Making a mixed drink? Use a blender.
Creating pizza dough? Use a commercial mixer.
Mixing batter or seasoned oil for freshly fried menu items? The answer isn’t as clear.
With limited kitchen space and limited budgets, commercial foodservice operators must make choices about the equipment they use. If the equipment doesn’t fit the application or performs poorly, however, it’s not serving the operation well.
Traditional options for mixing
Batter or seasoned oil are typically mixed one of three ways: by hand, by commercial blender or by stand mixer.
Using blenders or stand mixers may get the job done, but they each have shortcomings that can negatively impact the final menu item.
Blenders spin very fast, which is a benefit for crushing ice or making smoothies. When blending batter, the high-speed blades aerate the mixture too much. In other words, there are too many air bubbles in the batter, which is not good for food consistency or quality.
The construction of blenders also plays a role in reliability. Plastic or glass vessels are not as sturdy as stainless steel and can break or be damaged more easily. Ultra-high-speed blender motors need airflow to keep them cool, but that design means that dust, flour or other particles can clog the blender and cause it to fail.
Stand mixers combine ingredients in a vessel using a top-down attachment. This design is ideal for starchy foods, such as breads and dough. These items must be kneaded, using the moisture to bind it together and create a solid form. It is less ideal for products such as batter and seasoned oil, where the dry ingredients are integrated, but the final product is still a liquid.
Proper design for mixing batter and seasoned oil
These pieces of equipment are not optimal for mixing batter or oil. An ideal piece of equipment would consider several factors that can help create a quality product.
The RPMs should lead to the right amount of aeration ― enough so that the ingredients are well mixed, but not so high that the amount of air bubbles degrades the mixture. The vessel needs to be robust to withstand the demands of a commercial kitchen, and its shape should help ensure ingredients are blended completely.
But perhaps the most important consideration is the blade design. Instead of the sharp edges found in a blender’s blades, smooth edges better mix the product.
With a blade design that is more like a plane wing, ingredients can flow over and under the paddle. With a “wing” that goes all the way across the bottom of the mixing vessel, it can create enough of a vortex to blend the ingredients together properly. The angle of the blade also matters. If the angle was too steep, some of the dry particles would get caught on the bottom side of the wing. If there was too little of an angle, the vortex isn’t created to mix the batter properly, and the dry particles will clump and pile on the blade.
Mixing to the right consistency
These design elements ― blade size and angle and rotation speed ― can come together to create the right product consistency. If batter or seasoned oil are poorly mixed, however, there can be detrimental results.
When anything dry mixes with a liquid, it’s very hard to get them to blend and have it not clump up. Clumps in the batter or “sludge” at the bottom of the vessel indicates that all the dry ingredients have not been properly mixed into the liquid.
This scenario can harm the flavor profile and even negatively impact consumer experience.
For menu items like Nashville hot chicken, operators mix oil with flavorings and spices. Combining oil and solid particles, such as red pepper flakes, presents a different challenge than batter. These particles don’t dissolve; they sink and cannot stay suspended in the oil.
In order to reconstitute the mixture, it either needs to be hand whisked or re-combined using equipment. If the oil is not mixed frequently enough, the flavor particles can clump up and harden on the bottom, which compromises the flavor profile of the food. Oftentimes, the mixture needs to be thrown away, leading to food waste and increased ingredient expenses.
Operational impact of mixing solutions
Mixing via commercial mixers and blenders, or mixing by hand, also present operational challenges. Adequate labor continues to be a challenge for foodservice operations. Hand-mixing requires training in order to do it well, as well as a commitment to following the procedure each time. Dedicating a team member to frequently hand mix batter or oil ― and remixing as needed ― may not be feasible with other back-of-house responsibilities.
Using mixtures that have settled or separated negatively impacts the customer experience, but so does equipment downtime. With frequent blender breaks, an operator has to wait for a replacement or service call ― or employ an alternative mixing method.
Operations need an automated solution that ensures properly mixed items, as well as flavor consistency, for making freshly fried items to order.
A new type of mixing solution
The food prep specialists at AyrKing are well-versed in the fresh food trend. They recognized a gap in the market and the need for a better way to blend batter, seasoned oils and other liquids. Working with a leading QSR seafood chain ― with other chains joining along the way ― AyrKing developed a dedicated mixing solution that would automate the process and improve reliability, consistency and flavor profiles: the Mixstir.
The Mixstir keeps product consistently blended and ready to cook or serve while eliminating the need for labor-intensive hand stirring or the use of improper equipment. The Mixstir is unique due to the combination of the vessel, blade design and speed of blade rotation.
Unlike conventional blenders, which tend to clog and break in certain applications, the equipment features a robust, stainless-steel vessel. Additionally, the blade design has no sharp edges which allows it to better mix the product. With a slower speed of rotation compared to standard blenders, there is no unwanted aeration added, which impacts the flavor profile and quality of batters, sauces and oils.