Essential Tips and Tricks to Make Perfectly Crispy Latkes

Tip to make the perfect latkes
Whether you've been eating latkes since childhood, or you've been newly introduced to this fried potato delight, we all know how amazing it is to bite into a crispy, crunchy latke. Let's take a look at some essential tips to dole out the perfect latkes.
Did You Know?
Every year, in New York City's Latke Festival, 16 professional chefs compete with each other to make the best latke and bag the 'ultimate latke award'.
Latke is a crispy potato delicacy prepared and devoured during the Jewish Festival, Hanukkah. This Jewish festival of lights is a festival that marks the 'miracle of the oil', which is why deep-fried foods are enjoyed as a part of tradition. Latkes are savory, crunchy pancakes prepared from potatoes, eggs, onions, matzo meal, and seasonings, and are traditionally served with applesauce or sour cream.

However, if you've ever tried preparing latkes, you will know how complex getting the perfect crunchy exterior and soft interior can be! Although the number of ingredients required aren't many and the preparation procedure isn't rocket science, getting that crunchy golden-brown latke can be quite tricky. There are various factors that you need to take into consideration while preparing them.
16 Tips to Make the Perfect Latkes
Tip: Using the Right Potatoes
To make crispy latkes, you need potatoes with the maximum starch content. In fact, higher the starch content, the crispier the outcome. Russet potatoes have high amounts of starch, thus, making them perfect for latkes. Idaho or Yukon Gold potatoes can also be used.
Tip : To Peel or Not to Peel
Peeling is about personal preference. If you don't mind the peel on, go ahead and keep them. Just make sure the potatoes have thin, unblemished peels on them. Moreover, make sure you wash the potatoes thoroughly before using them. If you choose to peel them, always use a potato peeler as it saves a lot of time. Moreover, make sure you put the potatoes into a bowl of ice-cold water as soon as you peel them. This will prevent them from turning brown.
Peeling Potatoes
Tip : Box Grater or Food Processor
While some prefer grating by hand, touting that hand grated tastes better, others prefer using the food processor to save on time. You can choose any tool you like because both taste great. For crispier and lacy latkes, grate them coarsely. Very fine can result in a mushy texture, while very thick can result in the latkes separating, so keep them moderately sized.
Potato Rasping
Tip : Grate into Ice-cold Water
Potatoes decolorize very easily, and to prevent them from turning an unappetizing brown, grate the potatoes into a bowl of ice-cold water so that they have minimal time to be exposed to air. If you're using a food processor, quickly transfer the shredded potatoes into the bowl of ice-cold water, once they are done.
Tip : Drain in a Colander
Use a colander to drain the potato shreds. Using your hands gently, press the potatoes to drain off excess liquid. Then add onion shreds and mix with a fork to make sure the onion has mixed evenly with the potato.
Tip : Recover the Starch
As the potato shreds lie in the water, some of their starch seeps out, forming a white cloudy layer in the bowl. However, to make crispy latkes, you need to ensure your potatoes have enough starch in them. So, once you take out the shreds to squeeze them, give the water five minutes to stand, and then carefully spoon out this starch and add it to the potato shreds.
Tip : Flour, Matzo Meal, or Potato Starch
Adding a little potato starch to the batter helps bind the potato shreds. However, adding too much can make the pancakes gummy and also cause them to taste doughy. So, add very little starch or matzo meal, just enough to bind the potatoes. Some add a little flour instead; however, floured latkes aren't as crispy. Usually, the batter turns runny towards the end; however, don't add more flour to bind it. Simply squeeze the batter to release the excess liquid.
Wheat flour
Tip : Squeeze Thoroughly
The presence of moisture will steam the food, rendering it soggy and not crispy. To ensure your latkes are crispy, you need to squeeze out every ounce of water from them. Use a cheesecloth or kitchen towel to wring the potato shreds. Just place the shredded potatoes into the cheesecloth and squeeze until you feel the shredded bits cannot release even a drop of water. You can also use a potato ricer for the same.
Green checked fabric
Tip : Keep the Other Ingredients Ready
Because potatoes brown quickly, it's important you keep the other ingredients ready. Peel the onions, and keep them aside. Separate the eggs, and keep them aside. Keep the salt and pepper nearby. You can even grate the onions before grating the potatoes, or have somebody else grate it alongside, while you grate the potatoes. You can use a plastic wrap to cover the ingredients or batter during the preparatory process.
Egg and Ingredients
Tip : Don't Add Too Many Eggs
Two eggs would do for 7 medium-sized potatoes; however, if you add too many eggs, you're sure to get a frittata at the end. Moreover, some even separate the eggs and beat the egg whites to a stiff, before mixing them into the batter. Try this out, and see if you find your latkes crispier, or else just mix them in whole.
Egg Carton
Tip : Make Them in Batches
If you're preparing latkes for Hanukkah this year, and are expecting a large number of people, prepare the latke batter in batches. Doubling the recipe and working with a large amount of batter will simply cause the batter to turn brown. Moreover, the batter will become too watery as a result of standing too long.
Tip : Right Oil Temperature
The oil must be hot enough to fry the latkes; however, it should not be too hot to sear their outsides, leaving the middle uncooked. On the other hand, if the oil is not hot enough, the potatoes will absorb a lot of oil, causing them to become greasy. To bring the oil to the right temperature, place the frying pan on the stove before you begin working on your potatoes. For a beautiful crust, test the oil by dropping a little batter into the oil. If it sizzles in the oil and rises to the surface, your oil is ready for frying. However, if it pops, the oil is too hot.
Frying latkes
Tip: Not Too Thick
When you prepare your latkes, see that they aren't too thick. Thick ones absorb too much oil and become too greasy. Making them larger can cause them to fall apart in the oil, so try to restrict them to smaller sizes.
Fried Potato
Tip : Avoid Overcrowding
Agreed, you need to work on the potatoes quickly; however, overcrowding is not the answer. Placing too many latkes into the same pan at the same time can cause a drop in the oil temperature, which ultimately isn't good for the latkes. Don't fry more than 3 to 4 latkes at a time. If possible, fry them in two separate pans side by side as this reduces the overall cooking time. Overcrowding also leaves little room to flip the latkes, thereby, increasing the risk of breakage. Use a spatula and fork combination to flip the latkes gently and efficiently.
Potato in pancakes
Tip : No Stacking or Covering
Stacking causes the potato pancakes to sit in their own oil, causing them to become soggy. Moreover, covering them will cause them to soften in the steam. Always drain your latkes by placing them on a cooling rack. This prevents the pancakes from sitting in their oil and turning soggy.
Latkes stack
Tip : Eat Them Fresh
While latkes taste best freshly out of the pan, it's not possible to serve straight up when you're catering to a large number of guests. In such cases, you can prepare these pancakes in advance and then keep them warm in the oven, until it is time. Then, reheat at 350°F and serve crispy hot.
Fresh Latkes
The type of potato and temperature of the oil are the key factors to achieving crispy latkes. Don't get disappointed if your latkes don't turn out crispy in the first few attempts. With practice, you're sure to master the art. Once you've gained confidence and doled out some delicious latkes, innovate and try preparing them with additional ingredients like herbs, other seasonings, etc., or even prepare them along with other shredded vegetables!