Oil is a key ingredient in any potato chip production line. Used as a heat transfer agent during the frying process, it provides the chips with their unique flavour and texture. As the trend toward wellness gains momentum however, consumers are becoming more health conscious and increasingly aware of what is in the food they eat and how it is processed.
Ensuring efficient oil management, oil filtration and oil selection have therefore become top priorities for potato chip manufacturers looking to create products that taste great and have desirable colour, texture and nutritional appeal.
As a result, many potato chip manufacturers are reviewing their processing methods to ensure their products meet consumer preferences. Meanwhile, others are looking toward new ingredients, such as different types of cooking oils, with a view to diversify their product range and meet growing consumer demand for healthier alternatives.
Employing the right oil management, filtration and sanitation practices, as well as choosing high quality frying oil, can help manufacturers create potato chips consumers desire.
Understanding Oil Degradation
Oil quality is intrinsic to creating high quality, healthy snack products. However when frying potato products, cooking oil can quickly degrade as a result of a number of factors such as oil type, temperature and the processing method. This not only reduces oil quality but also disrupts cooking efficiency, makes it harder to clean the fryer and ultimately compromises product quality.
Frying with degraded oil can also trigger serious health related side effects due to the increased levels of fatty acids, oxidised lipids and acrylamides in the product.
In most frying operations, the fatty acid level of the oil will rise to an unacceptable level if the total volume of oil in the system cannot be turned over within a set time. Turnover occurs by the pickup of oil into the products as they pass through the fryer.
Depending on their physical characteristics, most products absorb oil during the initial stages of frying, lowering optimum oil levels. Potato slices, for example, can absorb anywhere between 24 percent and 40 percent of oil. For this reason, fresh oil infeed is necessary to return oil levels to 100 percent and ensure the product is cooking in the freshest oil possible for optimum quality.
Oil turnover is directly impacted by the quality of cooking oil used, since some oils are less resistant to heat than others. Sunflower oil, for example, is much less stable at the heating stage than coconut oil. An oil that is more resistant to heat will have a higher oil turnover than one that is less stable. Selecting the right type of oil has therefore become a key consideration for potato chip manufacturers looking to maintain oil integrity for longer.
At the same time, the accumulation of debris can also accelerate cooking oil degradation. This occurs when small pieces of the sliced potato break away, burn and carbonise within the fryer kettle. Consequently, oil quality decreases and can result in off-flavours and an uneven colour and appearance.
Choosing The Right Cooking Oil
Producers are increasingly looking toward new ingredients as a possible solution to improving the quality and healthfulness of their products, including the type of cooking oil. From canola, sunflower and olive oil, to coconut and corn oil, they are inundated with choice.
While some oils are closely linked to health, such as olive oil due to its high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids, others like coconut oil have distinct flavour profiles. As a result, the selection of oil is key when it comes to meeting ever-evolving consumer demands.
There are several considerations when using alternative oils. Some oils for example, contain less harmful compounds but are less stable at the heating stage. This means they produce high levels of free radicals when they are heated, thus reducing the nutritional properties of the end product.
When an oil is less stable, shelf stability also becomes a significant concern. Oils that are rich in essential fatty acids and other polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, are the most fragile. In addition, these are generally more expensive due to their nutritional value and provenance.
For manufacturers looking to add value to their products by switching to these types of oils, the requirement for an efficient oil management program has never been greater to prolong oil life and ultimately maintain profitability.
Effective Oil Management
Well-designed frying systems should address a variety of needs, such as maintaining oil integrity. The most innovative frying technology incorporates continuous oil filtration systems to help remove particulate material left behind from sliced products during cooking.
Typically, the oil is passed through a filtering system to remove both large and fine particles. If left in the oil, these particles continuously produce polymers and other polar compounds that create an off-taste in the product and degrade the frying oil, impacting organoleptic properties including crunchiness. The sooner and more effectively the particles are removed, the better the oil quality.
The filtered oil is then blended with fresh oil and pumped back into the machine to return oil levels to the optimum level. The repeated refreshing of oil helps mitigate the generation of free fatty acids, as well as other polar compounds and ensure the chips are cooked in the freshest oil for the highest possible quality.
Precise Temperature Control
Heating or frying oil greatly increases its tendency to spoil. As a result, it is one of the most important factors governing shelf-life. The higher the temperature, the quicker the cooking oil will deteriorate. As such, oil should never be heated above 205 deg C to prevent spoilage.
In addition, frying at excessively high temperatures will result in food which is darkly coloured or charred on the outside before the inside is properly cooked. Conversely, frying at too low a temperature will result in greasy products and excessive fat absorption by the food.
Accurate control of temperature is thus essential to ensure optimum product quality. This can be achieved through the use of a thermostat or thermometer. Manufacturers should regularly check these pieces of equipment for accuracy and regulate the temperature of the oil as carefully as possible.
In line with the shift toward automation and laboursaving equipment, more manufacturers are implementing automated control systems to regulate temperature, without the need for human intervention. For example, if the fryer temperature drops too low, the system automatically selfregulates to ensure the frying oil returns to the optimum temperature as quickly as possible.
Getting the balance right in terms of temperature ultimately helps manufacturers create a more stable end product, whilst also reducing waste of products that do not meet the required standard.
Achieving The Highest Sanitation Guidelines
There is growing pressure on potato chip manufacturers to prevent food contamination, as contaminated raw materials and cross-contamination during production are common sources of food-borne illnesses.
Hygienic design of machinery and equipment is the basis for safe food production to ensure all food contact parts are free of build-up—particularly of oil and grease. If allowed to accumulate, food debris and dirt is more likely to stick to surfaces and mechanical joints, compromising oil integrity. This also encourages the growth of bacteria and other microbes.
Regular system cleaning and maintenance is therefore vital to ensure the highest hygiene and safety standards. All good frying systems should be designed so that any water or cleaning fluids completely drain out of the system, following the same path as the oil, leaving no area untouched.
The removal of water from a fryer is critical for oil integrity, as well as user safety. By specifying easy-to clean systems from leading suppliers, food processors can significantly reduce the risk of bacterial growth or cross contamination, as well as uphold high levels of quality. In addition, a fryer design with smooth surfaces, no blind spots and no areas such as corners where oil residue can build up, also helps manufacturers meet increasingly strict food guidelines.
Maintaining oil quality is a key challenge for manufacturers looking to meet the demand of today’s ever discerning consumers. Not only do they want potato chips that look, taste and smell great, but they are also look for healthier varieties.
Employing an efficient oil management program, selecting the right cooking oil and implementing a comprehensive sanitation regime are just some of the ways manufacturers can ensure they produce a high quality end product.
With so many options available to create potato chips with universal consumer appeal, it is important to work with a processing solutions supplier who has the technological expertise and know-how to find the right solutions to suit individual production requirements.