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Inventors create 'radiant fryer' oven; healthier fried foods without oil

Inventors create 'radiant fryer' oven; healthier fried foods without oil

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A Purdue University professor has developed a fryer that requires no additional oil to produce fried food that looks and tastes the same as with the traditional method.

Fried chicken fans, this one's for you.

A Purdue University professor has developed a fryer that requires no additional oil to produce fried food that looks and tastes the same as with the traditional method.

Associate professor Kevin Keener developed the prototype oven, which "fries" food without using a bath of oil like traditional deep fryers.

The benefits to losing all that oil: far less fat and calories, but with the same appearance and taste as the old method.

Better still, it's faster.

So how's it work? The oven emits wavelengths of radiant energy to cook food products, and can be adjusted with enough precision to cook the inside of food without cooking its exterior, for example.

Or, for the scientists out there, the theory as explained in the team's paper:

In studying the immersion frying process, Hubbard & Farkas observed the dynamic nature of frying noting the continuous changes in rates of oil and moisture migration, moisture evaporation, crust formation, and the heat flux experienced by the food. It was later proposed that the high rate of heat flux partially governs the development of sensory characteristics inherent to frying. The heat flux experienced by a product during frying is dynamic, with initial rates approaching 30kW/m2 then decreasing during subsequent frying...it was concluded that an alternative frying method should mimic this heat flux profile.

That means the oven requires specific instructions on how to cook each type of food. A drawback to that exacting nature: it doesn't work so well with irregularly shaped items.

Potato chips, chicken nuggets or fish sticks, on the other hand, are much easier.

"If we precisely control a product's size and shape, we can produce the same thing every time, like a perfectly browned, round chicken patty," Keener said in a statement.

The uniformity also allows the oven to function rapidly: It's been estimated to fry 300 dozen donuts per hour.

It can also reheat refrigerated or frozen products, and works best with partially fried -- par-fried -- products, such as frozen french fries and similar items in the freezer aisle.

Keener and Brian Farkas, a food scientist at North Carolina State University, are co-inventors of the patent-pending oven design.

Food from the machine proved indistinguishable to taste testers from food made the traditional, oil-soaked way.

Keener has partnered with the Indiana-based Anderson Tool and Engineering Co. to produce a commercial prototype. The company recently completed a computer design of the oven and has begun to assemble some of its parts, and plans to have the oven built and working by the end of the year.

Here's Keener talking about the project:

And here's the radiant fryer in action:

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure