Mmmmm french fries. Hot, crispy and salted just right with a cold side of ketchup for dipping. You’re probably craving them right now; we sure are.
Fries are found on most restaurant menus in some shape or form. Americans love them. So much so that, according to National Geographic, we eat on average nearly 30 pounds of them each year! No wonder, when it comes to making fries, restaurateurs have perfected the art! Holding fries, however, can be the tricky part — so let’s take a look at that.
What makes holding fries so challenging?
Fries can come in different sizes, cuts, and from different types of potatoes (including sweet potatoes), so the challenge to holding them can vary with the type of tater you choose. Here is what we know about them: Fries should be crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, and as close to that just-made temperature as we can possibly get. I have yet to hear anyone say “cold fries, my favorite!” The question then is: How do we get there?
How to keep those fries hot ‘n ready?
Unless you’re making fries to order, you won’t stand much of a chance at preserving their temperature and quality without a proper holding solution. Fry holding stations are an excellent choice, as they’re made specifically for holding fried foods and are usually designed for convenient placement right next to your fryer. Here’s what to look for:
1. Overhead heat
Let’s start at the top (quite literally). Your fry holding station needs to incorporate overhead heat. However, not all overhead heat is created equal. Some solutions use high-wattage incandescent bulbs as the heat source. These bulbs are fragile and can break easily causing a mess and a lost bin of fries. They have a limited life span and need frequent changing. Also, due to the “spot” nature of the heat pattern they provide, you’ll need a lot of bulbs to cover and effectively heat a holding bin of fries. Incidentally the bulb color does not impact the amount of heat provided.
Some manufacturer units are designed to provide heated moving air over the top of the fry bin. This is effective, but along with the moving air comes grease, which can migrate into unwanted areas like controls or filters that will then need to be taken apart and cleaned daily.
At Hatco, we highly recommend the use of ceramic heating elements (emitters) in the overhead construction. These emitters are used in many styles and types of fry holding equipment, including the models we make. They are durable, dependable, and need minimal cleaning. A wide range of wattage outputs are available so, with the right engineering, the correct wattage can be selected to effectively and efficiently heat the below fry bin area. They have no moving parts and don’t need daily cleaning. Much more durable than bulbs, they can last for years without replacement.
2. Base heat
Base heat is a must in most applications. The reason is simple. A fresh batch of fries at optimum temperature (180 °F / 82 °C) that’s placed in an unheated fry bin will cause the fries to start cooling off immediately. That same batch of fries placed on a salt screen (aka slotted bin) that’s 180 °F / 82 °C will hold temperature much longer. Plus the salt screen, which is raised off the bottom of the bin to facilitate drainage, will keep condensation at bay and your fries crispy.
3. Other considerations
Overhead and base heat are the basics for your fry holding station. From there you can consider options like lighting for the work space. Hatco offers a variety of lighting solutions, many of which use energy-efficient, long-lasting LED bulbs. Controls should be simple and an on/off switch in most cases is all you need. However, in large applications where fries and other fried products are held (i.e., chicken tenders and wings), you may want to consider a package with temperature control by zone.
Smallwares are another option for consideration. Simple things like bag and box holders can impact hold times as well. Hardcoat fry ribbons and box holders can run 30 degrees higher in temperature than their stainless steel counterparts. Fry scoops and location for the scoop holders should also be considered.
At Hatco, we pride ourselves on our expertise and ability to connect you with the equipment solution that best meets your needs. If you want more information or would like help optimizing your fry operations, we’re here for you. Just contact a knowledgeable Hatco rep in your area or give us a call at (800)-558-0607. As for us, we’re headed to the drive through. There’s a large order of fries with our name on it — let’s hope they’re hot.