fries prices
Restaurants aren't the only businesses that buy fryer oil in bulk. Potato processors like Simplot purchase millions of gallons of soybean oil every year to par fry potato products. The steep rise in oil prices has precipitated hikes to the price of all potato products, regardless of manufacturer, to help cover the additional production expense.
What's the outlook for fryer oil prices in 2022?
Released December 9, 2021, the USDA's pricing forecast through August 2022 remains unchained at $0.65/lb.5 In the meantime, food industry groups are lobbying the EPA to reduce their biofuel quotas, hoping to ease upward pressure on prices.3 Either way, it looks like restaurants will be contending with elevated oil prices for the foreseeable future, making maintenance of your oil all the more important.