Belshaw Adamatic's fryers fry donuts automatically and can be operated by one employee. 
New technology that keeps fryers cleaner and helps ensure the right temperature, oil levels and other quality measures is helping suppliers meet increased demand for fried chicken, donuts and many other prepared-food products sold in grocery stores and c-stores.

Technology is what sets Frymaster LLC apart from its competitors, says Linda Brugler, a senior product manager at the Shreveport, Louisiana-based company. “We’re an industry leader in bringing  new frying technology to the marketplace,” she says. 

Frymaster’s “open pot” line of fryers, for instance, is much easier to clean than conventional tube fryers, Brugler says. In addition, open pot fryers do a much better job of flushing crumbs out of oil, which means users don’t have to replace oil nearly as often. “Oil is the leading commodity cost in foodservice,” she says. Tube fryers typically have a broader bottom, compared to the V-shaped open pot systems that more efficiently collect crumbs. In addition, crumbs often get stuck on tubes. Open pot fryers also idle at a much lower temperature than conventional fryers, which can add up to big energy savings, Brugler says, given how long many fryers idle on a given day. 

Frymaster LLC also makes tube fryers, which are more economical for some customers. Also, Brugler says, tube fryers are the industry norm, and Frymaster needs them to go head-to-head with competitors for certain jobs.

The open pot system isn’t the only technological advance that differentiates Frymaster from other fryer makers, Brugler says. The company’s top-of-the-line fryers feature a built-in sensor that measures oil quality, providing users with a far better way of knowing when to change the oil in their fryers. The sensor sends an electrical charge through the oil; the speed at which the charge travels gauges how clean the oil is.

“Up to this point there’s been no good way of knowing when to throw oil away,” Brugler says.

The most significant advancements in donut and other baked goods fryers for Auburn, Washington-based Belshaw Adamatic Bakery Group include the introduction of machines with sophisticated heat controllers, says Mike Baxter, the company’s marketing coordinator.  “Previously, thermostats allowed fluctuations up to 10 degrees,” he says. “The new electronic controllers maintain temperature usually within one or two degrees, with consequent improvement in frying quality and consistency.”

Other recent innovations include better welding techniques, which make fryer kettles last for years without significant deterioration or leaks from burning gas at high temperatures, Baxter says. In addition, better coordination with accessory equipment means that a Belshaw melter-filter can filter and refill a fryer in ten minutes. 

Technological breakthroughs at Belshaw come about through a complex, organic give-and-take process that involves a wide network of distributors, in-house technicians, sales managers and customer service reps who receive and then pass on feedback from thousands of equipment owners, operators and repair agents, Baxter says. “This feedback leads to sometimes large, sometimes incremental changes to improve the usability and dependability 
of equipment.”

Eaton, Ohio-based Henny Penny Corp.’s pressure fryers stand out for their ability to cook consistently flavorful chicken faster than any other method, says Kimberly Eros, the company’s insight manager. For normal-sized volumes, Henny Penny’s PFE500 and PFG600 models are a good fit, with the option of either 4- or 6-head capacity, Eros says. For high-volume production, the company’s 8-head Velocity series are the way to go. 

“When a prepared-foods department or c-store operator chooses a pressure fryer, they’re ensuring moisture and flavor will be sealed in while excess cooking oil will be sealed out, yielding a more delicious final product,” Eros says. “It’s the ideal way to cook freshly breaded, bone-in items like chicken or other foods with natural juices.”

Henny Penny offers other fryers to meet the needs of its grocery and c-store clients, Eros says. The company’s OFE320 and OFE340 open fryers are versatile enough to produce anything from freezer-to-fryer side items to fully breaded products. The OFE291 and OFG391 open fryers are high volume fryers perfect for preparing large batches of freshly breaded, bone-in chicken and feature a racking system for easier product handling. And Henny Penny’s Evolution Elite series open fryers are low-oil volume fryers (30 lb platform) that are designed for pre-breaded frozen chicken and sides and other freezer-to-fryer starches and proteins, Eros says.

