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Frying Without Trans Fat

Not Sure What to Fry With? We Can Help

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Getting started

For most restaurants, changing over to 0 grams trans fat frying was easy and did not have a noticeable effect on their menus or their bottom lines.

Before you begin, check the product labels of the oils and shortenings you are using for frying for the words "partially hydrogenated [vegetable] oil." If you do not see those words, then you are already frying without artificial trans fat and no change is needed.

If you are making a change, treat your customers to a heart-healthy alternative that is low in saturated fat. You can begin your search on our 0 grams trans fat fry oils and shortenings list. (PDF)

Choosing the fry products that are right for you.

Not every fry oil or shortening is ideal for every purpose. On our 0 grams trans fat fry oils and shortenings list, (PDF) we have categories for:

  • "Light/medium duty" oils include traditional oils such as canola, soy, sunflower, and olive oil. These oils can be used for salad dressings, marinades, sautéing, stir frying, and deep frying. When used at high heat, light/medium duty oils break down more quickly than heavy duty oils and fry oils that contain trans fat. If you deep fry with these oils, it's important to change oil more frequently.

    Soy and canola oils are often treated with an antioxidant (such as TBHQ). The anti-oxidant is usually paired with an anti-foaming agent (such as dimethylpolysiloxane) that further slows the breakdown of the oil. These additives make cooking oil more durable for restaurant use. Oils with additives may hold up a little longer in the deep fryer, but still require more frequent changing than heavy duty oils.

    You can extend the fry-life of a low-cost light/medium oil by blending it with a small quantity of heavy duty oil. See "Understanding heavy-duty fry oils", below, for more information.

  • "Heavy duty" oils are good for extended deep frying over longer periods. (Under the right conditions, certain heavy-duty oils can last a week or more.) These oils differ in terms of flavor, cost, and stability. They are available as clear oil or creamy pourable shortening. Heavy duty oils and shortenings with 0 grams of trans fat will perform most like partially hydrogenated fry products. See "Understanding heavy-duty fry oils", below, for more information.

  • "Liquid butter substitutes," for griddle and pan frying. These are butter-flavored 0 grams trans fat shortenings and margarines (creamy and solid) that are much more stable than butter at high heat.
Deep frying tips

If you used trans fat to deep fry before, you will find that the oil or shortening that you switch to may require more attention.

Every fry product has an approximate "fry life" that varies with the type of frying you are doing. Using any oil past its fry life creates unhealthy by-products. When deep frying, especially, be sure to monitor your oil carefully and change it as soon as it starts to break down. Here is what to look for:

  • Excessive darkening, foaming, and viscosity or thickness
  • Smoking
  • "Off" flavor and odor in fried food
  • Greasiness/loss of crispness in fried food

Begin by keeping oil in a cool place (and away from the light if it's stored in clear bottles). In the deep fryer, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to heat. Maintain a steady temperature between 325F and 375F; do not overheat. If you have a long break between periods of use (between lunch and dinner, for instance), allow the fryer to cool-but not too much, as repeated cooling and heating can also harm oil. A resting temperature of 280F is recommended. Be on the lookout for fryer "hot spots" that may cause burning or localized overheating.
  • Keep food crumbs out of the fryer. Remove excess breading and fat from food before frying, and skim out food debris after each frying. Fill fry baskets away from oil, to keep crumbs out. Never salt or season foods over the fryer.
  • Keep the fryer clean. Filter completely at least once a day, and keep the fryer spotless (daily cleaning is recommended). Rinse fryer thoroughly with a vinegar solution after cleaning, to neutralize detergent residue.
  • Control moisture. Dry fryer thoroughly after cleaning. Do not allow condensed moisture on the hood or fryer cover to drip back into the oil. Remove excess moisture from food before frying.
  • Cover fryer when not in use.This will limit contact with the air and keep particles out of the oil.
Understanding "heavy-duty" fry oils

Some restaurants prefer highly stable oils that can withstand deep frying for extended periods. These oils are slow to break down through multiple fryings over a longer period of time.

Partially hydrogenated oils and shortenings (with trans fat), because they have such a long fry life and shelf life, became popular over the last 50 years as the "heavy-duty" fry products of choice. Now that we know how unhealthy artificial trans fat is, chefs are returning to traditional heavy-duty oils and some newer heavy-duty alternatives.

Heavy duty oils cost more per gallon than light/medium duty oils. However, because they last longer in the fryer, you may find that they're cost-neutral.

There are several choices for heavy-duty and extended deep frying:

  • Naturally stable plant oils. These include cottonseed, peanut, corn, rice bran,and palm.Cottonseed, corn, and peanut are traditional favorites for heavy-duty frying. Palm oil, a tropical import, while stable, is very high in saturated fat and should be used sparingly.
  • Modified composition oils. "Low linolenic," "mid oleic," and "high oleic" are terms used to describe oils with a fatty acid composition that is very stable, and good for extended deep frying. These oils come from plant sources (mainly soy, canola, and sunflower) that have been bred for this purpose. Under the right conditions (see Deep Frying tips above), these oils can last a week or longer.
  • Light/medium duty-heavy duty oil blends. You can increase the stability of low-cost medium duty oils by blending them with small amounts of naturally stable plant oil or modified composition oil. You can also purchase pre-made blends (see our 0 grams trans fat fry oils and shortenings list for examples, listed in the "heavy duty" category (PDF)). A blend made this way can be used for extended deep frying, but it will not last as long as a 100% naturally stable oil or modified composition oil. Typical blends contain 75-90% soy or canola oil with TBHQ mixed with 10-25% peanut, cottonseed, rice bran, or a modified composition oil.
Making the switch

If you are accustomed to using artificial trans fat, here are some tips on how to make the switch: