High efficiency ranges are commonplace in fish and chip shops today, but what is the technology behind them and how does it work?
High efficiency frying ranges were brought to the UK from Holland 15-20 years ago and have become increasingly popular with fish and chip shop owners, mainly because of the considerable gas savings they bring due to their ability to use energy more effectively and reduce energy loss.
While Dutch manufacturers KFE, Florigo and Hewigo pioneered high efficiency technology, British range manufacturers over the years have been playing catch up and have embraced it too, giving friers more choice and freedom over how they fry.
Henry Nuttall for example, which has been manufacturing ranges since 1865, first introduced its ECO range around ten years ago and says approximately 90% of its orders are for high efficiency ranges, while Hopkins, which incorporated the technology seven years ago, has sold nothing but high efficiency models for the last five years.
As well as attractive energy savings, which can be anywhere between 30% and 60% compared to a standard frying range, high efficiency has brought about a number of other significant benefits. For example, the increased control over the performance of the pan means a greater volume of food can be produced from a smaller footprint, oil lasts longer as it is heated at a more constant temperature, and because the cooking time is at a higher average temperature and is quicker, less oil is absorbed into the food, resulting in a healthier and better product.
As Florigo MD Robert Furey remarks:“High efficiency ranges are essential for anyone purchasing new equipment who is serious about their business.”
So what is the technology that fuels high efficiency? The main focus is the burner. In a high efficiency system the burner works on a gas to air ratio which is perfectly maintained throughout the burning process to ensure that the maximum possible amount of heat is transferred to, and retained at, the pan rather than being lost (this is often demonstrated by placing the hand safely onto the burner immediately after the burner flame is extinguished).
The technology varies slightly between manufacturers and, as such, efficiency figures do too. Middleton Ranges for example boasts over 89.5% thermal efficiency, whilst only consuming approximately 25kW per pan, while Hewigo claims its burners are 93% efficient and P&T 95%, all of which stack up well when compared to around 65% for a standard range.
The second element that has a major impact on the efficiency of the range are the pans — both the construction and the material and, once again, these vary depending on the manufacturer. Florigo, for example, uses high grade stainless steel for its pans and a design which incorporates fins on the inner pan and insulation on the outer pan which circulates the combusted gases around the pan before exhausting. By the time the gas exhausts, most of the heat has been taken from the combustion and into the pan where it is then retained.
Other manufacturers such as Scotrange and Hopkins swear by the use of heavy duty 6mm mild steel for their pans, claiming it not only conducts heat better but that it is a stronger material, thereby increasing the longevity of the pans. Scotrange’s MD Steve Wilkie comments: “Our system has not changed since we started making ranges and we’ve never had to change a pan in 13 years. What’s more, we’ve got customers taking out their six pan ranges and replacing them with our five pan ranges and getting busier because ours are ultra-efficient.”
With high efficiency pans retaining more heat, recovery is considerably quicker which is a major benefit to busy shops, as Florigo’s Rob Furey explains: “The pan will go back to the set point that you started frying at far quicker. This means out of an hour period you can get more product through the range. To cook the perfect chip will take X amount of time, this will not shorten with a high efficiency pan, however, when you take the chips out the pan, it will be back at the required temperature so you can reload the pan straight away instead of waiting for the pan to recover.”
Florigo can even profile a pan for a particular product by calculating how much gas and air goes into the pan and at what point through the cook cycle, thereby taking away the need for a skilled frier.
An additional benefit of high efficiency pans is their ability to heat oil consistently throughout the pan which, combined with the fact it is less aggressive, has the added benefit of helping to prolong oil life.
There’s often a common misconception among traditional range users about the longevity of high efficiency pans but, with over 15 years of research and development, they are now at a point where they are as reliable as, and will last as long as, a standard pan. And when you hear stories about how it costs £5,000 to replace a pan, this relates to the design of the range - the fact that the pans are welded to produce one seamless piece of kit - rather than the quality of the pan itself. If in doubt, always ask about pan warranties as KFE now offers a Platinum Plus option whereby friers can extend the pan warranty up to ten years when the five year warranty expires.
While the technology of the burner coupled with the pan construction is important, the key to efficiency is performance management as high efficiency pans are far more powerful than standard pans, so in turn more control is needed.
This is achieved by a controller, a computer if you like, that adjusts the burner to maintain the temperature on the basis of the volume of product in the pan. Again it’s an area that varies between manufacturers - Henry Nuttall works closely with Stork so it has individual designs unique to its range, Hopkins, meanwhile, spent two years developing its own GEN 4 intelligent controller, which regulates the gas between 28% and 100%, while KFE’s Kiremko range features the Argus controller.
KFE MD Paul Williams explains how it works: “On a standard range, when product is added to the pan the temperature drops down, the burner will activate and remain on until the pan returns to the set/frying temperature. This will cause override of temperature, damaging the frying medium. Argus controls the kW power input (between 25-100%) and as the temperature recovers the burner will switch on and off to “drift” in the temperature, limiting override but saving on energy. In basic terms, if it takes five minutes to fry a fish on a standard range, the burner will be on for the full five minutes at full power. With a high efficiency pan, it could be on for four minutes (at various power levels), burner off for 20 seconds then back on for 15 seconds and so on.”
It’s this reduction in power used and burner on/off that can reduce gas bills by over 50%, says Paul.
