Photo Credit: Sina Mizrahi
Chanukah is approaching, and to get ready for the season of frying, I wanted to explore an important step in the cooking technique: draining excess oil. The opinions are split between using paper towels or using a wire rack set over a baking sheet. And the opinions are opinionated.
J. Kenji López-Alt from Serious Eats asserts, “While it may seem logical to drain fried foods on a metal rack, it’s actually far more effective to drain on a paper towel-lined plate or bowl. On a rack, very little oil actually drips out of the food — the oil’s surface tension keeps it in place. A paper towel, on the other hand, wicks oil away through capillary action, effectively drawing more fat out of the goods, helping it stay crisp longer.”
On the other hand, TheKitchn notes, “Putting fried food on a cooling rack means the excess oil will drip off, but there’s enough air circulating underneath the food that the bottoms don’t get soggy.”
Both arguments make sense, so I set out to find out which method stands out in the real world and would ensure the foods I fried stay crispy. One fact is indisputable: fried foods should be eaten hot, to enjoy the crunchy exterior and moist interior.
Let’s experiment with the star of the season: latkes.
YIELDS 12–15 LATKES
- 1 lb (450 g) Russet potatoes (about 2–3)
- 1 small onion
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbsp matzah meal or bread crumbs
- 1 tsp sea salt
- vegetable or canola oil, for frying
Peel and coarsely shred potatoes and onion on a box grater. In a medium bowl, mix potatoes, onion, eggs, matzah meal, and salt.
Heat a skillet over medium heat with a layer of oil (about 1 cup). Use a thermometer to make sure the oil is hot enough. It’s ready when it reaches 350°F (176°C). Alternately, insert a wooden utensil in the oil. The oil is ready when bubbles form around it.
Scoop ¼ cup of potato mixture, squeeze gently, and form into a patty. Carefully slide into hot oil and fry for 2–3 minutes per side until golden and shimmery. Transfer to a paper towel or wire rack to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and enjoy hot.
Method 1: Drain on Paper Towels
I layered standard paper towels and placed a few hot latkes over them, then let them cool for 5 minutes.
Method 2: Drain on Wire Rack
I set a wire rack over a baking sheet and placed a few hot latkes on it, then let them cool for 5 minutes.
The latkes that drained on the wire rack had a definite, welcomed, incredible crisp to them — but they were notably greasier than the ones that drained on the paper towel. I found only a few grease spots under the wire rack because the oil got swallowed up by the latkes. The paper towel had large grease stains on it, but the texture of those latkes was notably softer and not as crispy.
So what’s a girl to do? I would suggest draining on a wire rack and using a paper
towel to wick away grease just before enjoying a bite. Happy frying!
(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 769)
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