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Why The Boil Out Method Works Against Employees To Remove Carbon from Fryers

You can not beat, on the job experience

I am Jared Brague, the creator of The Fry Right System, which was created from on the job training in commercial kitchens.  The traditional boil out method used by commercial kitchen employees to remove carbon from fryers is very ineffective.  I have been scrubbing fryers for over 5 years now.  When I first started, boil out was the only option, and not a part of my job description.  Fry Right only consulted locations concerning their filtering needs at that time.  We were able to help locations reach 7 day cycles without losing any quality through proper filtration.

As I worked with many different commercial kitchens, I was able to see that frying was the same across the spectrum.  It was very apparent that there was something else impacting oil longevity and food quality, besides the carbon and debris in the oil.  Even though our partners were filtering properly twice a day, fryer vats were still getting dirtier over time.  Because I never did a boil out, I had no knowledge of the process.  I knew it was important so I started looking around for a partner who would teach me how fryer vats were cleaned.  Upon my request, Jared Gibbs let me observe him perform the boil out method.

He was the General Manager of the Fiesta Ole on 17th St. in Idaho Falls, ID.  Fiesta Ole rented machines and filters from Fry Right, at first, before the system focused on vat cleaning.  After I had an idea about the process it was time to gain experience.  I got him and one of his trusted employees to help me do an overnight, 4 vat, boil out gig at the Red Robin down the street.  We went in at 10pm and came out at 6am the next morning.  It was eight hours of pure disgusting hell!  I called my boss that very morning we emerged from Red Robin, and told him I was going to quit if he made me do that again.  He was like, “I didn’t make you do it?!”

No one gets paid enough to deal with that sh#$!  My body hurt from head to toe.  My back was wrecked.  We all looked like we had been swallowed by a boogie monster and thrown back up.  The smell never came out of the shirt or pants I wore that night. I am pretty sure I burned them.  I have never scrubbed and scraped so hard in all my life, along with two other people kicking butt beside me!  When we finished those four, 82lbs., fryer vats they looked gorgeous.  The kitchen manager who sat and watched us all night said they looked “sexy”.  When you have a beautiful piece of stainless steel with beautiful golden oil glimmering at you, it’s something to be proud of!

I think Fry Right was paid $300 dollars for that cleaning experiment.  It was not worth it!  The worst part was seeing all that hard work amount to nothing. It did not take any time at all for those beautiful fryers to start looking like skank again.  It was beyond maddening, and made me feel like it was all for not.  Scrub your heart out and a short time later, do it again and again, with no end or sense of accomplishment in sight.  That is an extremely long, skanky, demoralizing, dark tunnel to stair down when your considering your future, and employment options.

Epidemic: Carbon gets everywhere if not kept in check

frying basket covered with carbonOil and carbon covered filter panInside of fryer is covered in carbonFilter pan base covered in carbonThe boil out method has been passed down from generation to generation, management to management, crew to crew.  No one really knows who created it, or where it came from.  It’s just how things get done in a commercial kitchen.  I am certain it is a common sense thing.  There are generally instructions on the back of cleaner packets, as if they ever actually use their own product in the field.  Unfortunately there is nothing common sense about cleaning off carbon, except it is really hard.  Only people with an incredible work ethic, and unwavering determination in the face of insurmountable odds, can produce decent results with carbon removal over time.  Most QSR GMs are not culinary graduates, but have on the job training and experience.  They are just there grinding it out; “I’ve been doing this for over 35 years, don’t tell me what works!”  It is very rewarding when these people learn how easy it is to keep carbon in check!

The cleaning of a vat  is one of the most important jobs in the commercial kitchen.  How clean your vat is, reflects your fried food quality.  It directly impacts customer experience, which then effects frequency of visits.  The success of a restaurant is completely dependent upon frequently returning customers.  Due to the ineffectiveness of a few too many things concerning the boil out process, carbon has become an epidemic in the commercial kitchen industry.  You have to work you’re a$$ off to get fryers clean, if you can.  I was my own boss and I was ready to quit because I felt like I was not paid enough for how hard and horrible the work was.   Go look below the oil line in any local commercial kitchen fryer.  It will be black with carbon residue all over, even after a boil out.  Carbon spreads out of corners, around protrusions, and attaches to side walls of burners.  It is astonishing how quickly carbon builds up inside a fryer vat.  One day its clean, and the next its black.  Considered in some kitchens as impossible to deal with,  a bunch of restaurants go so far as to pay outside companies a lot of money to clean their fryers for them.  Totally unnecessary, but completely understandable!

