6 Tricks to Making Your Crispiest Latkes Ever
It simply would not be Hanukkah without latkes. Those potato pancakes (which, by the way, are pronounced laht-kuh, not laht-key) are a must-eat at every holiday table. Seri Kertzner, the NYC event planner, content creator, and “chief party officer” behind Little Miss Party, can attest to this. Every year, at her Hanukkah party, she whips up a big batch of latkes with a slew of topper options to let guests choose their favorites. Hanukkah 2020 will have a shorter guest list (she's spending it with just her husband and sons), but her crispy latkes will be on the menu. Notice I specifically say, “crispy” latkes. As I learned while talking with Kertzner, latkes aren’t always crispy. In fact, her grandma (Kertzner calls her, “Boobie”) makes hers fluffy.
“I follow every recipe from my Boobie exactly, except for latkes,” Kertzner says. “Hers are fluffy and soft because she uses baking powder. And I think that’s the more traditional way of making them. My way is not the traditional way.”
Admittedly, I’ve never tried fluffy latkes, but if my potatoes can be made golden and crispy, that’s my preferred way to eat them.
How to Make Latkes That Are Maximum Crispy—6 Tricks
Start with a recipe like Kertzner's for the full recipe directions, but pay extra-close attention to this list of tips on how to make latkes supremely crispy.
1. Use the Right Potato
Russet potatoes are the potato of choice because they’re big and starchy and easy to shred, Kertzner says.
2. Shred Smart
The right shred will give your latkes those crispy edges and exterior. Kertzner has several shredding secrets.
3. Remove as Much Liquid as Humanly Possible
Squeeze out every drop of water you can from the potato shreds. Liquid inhibits crispiness. To remove the water, first drain the potatoes in a colander ($25, Bed Bath & Beyond). Next, transfer potatoes to a bowl lined with a clean flour sack towel or cheesecloth ($3, Target). Gently wrap and squeeze until no more water will come out.
4. Oil Is Critical
Kertzner uses only Mazola corn oil ($4, Target), and she always makes sure it’s hot before adding latkes to the pan. “I carefully put my hand above the pan of oil to see if I feel heat radiating, but you can also put a drop of water in, and if it sizzles, it’s ready,” she says.
5. Press 'Em Flat
While your oil preheats, your potato mixture will get “goopy” as it sits and will feel a little watery again when you scoop the mixture. “Scoop out your portion and put it in the palm of your hand, and press between your hands to squeeze out excess egg or liquid before adding to the pan,” Kertzner says. “Really flatten it.”
When you add the pancake to the pan, give it an additional gentle spatula press to flatten it a bit further, then leave it alone until it’s time to flip.
6. Mind the Temperature
Every stove heats a little differently. Start cooking your latkes over medium-high, but if they’re getting too brown, reduce the heat to medium-low. “You have to have a little more patience, but it’s worth it to avoid burning,” says Kertzner, who confesses to always being afraid of burning them. (See, we’re not alone in our cooking fears.)
When your latkes are perfectly golden and ready to take out of the pan, move them to a 200°F oven. This is how to keep potato latkes crispy while you fry the rest of your batch.
When all the latkes are cooked, top them your favorite way. Try traditional applesauce or sour cream, go fancy with caviar and crème fraîche, or try Kertzner’s favorite combo of a dollop of crème fraîche and a dollop of applesauce side by side (not stirred together). Latkes are completely customizable. In addition to her tips for crispiness, Kertzner offers one final bit of latke-making insight: “My No. 1 piece of advice is to wear an apron or clothes you don’t care about, because it’s going to be messy. Have fun with it.”