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Making potato latkes -- how do YOU remove the excess liquid?

CindyJ Dec 17, 2011 07:36 AM

I spent a few minutes reading through past posts on this subject and haven't found quite what I'm looking for. I'd like to know the easiest, least messy way to remove that excess liquid from the potato/onion mixture. In the past I've wrapped the mixture in a dish towel and squeezed it out, but that leaves me with an onion-scented dish towel that I really don't want to put into my washer. I've seen a suggestion for using a salad spinner. Has anyone used this method? Does it really work? I also saw a suggestion for squeezing the mixture through cheesecloth, and that sounds good, but I'm wondering if cheesecloth would really hold up, or if it'd burst open, leaving me with a potato/onion mess to clean up.

So... how do you do it? With all the kitchen gadgetry out there, has anyone yet invented a Latke De-liquifier? Thanks!

  1. CindyJ Dec 26, 2011 06:59 AM

    Just to follow up -- I used the cheesecloth-lined bowl method, and did exactly what the photo on Serious Eats suggested, wrapping the gathered ends of the cheesecloth around the handle of a wooden spoon and twisting. It took another set of helping hands to squeeze even more liquid out, but it was by far the best, least messy method I've ever used. The only thing I'll do differently the next time, rather than discard the cheesecloth after the initial major squeezing, is to re-line a bowl with the cheesecloth, deposit the latke mixture into it, and work from that bowl as I fry the latkes. That way I can remove more accumulated liquid as I work.

    These were the best, crispiest latkes I've ever made. Thanks for the tip, alexjames!

    2 Replies
    1. re: CindyJ
      magiesmom Dec 26, 2011 07:16 AM

      If you wait two minutes after the initial squeeze and squeeze again, there will be no more accumulated liquid, I promise. The method you propose will squeeze out the egg, if I understand correctly.

      1. re: magiesmom
        CindyJ Dec 26, 2011 08:43 AM

        Waiting a couple of minutes and re-squeezing is a good idea, and I just noted that on the recipe I filed, so I'll remember for next time. I wondered about whether I was squeezing out the egg, but decided that even if I was, at that point in time, it didn't really matter. What I mean is this -- I think most of the egg gets absorbed by the matzoh meal. I was making a lot of latkes (I shredded 5 pounds of potatoes). As I was making them, I noticed liquid accumulating on the bottom of the bowl. I also noticed that the latkes were getting progressively wetter and therefore causing more oil to "spit" as I put the mixture into the pan. It got to a point where I was hand-squeezing the spoonfuls of mixture before placing them in the pan. That's when I began thinking that if I'd lined the bowl with the cheesecloth, I could have just lifted the remaining mixture out of the bowl, give it a squeeze, empty the liquid from the bowl and continue. If that liquid contained some egg, so be it; the egg part of the liquid wasn't going to be re-incorporated into the mixture anyway.

    2. chefMolnar Dec 21, 2011 09:48 PM

      I had some friends over for a Hanukah party tonight, so I made a big batch (15 baking potatoes). I pureed a few on the blade of the food processor and grated the others fairly course. So I decide to try all three methods today--the salad spinner, the towel, and the colander. Here are the result of this (extremely unscientific) experiment:
      1. I had great hopes for the salad spinner method. Maybe it's the cheap plastic model I have, but I didn't think it extracted enough. Maybe if I had put less in at a time it might have worked better, but all the cranking I did didn't really pay off.
      2. The towel method was definitely the most effective. It extracted the most water and left a lot of good starch at the bottom. The downside: I find it really tedious and messy. With such a large batch, that's a lot of squeezing, but if I'm going for optimum results, that would be my choice.
      3. My old method, putting it in a colander over a bowl, and putting a weighted bowl over it, worked pretty well with not a lot of effort, but not as well as the towel method.
      Bottom line: When I'm aiming for perfection, I'll use the towel. If I'm a bit lazier, I'll use the colander. Your mileage may vary.
      Happy Hanukah!

      1. w
        will47 Dec 21, 2011 02:56 PM

        I wring the grated potatoes (only, without onions) with my hands, in a colander over a bowl. Afterwards, I pour the liquid out of the bowl, and re-add maybe 3/4 of the potato starch, which is very stiff and firm. Since I usually don't use eggs, this step is especially important.