Why so much carbon

First let us discuss why carbon is so prevalent.  Frying is trying to produce carbon.  It is it’s sole goal and purpose in life.  Frying eats, sleeps and breaths, carbon production.  Frying knows no other way but carbon creation.  The very act of frying is applying equal amounts of heat around a food so that the entire food cooks quickly, efficiently and equally to a crisp.  When things are left in frying oil, they will cook until they turn dark and crumble to ash.  Just look at the examples to the left.  Different stages of break down

Food particle size contributes to how quickly food matter turns to carbon.  Larger pieces take several hours to carbonize  and are generally taken out before they start falling apart.  Small pieces (like off of a tater tot) brakes down to carbon extremely fast.  Letting tot crumbs sit in your oil makes for a very carbon infested frying environment.  Best example would be dissolving a piece of hard candy in your mouth.  Big pieces take forever.  Take that same piece of hard candy and smash it into tiny pieces and it dissolves almost instantly.

Size of carbon matter, matters

The creation of carbon is pretty extreme science, but carbon itself is pretty incredibly small science.  It is the fundamental building block for organic matter. The size of carbon is measured in microns.  The link is a size comparison chart through the medical field.  Eight micron is the size of a red blood cell.  Point six micron, that is right 0.6, is the size of a carbon particulate.  People who use high micron filtration are not paying attention to the science around frying.  There is advise given in the frying industry, that says, if you want cleaner oil, do more filtering sessions.  That makes no sense when you use the the fry right system.  If you have a 300 micron filter (paper cone filter) and you filter 100 times.  How would you be able to filter out anything smaller than 300 micron? There is sediment build up, but honestly that is not going to get you any where near 0.6 micron, which is required to remove carbon from oil.

Scrubbing alone is not enough

visible carbon sign in fryer vatbeautiful clean shiny stainless steel fryer vatCarbon is a nasty adversary.  It seems like it bonds to everything.  The backs and fronts of fryers are notorious hang outs.  Depending upon vat design, there is big flat surfaces for thick black sheets of carbon to accumulate, it really loves building out of corners.  Carbon size allows it to get into the tiniest of places.  Over time it wrecks havoc through creating and filling leaks.  The stuff is wicked destructive on pumps, which then in turn hurts the motor of filter machines.  Probably why there is such a huge filter machine industry.  What most people don’t realize is that if your oil is clean, the mechanical parts of your machine last a very long time.  Carbon lays down one layer at a time, which means if you can see it, there is an extremely large amount that has built up over time.  When you try to scrub carbon off, it’s like sanding a wooden desk.  I often say that to people who have been working kitchens for a while.  It is always fun to see them realize something they have noticed without being conscious of it.  Unless you have an awesome protocol and effective cleaner, carbon is painfully hard to remove. It comes off one layer at a time, in scalding hot water, with back braking scrubbing and skillful putty knife scraping.  The vat picture above and to the left is considered awesome clean in the industry.  Not by Fry Right standards, but good enough.  Most general managers would be very happy with how this vat looks.  I am proud to say that the second picture is the same vat and is the current standard that this location’s crew achieves every cycle.

Beware the common cleaner

Fryer cleaner sold through food service providersBackside of orange fryer cleaner packetBrown Label Fryer Cleaner PacketBackside of brown label fryer cleaner packetSpeaking of cleaners, the most common cleaner sold to commercial kitchens by food service providers is a toxic chemical cleaner with various names.  It all looks the same, but different colors and different labels, depending upon the food service provider and franchise.  I am convinced they all get it from the same place.  On each package is a warning; “CAUSES DIGESTIVE TRACT, EYE AND SKIN BURNS. CAUSES RESPIRATORY TRACT IRRITATION. MAY BE HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED.”  Employees are instructed to scrub out a vat after it starts boiling with this stuff in it!  This means there is water splashing around and steam bellowing out of the vat, all over the employee.  If you want something done fast you have to hustle which means splashing. Every time I did an effective boil out, it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  I was a wet mess at the end.  I never used any kind of face mask or apron.  You might be surprised to know that most places supply neither.  Who has time for that anyways?  It’s just a part of the job so “get-r-done”, I have a family to feed!

The conditions require really thick impervious gloves to perform scrubbing during a boil out.  The water is scalding hot, and the employees skin carbon and skainky covered fryercarbon and skainky covered fryer vatneeds to be protected from the cleaner as well.  This makes it so you can’t feel anything, you must rely solely on sight to know if the vat got cleaned well.  Poor lighting around fryers makes it easier to over look things.  The ends of your fingers will get numb after a short time from the hot water, which makes it even harder to apply any kind of pressure behind your scrubbing.  As you quickly work your way down the vat in deplorable conditions, many things are passed over quickly, or not touched at all.  This is where expectations begin to be compromised.  It is not the fault of the people involved, but the process that is unable to help them achieve good results.  From area director to the employee performing the task, they will not push a person to try to make a vat look perfect every time, it is just too hard!  It is better to have a dirty vat then to keep losing employees, turnover can get super expensive if it happens too frequently.