The Evolution Elite features an “idle” mode that helps users manage power consumption while still allowing temperatures to get where they need to be for proper frying, Eros says. Also on the high-tech front, Henny Penny offers a completely automatic filtration system that washes particles down the drain and filters oil after every cook cycle. Some of the company’s machines also boast  automatic oil top-off, which means users never have to worry about topping off hot oil, and the quality of the product improves because it’s always being cooked in the right amount of oil. 

“For more than 60 years, Henny Penny has been leading the way in fryer innovation,” Eros says. “And all of our fryer control panels are built in-house instead of relying on third-party vendors, ensuring that each fryer we sell is equipped with the most capable, effective system possible.”

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Frymaster's digital dashboards keep records of how units are used in real time and transmit data via WiFi or the cloud.
Digital developments 

Frymaster’s most recent piece of cutting-edge fryer technology is a “communications board,” a digital dashboard that keeps records of how units are used and transmits data via WiFi or the cloud, Brugler says. For instance, if the fryer needs to be filtered on a regular basis, or the oil sensor checked, the communications board will let managers know if employees are staying on schedule.

The technology was developed for a Japanese customer and is now being field-tested at two of Frymaster’s major U.S. customers, Brugler says. The board’s touch screen boasts a simple interface that helps users learn how to use the fryer in as little as 15 minutes, she says.

Frymaster’s fryers for instore foodservice can range from 30-pound fryers for c-stores to 100-pound chicken fryers for large grocery store customers, Brugler says. 

Whatever the size, Frymaster fryers consistently rank high on industry-standard quality tests, Brugler says. Frymaster fryers boast an optimal “cook curve,” she says — with fries, for instance, one part of the curve delivers a crispy exterior, while another guarantees that the inside has the consistency of a baked potato. Frymaster fryers also consistently delivery recovery times between fries of 10 seconds or less. “It doesn’t get any better than that,” Brugler says. 

Belshaw fryers are built in the U.S. and all equipment comes with a one-year warranty, Baxter says (for kettles, it’s five years). The company also boasts an in-house technical support and customer service team. 

Belshaw fryers can be used for doughnuts, fritters, fried Danish, fried croissants, croissant doughnuts, doughnut holes, doughnut pops  —“just about any fried bakery item,” Baxter says. Most of the company’s instore bakery customers use standard kettle fryers because of their versatility, he says. “One fryer is good for any and all fried bakery items.” Other Belshaw fryers used by grocery customers include the company’s Donut Robot fryers, which aren’t as versatile but make up for it by frying automatically and being easier to use, Baxter says. “One employee can mix and fill with batter, and then finish the donuts with sugar, glaze or icing at the end.”

For commissaries that supply c-stores, Belshaw’s Century and High Volume frying and finishing systems provide economies of scale and quality control, Baxter says. C-stores that are busy enough to fry their doughnuts on site use a Belshaw Donut Robot or Insider Ventless Doughnut Center.

Grocery, c-store prepared  foods demand soaring

Frymaster forecasts strong category growth. One of the company’s c-store customers, for instance, recently added a fried program for the first time, Brugler says, and its success is beyond their wildest expectations. “They can’t believe the business they’re getting,” she says. “We’re seeing a lot more activity in c-stores. People go for gas, and if there’s food available, there’s one less stop they have to make.” 

Baxter says the new technologies in donut frying are finding a ready and willing consumer audience. “Customers are very eager to buy donuts that that have a nicely spread icing or glaze, or exotic flavored toppings,” he says. “When it comes to equipment, bakeries are taking advantage of helpful economic conditions to replace old equipment and with new.  Better quality, eye appeal, taste and creativity are what all donut producers strive for.” Donuts made from custom ingredients are a magnet to buyers, Baxter says, and equipment like Belshaw’s helps users cope with mixes and ingredients that are more demanding but still wind up leading to a great product.

Eros agrees that it’s a good time to be supplying grocery foodservice and c-store customers. “Millennials and Gen Zs are less likely to discern a difference between foodservice channels vs. older demographic cohorts,” she says. “They’re just as likely to purchase a meal or snack from a prepared foods department at their favorite grocery store as they are from a fast-casual restaurant. That’s great news for the retail channel!”