This is the first year I’ve exclusively used olive oil for making latkes and they were unusual and good. Canola is much less expensive and can be very good in certain recipes, but I think I’m going to stick to olive oil. I think the trick is to prevent it from getting too hot while letting it get and stay hot enough…

Just thinking out loud.

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  • The trick when frying ANYTHING is to not let the oil smoke. And if you’re going to use olive oil, just use the cheap stuff — no need for extra virgin. But frying in anything is better than those commie latke bakers.

  • Middle, you know the oil is hot enough when you dip a wooden spoon into it and there are bubbles around the wood, which means the “pores” are getting closed. That way whatever you fry doesn’t get soggy. Olive oil’s not so good for frying in general as it doesn’t heat well. Clarified butter is a more traditional choice, but there also are no-cholesterol frying oils out there that were particularly made for higher temperatures.

  • Olive oil is something I almost never use for frying, which is why this was a pleasant surprise. I was just careful not to let it get too hot and it worked well.

    Clarified butter and latkes?! SIN!

    I’ll try it.

  • The Eastern European Jews who brought Latkes to the Chanukah Table are seriously concerned with the use of olive oil for frying. Use the olive oil in the Menorah! Use vegetable oil for goodness sake to fry latkes.

  • any oil that has a high oleic content I think is good for frying, the vegetable oil producers tend to blend rapeseed and something else (cant remember) to make a good frying oil. now there are methods of altering ratio of oleic stearic and other fatty acids in the product by fractionating, but there are also some seeds that are naturally high in oleic,

  • Heating olive oil to a temperature which is hot enough to fry in will destroy all of its Omega 3’s.

  • However, olive oil is wonderful for frizzy hair and as a massage oil.

  • Old doughnut-shop wisdom says to fry in fat that is solid at room temperature – this results in a less greasy mouth-feel for doughnuts, and prevents remaining liquid oil from soaking the pastry.

    So I use half soy oil, half margarine when doing doughnuts or other fried batter.

    Latkes are best with minimal oil in a non-stick pan – thin and crispy like a French crique (spelling?).

    Do NOT reduce all the potatoes to a smooth batter – at least half of them should be run through a fine shredder to produce stringy bits that give crunch and texture.

  • Chutzpaleh! Sorry for sucking so much at keeping in touch… Hope you’re well!

    According to my friend B., the secret ingredient of many a housewife / people like B. is genuine knuckleblood. 🙂 (Many pride themselves in hand-grating their potatoes over here. Way to go is all strings, put a clean tea towel into a large bowl, put the potato strings inside, let drip then wring out the starchy water. Add some flower, eggs, salt, pepper; nutmeg and parsley to taste. You can also mix in grated carrots, which makes for a fresher taste.)

  • The oil should bubble noticeably but if your oil is splattering out of the pan it is time to cool it down a bit. Heat only enough to see a shimmer.

  • I’m not an experienced Latke-maker, but mine turned out very well. I’m giving credit to a few tips from Cooks Illustrated and other cookbooks. I used corn oil, which many good cooks prefer over canola (rapeseed). If you keep it at the right temperature, you can keep a lot of oil in the pan without the latkes getting too oily. Use Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes, as they have lots of starch. I grated them into water to keep them from rusting. At the bottom of that water, there’s a bunch of starch. Add it back in to the potatoes!

    • Canola’s healthier than corn oil; both squirt too much for proper frying though. Really, kids, this area is the birthplace of what you know as latkes. People here eat them all year round, often as a side with a hearty vegetable soup. Invest in a good oil or fat made for frying-only. It’ll save you a lot of a mess and will have much better frying properties. Also, throw the starch out (a vital part of the process, hence the dripping and wringing), and use some flour and eggs as needed. It’ll make your latkes way less stodgy.

  • Middle, here’s a helpful tip– just remember to turn down the heat on the stove after the smoke alarm goes off.

  • No, froylein, the wringing and dripping is for getting rid of as much water as possible. Even the water from the potatoes themselves (never mind grating into water) will keep the latkes from binding properly. And, even in really, really hot oil, the water will steam the latkes before they fry. You want them as dry as possible — But the starch (pour off the water and it’ll sit at the bottom) is a wonderful thing that should be added back in. It’ll help bind the latkes (eliminating the need for flour or matzo, if your recipe includes them) and helping them fry nicely. Ours were still fairly light, not stodgy at all. I’d guess most stodgy latkes absorbed too much oil from not frying at the right temperature.

    Unless you want to starch shirts with the starch, which is lso an option.

  • Matt, the point is to make them crispy. I don’t know any person over here, chef or cook, that would even consider adding the starch back cause that’s a definite faux pas. To get them binding and crispy, you need the flour (about two tablespoons on a large batch) and eggs. Stodgy and greasy are two different things altogether. As I said above, those potato pancakes originally come from this area, and people prepare them all year round.

    There’s only one series of cookbooks I’ve found to be really trustworthy as you can tell the recipes were tried out several times before included in the books while others often feature instructions or ingredients that don’t really add up. And in this case, I trust the local tradition and my experience (and those of five generations before me that I know made those potato pancakes) more as well as the feedback of those many I’ve made them for.

  • Were mine crispy? You bet! (And, as I said, I took that tip from Cook’s Illustrated. They run a huge test kitchen where they’ll try out hundreds of variations before putting something in print.) Maybe someday, we can run our own taste tests. In the meantime, no harm to me if you make latkes (that I’m sure are still wonderful) in your own way.

    • Not just my own way but that of generations, dynasties even before me. 🙂 Try mixing in grated carrots. I love them best that way.