Always assigned to one person

Now let us delve into the mentality we are working with.  Minimum wage employees have a minimum wage employee mentality.  They have been convinced that they don’t get paid enough to care.  I have been told by crew  members that they are not paid enough to think.  Sounds dangerous when your frying food for human consumption, but whatever.  There is so much negative banter everywhere regarding minimum wage it is no wonder.  Due to this, generally most boil outs are done by the management team in the quick service restaurant industry.  The GM, AGM or KM are in charge of getting the boil out done right.

shiney stainless steel fryer with golden oil in it Clean Vat Fiesta 1st St 2The reason this job has to be done right is because it is so very important!  It is the one chance per cycle to clean a fryer on the inside.  People would love to take their oil 7 days, but most are between 3 and 5 day cycles.  The Fry Right System has taken oil 18 days, but conditions were perfect.  When you can make a fryer look brand new each time it is cleaned, you reset and stabilize the frying environment.  Food looks and tastes better, oil lasts longer, it is a win, win.  Making a fryer look brand new seems impossible to most commercial kitchen employees.

The management teams are the only ones with incentive enough to try to do a good job.  If you can’t be trusted, this will never be your job, and employees know it.  Cycle after cycle, carbon is created and fryer cleanings are attempted.  Due to the consistent carbon production in frying, keeping fryers clean is an endurance run.  No matter how hard you clean, the carbon comes back.  It is very hard to do something over and over again when it seems like you never make progress.  It beats down upon the morale of the person performing the task.  The second major problem with one person being assigned the boil out task is when they are absent.  People have lives and when it is left up to one person to get it done, boil outs get missed.  That is when ground is really lost.  This most commonly happens when you have to replace the person responsible for doing the boil out.  Turnover is definitely a major contributor to losing ground with fryer cleanliness and fried food quality.

thick black carbon baked to the inside of a fryer vatThick black carbon covered fryer vatThick black carbon covered fryer vatbroken nasty dirty fryer vatDue to the grind in a commercial kitchen, it is easy for vats to go for long periods of time without getting a good cleaning.  Once you lose too much ground, it seems practically impossible to gain it back.  One location that sticks out in my mind is a commercial kitchen that had not boiled out their vats for over 10 years.  10 YEARS! It was incredibly disgusting.  It took 3 Beautiful clean shiny new looking fryer vatSuper clean, brand new looking fryer vatshiny clean, brand new fryer vatshiny clean, brand new looking fryer vatof us 4 hours using The Fry Right System protocol, training and cleaner to make these fryers look brand new again.  It was rough, we defiantly paid our dues.  The pictures in the second row to the left are a month following that initial cleaning pictured in the fist row.  There is still no sign of any carbon creeping back into the vats.

Doing the same thing, expecting different results = crazy!

Using the traditional boil out method makes it impossible for employees to get vats as clean as they need to be, yet everyone does boil out.  Over time frying programs experience turn over, sub par work ethic, and consistent cooking.  These factors help make the frying cycle start to degenerate.  The frying cycle begins losing days in the cycle and quality in the food.  Generally, well established high volume locations have 3 to 5 day cycles, while brand new locations with low volume can take their oil 7 days or more. Why do you think that is?  I am willing to bet it is because the fryers are brand new clean.  Cleaning a fryer vat is considered by anyone who has done it to be one of the worst jobs ever, yet fry right certified operators prefer cleaning fryers to grills in the kitchens we work with.  Why are you surprised?  The traditional boil out method for deep cleaning fryers is an archaic and out dated method, that demoralizes the employee, rather than helping them do a great job!

There is no way for a person to understand just how skanky and hard, boiling out a fryer is without the experience of actually cleaning a skanky fryer using the boil out method.  I would best sum it up as; horrible, hot, greasy, sweaty, smelly, slimy, steamy, stinky, nasty, noxious, boogery, and makes you feel plain gross.  This delicious concoction ends up coated all over your body by the time the boil out is done.  Scrubbing out a steaming hot vat of water with greasiness all over you is far from appealing.  I would dare say it’s repulsive. It literally makes my wife gag when I come home with boil out coated clothes.  Gives me anguish just thinking about it.  So how do you think the employee feels about their life, every time they have to go in and do a boil out at work?  It is a great motivator to search the classifieds, I can tell you that!

The Solution

Although these horrors may look and sound familiar, the fry right system was developed to address the very problems discussed in this article.  Don’t wait to help your employees become effective and successful at vat cleaning.  The fry right system helps employees produce better results with less effort.  We change the perspective concerning the fryer section of the commercial kitchen.  It is like giving an employee a raise without increasing their pay.  Turn a major chore into an easy job, it might be worth looking at.  Click here and get started today!