People love fried chicken. A recent poll found that a whopping 95 percent of Americans like eating fried chicken. The southern staple has grown in popularity for the past 50 years (thanks primarily to good ol’ Colonel Sanders and his addictive herbs and spices). Fried chicken is a butt-kicking addition to any menu.
If you plan to serve lots of fried chicken, consider buying a pressure fryer. These fryers are fast and cook excellent fried chicken. An added benefit to pressure frying is its lower cooking temperature. Pressure fryers cook at a much lower oil temperature than open fryers. Pressure fryers typically operate in the 285°F to 310°F range, versus the open fryer’s 350°F to 375°F range. Cooking under pressure at lower temperatures results in very moist chicken and longer oil life.
There are key features and qualities to look for when buying a pressure fryer.
Ease of Use
Good help is hard to find. The last thing you want is a fryer that requires a rocket scientist to operate. The simpler it is, the better.
Collectramatic® commercial fryers have had the same simple design for over 50 years. They are the epitome of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sure, over the decades, they’ve been improved with additional safety features and computerized controls. But the basic mechanics of them are pretty much unchanged. They are push-button-easy to operate. Minimal moving parts also make them easy to fix.
Oil (or shortening) is the lifeblood of fryers and a major ongoing expense. If you can extend the life of your oil, it’s money in your pocket. A fryer’s cold zone sounds counterintuitive, but it serves a purpose. The cold zone is an area near the base of the fryer’s cookpot (or cooking vessel). Bits of breading inevitably break off as chicken fries.
If these bits, or cracklings, remain in the hot cooking zone, they will scorch and eventually ruin the cooking oil. The cold zone uses gravity filtration and thermal circulation to collect the cracklings as they sink through the cookpot. This prevents them from burning, extending the life of the cooking oil, and reducing the need for filtering. The cold zone also helps save on labor, as you can cook up to 20 rounds of chicken before stopping to filter.
An added benefit to pressure frying is its lower cooking temperature. Pressure fryers cook at a much lower oil temperature than open fryers. Pressure fryers typically operate in the 285°F to 310°F range, versus the open fryer’s 350°F to 375°F range. Cooking under pressure at lower temperatures results in very moist chicken and longer oil life.
When it comes to pressure fryers, bigger is better, right? Maybe. It all depends on how much chicken you anticipate serving on an average day. For example, Winston’s Collectramatic Fryers are available in 4-head and 6-head sizes. The 4-head can cook up to 14 pounds of chicken in a single load. The 6-head cooks up to 18 pounds. Winston isn’t the only fryer on the market. There are larger fryers available. But you may want to consider whether it’s better to invest in one larger fryer or two or three smaller ones. For example, three Collectramatic Pressure fryers can cook 18 heads of chicken. Our biggest competitor’s 8-head fryers can only cook 16 heads in the same footprint. And three Collectramatics cost less than two of the other guy’s fryers. It’s simple math – more capacity for less money. Having several gives you more flexibility to deal with the restaurant rush and slow periods. And having more than one fryer allows you to continue cooking even if one of the units goes down for service.
Fryers will need to be filtered periodically. Otherwise, your oil will start to get funky, which will also make your chicken funky. Funky chicken is an awesome dance, but nobody wants to eat it. A well-designed fryer is engineered to minimize the need for filtering. Collectramatic fryers, with their cold zone, can cook up to 20 rounds before filtering. This extends oil life, which lowers your operating costs.
Every pressure fryer has a cook pot. This is the chamber that pressurizes to cook the chicken. They come in two basic configurations: square and round. We recommend a round. The round cylindrical shape encourages oil circulation, which reduces cool spots. Additionally, round pots have a single weld seam, whereas square pots may have seams in each corner. Seams can be a structural weak point. By its nature, a single seam is less likely to cause issues than four seams. A broken seam is often the most expensive part to fix.
Pressure fryers are more complex than having a simple on/off switch. Many customers (including our largest fryer customers) have particular time and temperature settings that they use to achieve the best results. Rather than having to enter settings each time, the best pressure fryers have programmable channels, capable of holding multiple settings.
Winston’s Collectramatic Fryers have eight preprogrammed channels. Each can be re-programmed to suit the user’s needs. The controls can even be programmed with multiple temperatures per channel, to accommodate all menu items.
Winston’s Collectramatic Fryers have eight preprogrammed channels. Each can be re-programmed to suit the user’s needs.
It’s a simple fact that the more moving parts a machine has, the more likely that machine is to wear out or break. When it comes to pressure fryers, simpler is better. Collectramatic fryers aren’t the fanciest machines, but they have a reputation as being the most durable pressure fryers out there. A properly maintained Collectramatic can last over 20 years. This is because of a time-tested basic design and the fact that they have very few moving parts. Fancier isn’t always better.
Any machine that combines hot cooking oil and pressure can be dangerous if not used properly. The best pressure fryers are as idiot-proof as possible. Consider what safety features any fryer you’re considering purchasing includes.
Collectramatic fryers have several built-in features. These include:
Automatically shuts off if the fryer gets too hot (over 410°F).
The DVI (Drain Valve Indicator) alarm sounds and disengages heaters if the power switch is on, and the drain valve is opened. When the heaters are exposed to air while they are engaged, they can start a fire. The DVI alarm instantly alerts the operator that they are creating an unsafe situation.
Prevents the lid from being opened before the release of pressure through the lid valve.
Software that automatically detects the presence of water in the cookpot. Automatically shuts off the fryer to allow corrections.
Pressure fryers are either powered by electricity or natural gas. The type you choose will depend mainly on the power you have available at your location. Major metropolitan areas usually offer you a choice, with both utilities readily available. But outside of cities, infrastructure like natural gas lines may not exist. If you’re going with an electric fryer, you’ll want to have an electrician install it. These fryers pull a lot of power. You’ll want a professional to verify that your existing electrical infrastructure is up to the task.
Weigh Your Options
We know, that’s a lot to consider. Pressure fryers ain’t cheap, no matter what brand. Make sure to get the biggest bang for your buck by choosing the fryer that checks the most boxes for your needs. One last thing you might want to consider – Collectramatic Pressure Fryers can also open fry. It’s as simple as leaving the lid open. Believe it or not, that’s a capability most competitors don’t have. If you’re offering other fried foods in addition to chicken, it’s an option you’ll want to calculate into your decision.