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Farewell to the Fryer: 5 Kitchen Equipment Alternatives on the Rise at Schools

April 11, 2019
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With our society becoming more health-conscious as a whole, educational facilities are taking the health of their students into their own hands. While fryers used to be a kitchen staple, schools are starting to adopt alternatives so they can offer healthier options to students. As a bonus, many of these alternatives are energy-efficient and cost-effective, so it’s a win-win for schools and students alike.

Below are five popular fryer alternatives and why they’re in hot demand:

  1. Ovens
    When it comes to school foodservice equipment, commercial-grade ovens are a go-to choice for many reasons. First, they can accommodate high-volume and fast-paced school foodservice needs. At the same time, the latest high-tech models are efficient and adaptable, so they’re perfect for specialty stations that are popular on campuses. And when it comes to the menu, oven-cooked options run the gamut. You can cook crowd-pleasing pizzas, prepare “fried” options that are baked alternatives, or even grill veggies. Ovens also offer precision cooking features, such as auto-load and unload, and customized cook times, so food cooks consistently and you reduce food waste.
  2. Air fryers
    One of the biggest differences between an air fryer and a deep fryer is the method they use to conduct heat. With deep fryers, food is submerged in hot oil to cook, whereas air fryers rely on heated air to cook the food. Another big difference? Because they’re coated in oil, deep-fried foods have an excess amount of fat, calories and other harmful components. Air fryers, on the other hand, use little to no oil and as a result, reduce the level of fat in foods. On top of their health benefits, air fryers are versatile and allow you to do more than just fry — you can grill, roast and even bake with them.
  3. Buffets
    While we’re on the topic of versatility, let’s talk buffets. Considering the range of buffet-friendly equipment available nowadays, such as warmers and mini-merchandisers, buffets are an energy-efficient way to incorporate a variety of healthy options, such as fresh-cooked vegetables and lean meats, into the menu. Modern buffet equipment also cuts down food waste costs, as it keeps a high volume of food at optimal temperatures for longer.
  4. Drawer warmers
    Similar to the energy-efficient buffet equipment available, warming drawers allow you to keep a variety of foods hot and fresh behind the scenes. With school lunch rushes, they’re a great solution, since they can accommodate a high volume of food and quick service times. They can hold everything from meats to vegetables, so you can easily offer fresh options to students. And even better, they give your foodservice staff the flexibility to prepare food in advance of peak serving times, so they’re not stressed when lunch rolls around.
  5. Cold shelving
    Now more than ever, cold food options are in demand among students, not only because they’re fresh but because they’re fast. While you’re considering fryer alternatives, don’t discount cooling equipment such as cold shelving to keep fruit and vegetables fresh. Since cold shelving units can be configured for a variety of settings, whether it’s cafeterias or specialty stations, they allow you to stock grab-n-go options throughout campus for students.

Stay ahead of the curve.

Now’s the time of year when you may be evaluating your kitchen equipment needs. Purchasing new equipment is a big decision, and while you may be reluctant to make a switch from your tried-and-true fryers, it’s a worthwhile consideration. As the school foodservice landscape continues to change, healthy fryer alternatives are becoming more mainstream, so make sure you’re keeping up with industry standards. For more inspiration, check out how the University of New Hampshire and this K-12 Indiana school district use our favorite fryer alternative (the oven!) to expand their fast and fresh offerings.