        1. l
          lynncb Dec 21, 2011 11:55 AM

          I'm used to supple, not stiff, latkes, so the idea of keeping the starch or beefing up latkes with flour or matzo meal is moot.

          1. s
            sandylc Dec 20, 2011 08:16 PM

            Potato ricer.

            1. 2
              2intune Dec 20, 2011 06:08 PM

              salad spinner. i have an oxo. put your grated potatoes in. rinse several times to get rid of starch. spin. for even more dryness, place in the freezer. sucks any moisture right out.

              3 Replies
              1. re: 2intune
                magiesmom Dec 20, 2011 07:03 PM

                i don't get wanting to get rid of starch, especially by adding more water.

                1. re: 2intune
                  The Professor Dec 20, 2011 10:33 PM

                  Why would you want to get rid of the starch??? I've been making latkes for 40 years and never heard of that!!

                  1. re: The Professor
                    chefMolnar Dec 21, 2011 10:00 AM

                    I agree totally about the starch but I like the idea of the salad spinner. Of course, the liquid with the starch would stay in the bowl of the salad spinner, so you can pour off the water and leave the starch. I'm going to try that today--thanks for the tip!

                2. l
                  lynncb Dec 18, 2011 03:49 PM

                  I just lift the latke mixture out with a slotted spoon and leave the moisture behind in the bowl. That's how my mother did it. No need to add matzo meal, etc.

                  1. w
                    Woodensandals Dec 18, 2011 10:11 AM

                    I've always just squeezed it with my hands and drained out over the sink. Then add more matzo meal.

                    1. p
                      paprikas Dec 18, 2011 09:59 AM

                      You begin to sound like an aspiring inventor looking for ideas. ;-)

                      1. m
                        MeganInMadison Dec 17, 2011 10:38 PM

                        I am a big fan of the ricer-- you can squeeze out the water, and it is easy clean up. I throw it in the dishwasher. It works great for latkes or hashbrowns.

                        1. m
                          megjp Dec 17, 2011 05:56 PM

                          I just use a fine mesh strainer in a plastic bowl, and after grating I salt a bit and dump in there. I let it sit a few minutes, press down with a wooden spoon or my hand, and repeat this process a few times while I prepare anything else I'm eating. I tip the water out of the bowl, and put the shredded potato in. After swirling it around the bowl a little, the leftover starch re-sticks to the shreds. I find that plastic bowls 'grab' the starch a bit better.. it may just be my imagination, but I am superstitious :)

                          1. greygarious Dec 17, 2011 03:11 PM

                            I prefer to grate half the potato into mush while shredding the other half (my treasured cheap plastic Boerner grater is made just for this and is genius). I stir them together, then prop the bowl so it is tilted, with the mixture pushed to the higher side, and folded paper towels on the lower. After a few minutes the exuded liquid has been sopped up. The potatoes discolor but that does not bother me.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: greygarious
                              magiesmom Dec 17, 2011 05:12 PM

                              but can you capture the starch with this method?

                              1. re: magiesmom
                                greygarious Dec 17, 2011 09:00 PM

                                No, but I have always added a smidgen of Wondra flour so the lost starch is inconsequential.

                            2. l
                              Lady_Tenar Dec 17, 2011 11:33 AM

                              I use cheese cloth and it works great. I use several layers of it and it's always held up just fine for me.

                              1. Kajikit Dec 17, 2011 10:50 AM

                                I'm only making latkes for two at time, so I squeeze the water out by hand. It does make the sink pretty messy though. How about putting it into a seize and pressing down on it to get the water out?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Kajikit
                                  sweetpotater Dec 17, 2011 10:31 PM

                                  I just use my hands too. Never occurred to me to do anything else.

                                2. The Professor Dec 17, 2011 10:18 AM

                                  The towel method is the easiest and quickest way to get the job done. That's how I regularly do it and the towel goes into the wash with other items, and leaves no trace of onion. So really, you should have no fears there.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: The Professor
                                    CindyJ Dec 17, 2011 11:02 AM

                                    You don't pre-wash the towel before you put it into the wash?

                                    1. re: CindyJ
                                      The Professor Dec 17, 2011 04:48 PM

                                      Just a rinse and a wring.
                                      Nothing else is necessary. The normal wash takes care of it with no problem, and no residual smell. And I don't even use perfumed detergents (not allergic, just hate the smell).

