Make Your Very Best Latkes with These Expert Tips and Tricks
In our kitchens, we have a two cardinal rules when it comes to making the perfect latke or potato pancake: First, the interior should be the consistency of soft, pillowy dumplings that practically melt in your mouth; second, each bite of that salty potato center should be surrounded by a crackly golden brown outer shell. The good news is, preparing perfect latkes at home is surprisingly easy. Here are some tips and tricks that our food editors use to ensure their latkes come out shatteringly crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside every single time.
Believe it or not, the best latke is a gluten-free one. Potato pancakes get their texture and viscosity from the starchy potato itself, not from added flour. Russet potatoes are our pick, hands down. Their high starch content helps bind the latkes together; in addition, they yield a crispier exterior and meltier center than a Yukon Gold or red bliss. Onions pack a lot of flavor into the final product. Grate them right into your mixing bowl with the potatoes. You'll smell the subtle scent of frying onions as you spoon the latkes into your pan. Beaten eggs and a bit of potato starch are both binding agents that hold everything together. For a final touch, we always finish fried foods with a hit of flaky sea salt while the food is still warm.
Our recipes usually call for a neutral oil like safflower for frying because we don't want the flavor of the oil to overpower that of the potatoes and onions. Lauryn Tyrell, our senior food editor, makes her latkes extra special by cooking them in schmaltz (rendered chicken fat).
Peel and grate your potatoes and onions, then gather everything in a cheesecloth pouch and squeeze as much liquid as you can into a bowl. The potato starch will settle to the bottom of the bowl after a few minutes; you can discard the liquid that is left behind. Add your potato-onion mixture to the starch in the bowl. Next, whisk together your dry ingredients—potato starch, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle this over the potatoes and onions and toss to coat. Whisk a few eggs and then stir them in.
Heat some neutral oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. To see if your oil is hot enough, drop a small shred of the potato mixture into the oil; if it sizzles right away, you're ready to fry. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan and flatten into pancake form. Fry, flipping once, until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels and finish with flaky salt.
Introduce new flavors to your latke rotation by grating other hearty vegetables like carrots, beets, and Brussels sprouts into the mix. Just increase the potato starch a bit, since these vegetal additions don't have much starch. However you fry up your potato pancakes, they'll pair well with classic dollops of crème fraiche, applesauce, or roe.