Tossing the Fryer

Operations turn to baking and roasting to create healthier-for-you versions of fried foods.

Published in FSD Update

Chandler Unified’s corn dog is no longer fried but is
baked in the oven.

Used to be, if you wanted to guarantee a dish’s popularity, just fry it. But as both diners and public policy makers have continued to push for healthier meal options, non-commercial operators are leaving fried foods by the wayside in favor of those that are baked or roasted. And in many cases, the results are just as delicious.

Recently updated nutrition standards for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs have prompted public schools to trim the fat. It’s not always easy: Roasted potatoes are periodically swapped in for hash browns during breakfast and lunch at Epping School District, in New Hampshire, but they aren’t as popular with students. “This is an ongoing learning experience, so trial and error is our focus these days,” says Veronica Bush, foodservices supervisor. 

Other schools, like Chandler Unified School District, in Arizona, don’t consider frying to be an acceptable option. “The fact is, we just haven’t fried in years,” says Nutrition Supervisor Wesley Delbridge, R.D. “All of the poultry and beef we bring in house is either baked or roasted, and nothing in our in-house bakery is ever fried.” The chicken corn dog that’s purchased from an outside vendor is also ovenable, and Delbridge is even looking into buying lower fat french fries that are not par-fried at the manufacturer level. 

Hancock Regional Hospital, in Greenfield, Ind., has found success offering baked or grilled versions of formerly fried favorites, like baked french fries, baked chicken fingers and grilled fish sandwiches. The most popular dish, though, might be oven-fried chicken breasts, seasoned with paprika and onion powder and breaded with crispy crushed corn flakes. “We started serving the oven-fried chicken to our patients about a year and a half ago, and it was so popular that we added it to our cafeteria menu,” says Sandi Bernhard, coordinator for nutritional services. “Most of the patients say they like it because it isn’t greasy and it has a really good flavor. And we’re also able to serve it to our patients who are on modified diets.”

It’s a similar story at West Virginia University, in Morgantown, where frying was eliminated six years ago. There, the residential dining facility nixed most breaded items that would typically be prepared in a fryer. Breaded chicken strips were replaced with grilled chicken breast strips, and french fries were dropped in favor of roasted red skin potatoes or brown rice. Donald Fike, residential dining manager, says at first students found the no-fry concept tough to take. He says what softened the blow was that the change came at the beginning of the school year as opposed to the middle of a semester. “We underwent a major renovation during the summer,” Fike says. “When the students returned, we started the year not offering deep-fried foods. They did not miss it as bad as they might have if we were to try [to make] the change in the middle of the school year.” 

Meanwhile, the few items on the menu that are still breaded, like breaded chicken breasts, are baked in combi ovens. Best of all, the university has been able to use money that was previously spent on fryers and frying oil to increase fresh items served at the salad bar. “The student response has been great over the years, as the students find there are healthier options that are good tasting as well as good for you,” Fike says. 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Noncommercial foodservice operations and other employers would be spared from costly new overtime pay regulations if 21 states succeed in the legal challenge they jointly filed yesterday.

The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to set aside the rules, which are scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1.

If the court rejects the request, restaurants and other businesses will be required after that date to pay overtime to any salaried employee who works more than 40 hours in a week and earns less than $47,476 on an annual basis.

The...

Industry News & Opinion

The new unpaid-balance policy at Canon-McMillan School District in Pittsburgh is making waves after a former cafeteria worker sounded off about the practice on social media.

Stacy Koltiska said she quit her job with the district after being forced to take hot meals away from students who owed lunch money, CBS News reports .

Under a new policy that was implemented at Canon-McMillan this year, students whose lunch debt exceeds $25 are not allowed to receive a hot lunch. Children in grades K-6 are given a sandwich in its place, and older students receive no lunch. A recent...

Industry News & Opinion

Due to low participation in its lunch program, Talawanda School District in Oxford, Ohio, is raising the price of school meals this year, Patch.com reports .

The cost of school lunches will see a 30-cent increase, half of which is being enacted to cover the district’s budget. The other half is being required by the government to cover the cost of free and reduced-price lunches provided to low-income families. Prior to this year, the district had not raised prices since 2009.

The district’s cafeterias have experienced a decline in student participation since implementing the...

Industry News & Opinion

Six Philadelphia hospitals were honored by the city’s department of public health for healthy food initiatives introduced as part of the local Good Food, Healthy Hospitals program, bizjournals.com reports .

The hospitals each debuted healthy measures to their dining services, such as lowering the cost of water bottles and seltzers, and offering dishes that incorporate local produce. One hospital was also honored for operating its own organic farm.

The facilities that were honored were:

Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Eastern...

FSD Resources