                                      1. re: The Professor
                                        rockycat Dec 20, 2011 08:04 PM


                                  2. p
                                    paprikas Dec 17, 2011 10:01 AM

                                    I put the raw shredded potatoes in a fine white dough cloth (a regular dish towel would do) and wring it over the sink. Done.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: paprikas
                                      BobB Dec 27, 2011 06:32 AM

                                      Exactly. The key is to wring out just the potatoes, BEFORE you mix them with onion or anything else. Then the cloth is perfectly washable (though it will stain brown - which is why I have a dedicated latke towel that I bring out every year for this purpose.)

                                      1. re: BobB
                                        CindyJ Dec 27, 2011 06:52 AM

                                        But the onion gives off a lot of liquid, too, especially after you've added salt to the mixture.

                                        1. re: CindyJ
                                          magiesmom Dec 27, 2011 04:36 PM

                                          I wring the onions too if I grate them. If I mince them I add them after wringing. With onions included potatoes don't discolor themselves or the towel, though I use cheesecloth and discard.

                                    2. m
                                      magiesmom Dec 17, 2011 09:40 AM

                                      cheese cloth: squeeze well, let rest two minutes , squeeze again. Make sure to mix the starch back in . never fails and the potatoes do not discolor.
                                      Also, I like to put potatoes the long way in the FP tube for longer strands.

                                      1. jpr54_1 Dec 17, 2011 09:06 AM

                                        I use a large strainer and pour potato mixture into it and press several times with back of spoon over a bowl .

                                        Let liquid sit in bowl for 20+minutes
                                        pour off liquid and white potato starch settles on bottom of bowl

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: jpr54_1
                                          cheesemaestro Dec 17, 2011 09:35 AM

                                          This is what I do, too. I use a strainer with a wide, flat bottom that hooks onto a bowl. The large surface area speeds up the draining of the starch. This method works especially well when the potatoes are grated. If they are shredded (for example, using the shredding disk of a food processor), wringing in cheesecloth may be more efficient. I mince my onion separately (I prefer it finely minced, rather than grated) and add it to the batter after the potato starch liquid has been drained.

                                          1. re: jpr54_1
                                            gordon wing Dec 17, 2011 09:43 AM

                                            the strainer/colander sounds like a good idea ..... if you have a bowl that just fits inside of the strainer/colander - you can press down on the potato mixture easily.

                                            1. re: gordon wing
                                              chefMolnar Dec 20, 2011 10:00 PM

                                              That's the method I use. I put a bowl under the colander to catch the starch (which stays in the bowl when you drain off the water) and then put a bowl on top and weight it down and let it sit for a while.

                                          2. l
                                            Lisbet Dec 17, 2011 08:50 AM

                                            I read (somewhere) that you can put your raw grated potato into a potato ricer and squeeze out excess water. >Dont squeeze so hard that you force potato through the holes....only enough pressure to drain off excess liquid !< Haven't tried it myself, as yet....but it makes good sense to me. Also, I use dry granulated onion powder for flavor (in addition to pepper and salt).

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Lisbet
                                              acgold7 Dec 17, 2011 10:54 AM

                                              This is what I do and it works very well. Don't worry about squeezing too hard -- it's almost impossible to force raw potato through the holes unless you are Chuck Norris.

                                              1. re: acgold7
                                                rockycat Dec 20, 2011 08:04 PM

                                                Chuck Norris doesn't squeeze grated potatoes. He just stares at them and they wet themselves.

                                                1. re: acgold7
                                                  wincountrygirl Dec 21, 2011 10:04 AM

                                                  That sounds like a great idea.....

                                                2. re: Lisbet
                                                  arp29 Dec 17, 2011 01:49 PM

                                                  I love this method and also use a potato ricer for recipes I have that call for thawed, drained frozen spinach. Works like a charm!

                                                3. a
                                                  alexjames Dec 17, 2011 08:31 AM

                                                  There is a latke masterclass over on Serious Eats - might be worth a look.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: alexjames
                                                    CindyJ Dec 17, 2011 09:22 AM

                                                    I can't thank you enough! I never even knew about Serious Eats until I saw your post. I'm not sure I found the "master class," but I did find "The Complete, No-Nonsense, Slightly Neurotic Guide to Making Great Latkes" and the cheesecloth bundle method shown is positively brilliant!

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