Radiant Fryer Taste Test Delivers Split Decision
Purdue's Kevin Keener demonstrates the radiant fryer.
Purdue Agricultural Communication file photo/Tom Campbell

For manufacturers of fried foods, a radiant fryer may someday influence how they prep products for market.

Many fast-food products such as chicken patties and hash browns are partially fried during the manufacturing process, then frozen and shipped to restaurants for a final frying prior to serving. A Purdue University professor has developed a radiant fryer that uses short-wave infrared heating in place of deep frying in an attempt to reduce the fat content by up to 50 percent while retaining the familiar fried flavor and texture.

While Kevin Keener, a professor in the Department of Food Science at the West LaFayette, Ind.-based university, was successful in reducing the fat content, at a recent taste test challenge, he only managed a split decision. Panelists' preferences were nearly equally divided between chicken patties fried in the radiant fryer and those fried in a conventional oil immersion fryer, a Purdue study showed.

While panelists preferred the flavor and less oily texture of the radiant-fried patties, they preferred the crispiness and appearance of immersion-fried chicken patties. Panelists were split on their overall preference: 34 favored the radiant-fried patty, and 33 selected the immersion-fried patty. One panelist did not indicate a preference.

For the study, 68 panelists were recruited on the basis of age, preference for fried chicken products, and a habit of eating "fast food" at least two times a month. Panelists rated randomly numbered samples of chicken patties on the basis of flavor, crispiness, oiliness, appearance and overall preference.

This was the first study to compare the properties and consumer appeal of radiant fried and oil immersion fried chicken patties. It was also the first to use the new pilot scale radiant fryer, which has 10 independent radiant heating zones, compared with five zones in the previous laboratory model. Adjustable halogen "emitters" heat partially fried food products as they are conveyed through the fryer. The study is available on the website of the journal LWT – Food Science and Technology at http://bit.ly/11xcHUB. A video from 2012 showing the radiant fryer oven in operation can be viewed at http://youtu.be/xrpj4IpibcM.