8 Latke-Making Problems and How to Fix Them

#6: Your latkes aren’t crispy enough.

Frying latkes with ready side up in deep oil on the pan from above


Frying latkes with ready side up in deep oil on the pan from above

Photo by: ksushachmeister/Getty Images

ksushachmeister/Getty Images

The eight days of Hanukkah mean latkes galore. When latkes are great, they’re light and pillowy with crispy exteriors and lacy edges — and they’re guaranteed to disappear from the table in less than five minutes. But when they’re cooked poorly...well, let’s just say that there are few things sadder than limp, greasy latkes. Below, we addressed the most common latke-making problems and how to fix them. You might just call this a tiny Hanukkah miracle.

1. Hand-Grating Takes Forever

In some circles, it’s a rite of passage to stand over the hand grater for 45-plus minutes grating potatoes, skinning your knuckles every now and then and letting the grated potatoes turn a gray-ish pink-ish color. But honestly? It’s annoying. Using the grating attachment on the food processor cuts this work down to just a few minutes, and we’d argue the resulting latkes taste even better. That’s because the food processor transforms the potatoes into perfectly uniform matchsticks which clump together into light piles and cook evenly. Grated potatoes are uneven and clump together more thickly and heavily.

2. Wringing Out the Potatoes Is a Huge Pain

Every latke recipe will tell you to put the grated potatoes into a dish cloth or cheesecloth and wring the heck out of them until no more liquid comes out. This takes a long time and requires lots of arm strength. You quite often might be left worrying that you didn’t wring them out enough. Instead, put those grated potatoes into a salad spinner and pump away. All the liquid will be flung out, and you’ll be left with bone-dry grated potatoes.

3. Your Latke Batter Is Liquidy

Have you ever wrung your potatoes thoroughly, only to find more liquid in the bowl after you’ve mixed them with the onion and salt? You can’t possibly fry that damp mixture. What happened? It could be two things. First, your grated onion could be contributing water. Instead of grating it next time, try finely chopping it. You’ll end up with crisper latkes and pops of caramelized onion flavor. Second, don’t season the mixture with salt in advance — the salt will draw out the moisture in the potatoes. Season the mixture with salt right before you start cooking it.

4. The Latkes Cook Unevenly

If you’re ending up with latkes that are burning in some places and raw with others, it could be the pan you’re using or the amount of oil. Opt for a large pan with a heavy bottom — a cast iron skillet is nice because it heats evenly and stays hot. Additionally, you might not have used enough oil. Although you’re not deep-frying, you want the oil to come halfway up the latke mounds.

5. Your Latkes Fall Apart

When you flip your latkes and they fall apart, your batter might be wet. Another culprit? There’s not enough starch binding the latkes. Luckily, the fix for both of these problems is the same: add some more starch — ideally in the form of matzo meal — which will soak up that extra moisture and bind the ingredients together more tightly. Flour works too, but it sticks together and makes for denser latkes.

6. Your Latkes Aren’t Crisp Enough

This is probably one of the biggest complaints people have, and the thing is, there are a lot of reasons why your latke might not be crisp enough. You might not have eliminated enough liquid from the potato (see how to fix that in the tip above). You might also be crowding your latkes when you cook them — you want to use a large pan and make sure your latkes don’t touch when they’re cooking (otherwise they’ll steam instead of crisping up). Additionally, your oil might not be hot enough. Make sure to test out the oil hotness before you start cooking by throwing a pinch of potatoes into the oil. The oil should sizzle vigorously around it. When you remove the latkes from the pan, transfer them to a wire rack fitted inside of a baking and keep them in the oven at a low temperature until you’re ready to serve them.

7. The Latkes Taste Unpleasantly Greasy

You know exactly what we’re talking about: latkes that reek of grease so strongly they sort of taste fishy. Surprisingly, this flavor is caused by frying oil that’s not hot enough. In fact, frying any food in oil that’s not hot enough imparts this unpleasant greasy flavor. To avoid this, always fry up a small test clump of latke before starting a big batch. You can also monitor the oil temperature with an instant read thermometer; the temperature should hover around 375 degrees F.

8. You Want to Make Them Ahead

Make the latkes ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator in a single layer on baking sheets. Or freeze them flat in a single layer (transferring them to a resalable bag once they’re frozen flat). To reheat them bake them in a 425 degree F oven until they’re warmed through and crisp.

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