Each year a large number of fires occur in commercial kitchens which can result in extensive property damage, business interruption or injury. Deep fat fryers are a major cause of kitchen fires. Oil can splash and easily come into contact with an open flame from an adjacent piece of cooking equipment, such as a gas fired range top. The safe installation and use of deep fryers is essential for the safe operation of any commercial kitchen. The following guidelines are recommended:
A 16-inch clearance must be maintained between the deep fat fryer and the open flame cooking equipment. If this clearance is not met, open flames have the potential to ignite the cooking oil. If a 16-inch clearance is not possible, a vertical barrier (normally called a metal baffle) extending 12 inches above the top of the deep fat fryer or open flame appliances can be used as an alternative means of protection.
The normal temperature for food service frying is 325 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. As oil (vegetable or animal fat) temperature increases, so does the risk of an accidental grease fire. All deep fat fires should be equipped with a high temperature limiting device, which will shut off the fuel or energy in the event the cooking oil exceeds a temperature of 457 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the primarily differences in using animal fat vs. vegetable oil, vegetable oil cooks at a higher temperature.
The older the grease, the greater the hazard. When a temperature controller malfunctions, the temperature of the fat can readily increase to the self-ignition point and the vapors will catch fire from the excess temperature. All of the fat in the fryer, not just the surface, will be at the self-ignition point. This is why oil in the fryer station needs to be replaced once a day. Most restaurants with a commercial kitchen perform this function each morning before opening for business. Grease and residue deposits need to be continuously cleaned from the surface areas of the fryers, surrounding floor and all control devices on the equipment.
All grease-laden, vapor producing cooking equipment which includes ranges, deep fat fryers and steamers should be installed in compliance with NFPA 96 which is the Standard for Ventilation Control & Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations. This guideline has been adopted by most insurers including CIBA Insurance Services.
Automatic extinguishing protection for deep fat fryer stations is needed. This system is essential for deep fat fryer protection because of the intensity of the fat fires and because of the inaccessibility of the areas above the filters and in the exhaust ducts. If water is applied improperly to a fire in a deep fat fryer, boil-over will occur, which can result in serious injury and spread beyond the fryer station and kitchen hood area. The automatic fire extinguishing system would protect the area above the hood filters, exhaust ducts and all cooking surfaces under the filters – which includes deep fat fryers. The system should be UL-300 Complaint and tested semi-annually. The kitchen exhaust system should be cleaned every 3-4 months with the filters inside the kitchen hood cleaned daily. A Type “K” fire extinguisher should be installed 10 feet from the commercial kitchen. These types of fire extinguishers are specifically designed to be used in greases fires from grill or deep fat fryer station.
Individuals using the deep fat fryer should wear tight-fitting kitchen clothes or a uniform. This should also include personal protective equipment (PPE) such as oven mitts and/or arm protectors.
These guidelines have been developed to provide the maximum safe use of deep fryers and limit the potential for commercial cooking equipment fires.