The zero trans fat cooking oil contest


QUESTION: What price should we be paying for zero trans fat cooking oil?

ANSWER: It depends on the oil grade. There are three grades of zero trans fat oils:

Heavy duty. These are also called "premium" or "high grade." These have the longest fry life.

Medium duty. These have a medium fry life.

Light duty. These are also called "salad" oils but they are used for frying. They have a very short fry life.

Typical prices for 35lb case
see note below
see note below
see note below

Since we performed a price survey in December 2006, the cost of all oils have risen, including partially hydrogenated oil. This increase is due in large part to the effect of ethanol production. We are presently conducting a new price survey.


QUESTION: What exactly is the difference in fry life between the three grades of oil?

ANSWER: There is no generally accepted answer to this question.

We can assume that an average medium duty oil has between one-third and two-thirds of the fry life of a heavy duty oil.

We can assume that an average light duty oil has less than one-third of the fry life of a heavy duty oil.


QUESTION: How do we know whether the oil that we are buying is light grade, medium grade or high grade? It's not marked on the container.

ANSWER: One of the reasons that is having the oils tested by Texas A&M in the contest is to determine the appropriate grading so that you know what you are buying. In the absence of this information, you have to do the testing yourself or accept the manufacturer's claims as true.


QUESTION: How many servings can we cook with a 35lb case of heavy duty oil?

Let's assume that a heavy grade oil has a fry life of 200 fryings. A 35lb fryer would hold about 4.5lbs of frozen fries. Taking into account makeup oil, 200 fryings in 35lbs of oil would cook about 500lbs of French fries.

How many servings is 500lbs of French fries? It is 2,000 McDonald's medium-sized fries. (One McDonald's medium fries weighs 4oz.)

To get a more precise estimate, check the contest results for food to oil ratios. For example a food to oil ratio of 15.75 means that a 35lb case of oil would cook 551.25lbs of fries.


QUESTION: What is the oil cost per serving using a heavy duty oil?

If we assume that a 35lb case of heavy duty oil will cook 1,500 servings of French fries, and the oil costs $35 for a 35lb case, the oil cost is about two cents per serving.

Heavy duty oils produce enormous amounts of food at an extremely low cost.

Suppose that the oil costs $35 instead of $30. That $5 difference is spread over a vast number of servings. The price difference is totally insignificant.


QUESTION: Do zero trans fat oils cost more than partially hydrogenated oils?

ANSWER: There should be no additional cost if you are being charged appropriately by your foodservice distributor. The prices of heavy duty zero trans fat and partially hydrogenated oils are comparable. In any event, any additional cost would be insignificant as the price difference (say $5 per 35lb case) is being spread over a huge number of servings.

As the largest KFC franchisee, John Neal, has said, the difference is just "pennies."




Texas A&M has completed the testing of ten oils in the zero trans fat cooking oil contest. The results are posted on the List of Oils & Results page.

Contest Pictures

Click on the image below to see pictures of the oil contest.