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

Ideas and Innovation
wheaton emerson int salad bar

Restaurant design is all about catching a customer’s eye —and it’s sometimes particularly beneficial to be far-sighted. As Airbnb has proven with its San Francisco headquarters, where cafe spaces are inspired by cities like Cairo and Mumbai, elaborate design schemes that evoke far-flung geographic regions can be done to great effect. But operators are finding simpler ways to achieve that feel.

That’s been the experience of Kutztown University Dining Services in Pennsylvania. Kent Dahlquist, director of housing and dining services, says that when the university decided several years...

Managing Your Business
overtime payroll timesheet

Just eight days before Dec. 1, when operators would have to comply with the U.S. Department of Labor’s new overtime rules, a federal judge in Texas slapped an injunction on the regulation. The move indefinitely halted the rules that would have doubled the overtime threshold to $47,476, affecting nearly 4.2 million workers, according to the DOL. For some operators, the move was too little, too late. Now, they have to answer to employees who had been briefed on promised wage increases.

Kansas Memorial Union at the University of Kansas in Lawrence made changes ahead of the deadline...

Ideas and Innovation
ucmc model

With a budget and timeline in place, and the support of the university behind them, the foodservice team at the University of Chicago Medical Center was ready to get rolling with the renovation of one of its patient services kitchens. The facility, which services the hospital’s Center for Care and Discovery and Comer Children’s Hospital, was tripling in size to serve two additional patient floors, to the tune of $9 million. But that didn’t mean immediately jumping in with steel and screws.

“First, we cut out scaled pieces of paper and moved things around,” says Elizabeth Lockwood,...

Managing Your Business
pizza toppings

When the FoodService Director editors first started tossing around the idea of an “influencers” issue, our minds immediately turned to, well, foodservice directors. After all, so much of the learning in this industry is a peer-to-peer experience, and it’s your influence that inspires the content in every single issue of this magazine.

Then we imagined the massive infighting that would occur if we tried to whittle ourselves down to a list of just 20 influential operators and thought better of it. There’s already enough arguing for us to do about which pizza toppings are best (...

FSD Resources