A dessert style donut is an indulgent treat that benefits greatly from the right shortening being utilized. Flavor and performance are the most important factors to consider for a bakery when choosing a preferred donut fry shortening. With these products, the key benefits are taste, performance and tradition.

“For me flavor and performance would be up there,” says Peter Kolavo, executive chef for leading shortening manufacturer South Chicago Packing, when considering what product to use in donut frying. “In general, you would like a shortening that tastes great, holds up well under extended high heat cooking applications, is economical and ideally a harder fat for better shelf life and mouthfeel. You want something that enhances, but not overpowers, the end product.”

Chef Peter says that you should stick with a hard fat, as opposed to a liquid shortening. Although some people have good results with liquid shortenings, there are several considerations for your own process.

“A more solid, harder shortening helps with fat migration and weeping, which in turn help with better shelf life and stability,” he says. “If the fat is too liquid and soft, it can blot and get soggy. If the fat is too hard, it may leave a waxy feeling on the palate, so it is good to go with a happy medium like lard or tallow or palm or coconut. They do not polymerize or form gums as readily as liquid shortenings and hold up better under continuous high heat cooking applications.”

South Chicago Packing’s All Donut looks to check all the boxes when it comes to the donut frying process. It is a hard fat, made from deodorized beef tallow, that is very heat stable, resistant to oxidation and other stressors, has longevity and stability and has a great mild flavor that enhances fried dough products.

The advantage tallow has over modern engineered vegetable shortening, according to Kolavo, is that is has an edge in flavor, performance and longevity.

“Modern engineered vegetable shortenings can be made to hold up very well under high heat, as well as be very hard fats to help with migration and blotting issues, but they often do not have the flavor profile that tallow or lard does,” he says. “Tallow matches or exceeds the fry life of palm, coconut or interesterified/ hydrogenated vegetable products, while contributing a desirable flavor profile.”

The choice of fat is a large component of the final donut experience and should be carefully considered based on your tastes and needs. Kolavo says that certain guests or customers may prefer an even more flavorful experience and opt for SCP Lard, a filtered, full flavored lard for traditional recipes like apple cider donuts or fritters, or SCP Wagyu Beef Tallow, a more full flavored beef tallow that is extremely silky and rich, good for fruit beignets and frybreads.

Roger Daniels, vice president of research, development and innovation at Stratas Foods, concurs that hard fats, including high oleic soybean shortening, are optimum for frying donuts.

“If you have a hard fat, that prevents more oil from transferring to the surface of the donut,” Daniels says. “Also, the longer the donut sits under a heat lamp, the more grease is going on the donut. A donut is a sponge. But a hard fat solidifies post-fry.”

Stratas’ Golden Flex donut frying shortening is an all soybean formula shortening made from high oleic soybean and soybean oils. It replaces the need for PHOs (partially hydrogenated oils), whose nutritional negative was that the process to achieve them also caused trans fat. Golden Flex is able to achieve PHO attributes without trans by using the process of IE (Enzymatic Interesterification) and Flex technology.

“Golden Flex delivers a combination of shortening components which contribute to the desired flavor components of a dessert donut. The Stratas approach achieves PHOs performance without the PHOs,” Daniels says.

The IE process creates an integrated shortening as opposed to a blend of oil and fat components. Utilization of high oleic soybean oil confers frying stability and the IE process places this oil input into a preferred ratio with soybean oil to yield a shortening with the desired functional characteristics.

Daniels says that an all soybean formula shortening made from high oleic soybean and soybean oils is ideal for this process.

“During the frying operation, the donut dough is placed in the fryer and subjected to the frying process. This is in essence a dehydration process as the moisture in the dough is liberated as steam and the remaining dough components, primarily carbohydrates and protein, are transformed into a donut with the desired finished product characteristics,” he says.

According to Daniels, three critical items come to mind when selecting a frying shortening for donut optimization: flavor, desired appearance and aroma. Flavor is the most important, but appearance and aroma can also make or break a donut.

The choice of frying shortening greatly impacts whether a donut has that optimal golden brown appearance. All frying shortenings progress from fresh to spent due to degradation reactions in the fryer driven primarily by heat and moisture. These two things can shorten the life of the shortening, causing it to break down and darken, leading to darker fried products over time.

You also want to produce a dry-looking donut. During the frying process, the donut gives up water as steam and the carbohydrates and proteins form the finished texture. The frying shortening primarily serves as a heat transfer source. During this temperature driven process, the dough takes up frying shortening as the water is liberated from the dough.

When the donut is removed from the fryer the donuts are rested to allow them to cool. It is at this point that the frying shortening contributes functionality in minimizing surface oil development on the donut.

“Stratas’ Golden Flex donut frying shortening is a shortening which is comprised of oil and fat,” Daniels says. “This means that this shortening is formulated with components that are liquid (e.g. oil) at room temperature and components which are solid (e.g. fat) at room temperature. This blend of oils coupled with our Flex technology process serves to minimize the fried product surface oil phenomena in dessert donut applications.”

Another role of the shortening is to accent the donut’s aroma. Dessert donuts prepared in a donut shop benefit from frying in oxidatively stable frying shortenings. Stratas’ Golden Flex donut frying shortening is made from high oleic soybean and soybean oils, offering a traditional PHO (partially hydrogenated oil) aroma, without the actual PHOs.

A final important factor in the donut frying process is the shelf life of the shortening used. Although shortenings should be used and replenished regularly and what is being fried alters your needs, Peter Kolavo of South Chicago Packing says that more saturated fats like palm, tallow, coconut and lard are more resistant to oxidation, polymerization and thermal stress, and thus hold up better under extended high heat frying applications.

If one is regularly topping off and filtering their oil, it may be able to go a very long time before needing to be totally replaced, Kolavo says. However, if one is frying something highly spiced, with lots of particulate, and not filtering, that would need more frequent replacement. “Some people decide when to change out based on flavor and color, some use Total Polar Material testing, some go by length of time.”