As well as the obvious cost savings, this also ensures a consistent cook irrespective of the pan load. This used to be a skill required by the frier, but now it allows a less experienced frier to produce the best food.
With these three pieces of technology all working together, operators can expect to make substantial savings when they invest in a high efficiency range, as Hewigo MD Phillip Purkiss explains: “We estimate, based on our customers’ actual experience, that these savings are 30% in fuel consumption, 40% in oil usage and 20% in raw materials. Add to this the reduced emission of waste gases and you can see it’s an attractive proposition.
“As a guide we would estimate that an operator in an average shop would save between £100-£200 per month on gas consumption with a three pan high efficiency range compared with the equivalent standard range. With a purchase price differential of around £5,000 that cost would be re-cooped in two to four years. Naturally the greater the turnover, the greater the saving. As fuel prices are set to rise again this is a real consideration.”
It all sounds pretty tempting, but is there anything friers need to be aware off when considering high efficiency? Well, one of the downsides is the very fine carbon that it creates within the pan, so friers do have to pay more attention to filtering.
Having said that, some range manufacturers have responded to this by re-engineering their filtration system to handle this issue, as Florigo’s Rob Furey explains: “We have upgraded our pump in order to mechanically drag the oil through a pad that oil would not normally be able to travel through, enabling us to remove a greater amount of impurities from the frying medium. We have also introduced a heat pad underneath for solid oil users allowing them to top up their oil while they fry without any temperature drop. For more information on our Active Triple Filtration system, take a look at the video on our website at www.florigo.co.uk.”
As with any range, it’s vital to make sure it’s properly serviced to maintain the highest levels of efficiency and waste gas output control. Your service engineer should use a gas analyser to do this. It’s all part of the credibility factor. And always check the aftersales care. If you have a problem with your range, you want to know engineers are available and that they can get out to you promptly to fix that problem.
Naturally, friers will have digital controls to get to grips with rather than manual, which are found on traditional frying ranges. However, as Henry Nuttall’s Jack Price says, these are very user friendly and with some training, friers will soon feel comfortable with the new controls, adding: “Once this is mastered, there would be little difference and the customer can enjoy a powerful, quick recovering machine with all the savings across oil and gas.”
It’s also advised that friers ask to see proof of how efficient a range is - and not just the figures relating to the burners or the pans, but the actual output figure for the range as a whole. While Dutch ranges are independently approved and regulated for efficiency levels by Gastech, the government body in Holland, and will therefore have a certificate, traditional range manufacturers will have internal readings that they should be able to provide. For example, Henry Nuttall is governed by testing and certification body KIWA, as Jack explains: “They produce all our certification for this product and carry out the testing themselves in regards to our design and development process. This is how we know that our ECO range will always ensure 96% efficiency.”
Offering a word of warning is Terry Cowell, director at Mallinson’s of Oldham, who says it’s important to look at your opening hours and your turnover to see if it warrants spending the additional on a high efficiency range, adding:“About 80% of the ranges we sell are high efficiency. Having said that I would only recommend high efficiency in a really busy shop. We’ve got a customer now who is only open 16 hours a week, so it’s pointless him spending the extra money on high efficiency as he won’t be using the gas levels to benefit from the efficiency.”
Of course, the final decision is down to the operator and nothing is more important than doing a little hands-on research and visiting shop owners who are working on high efficiency ranges. Try before you buy is the approach KFE’s Paul Williams always recommends, adding: “You don’t need to see a frier’s gas bill. Just watch the amount of product they put in the pan, watch the temperature that they are frying at, watch the recovery time of the pans and look and taste the quality of their cooked product.”
If there is still doubt, Paul invites friers to his Market Deeping showroom where they can test fry with their own product, adding: “Check the amount of chips you fry and make a note of your frying temperature and the time it takes to fry them. Bring the same product to our showroom and we’ll prove the benefits of a Kiremko high efficiency range.”
Hennighans opts for an Omega from ME-FF
David Henningan, owner of Hennighans Top Shop, recalls his parents buying the shop’s first range at a cost of £5,200 when they first converted the corner shop in the Welsh village of Machynlleth. Thirty years on and two ranges later, it’s all changed with a four pan Omega high efficiency frying range from ME-FF taking pride of place.
“As part of a refurbishment, we decided to update the frying range as the old one just couldn’t copy anymore. It was getting a hammering,” explains David. “While I wasn’t initially considering high efficiency, the more I looked at ranges, the more inevitable it seemed I was going to get it. It’s the way the trade is going, everyone is looking at cutting costs, so by putting something in that is going to save you money in the long run helps make your profit margins that bit better.”
Having travelled to numerous shops to try out various ranges, David was sold on a ME-FF. “I was impressed with the build quality and the fact that you could switch from basket frying to non-basket, depending on what suited us,” explains David. “The heat recovery was brilliant too, you can drop another batch of chips in straight away, there’s no downtime waiting for it to recover. I knew that would make a huge difference to us in the height of the season, as we are in a tourist area and trade doubles.”
With the range living up to David’s expectations, it’s had an immediate impact on trade, with David adding: “We used to have queues for about an hour but now the longest anyone has to wait is 30 minutes and our turnover is greater.
“Although I’ve not worked out the actual gas savings yet, I know I’m using about the same amount as before but we’ve been busier and I’ve got two extra pans, so I can already see that it’s cheaper.”
ME-FF 01642 489868 www.me-ff.com