Keeping Fried Foods Fresher
by: Esther Pransky, Lubicom Staff
There’s nothing like a fresh, hot latka straight from the frying pan.
That’s not just a pretty expression. It’s a fact that a reheated latka will never reach its former glory. But what can you do if making fried foods on demand isn’t practical?
You don’t need to settle for limp latkas and stale sufganiyot. With some insider tips, your fried foods can still be delicious and crisp on Chanukah no matter when you serve them.
We’re going to look at two categories of fried foods and how to keep them fresh:
1. Savory fried foods like latkas, wontons, fried chicken, or fried pickles.
2. Pastries like sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), churros, or funnel cakes.
STORING FRIED FOODS
You made a pan of latkas that you won’t be eating until tomorrow night. You should refrigerate them, right?
Wrong! The refrigerator is the worst place for your fried foods. Moisture is the enemy of crisp. In your fridge’s humid atmosphere, the food will absorb water and get soggy.
If you won’t eat your fried food right away:
1. Cool it completely on the counter.
2. Arrange the items in a single layer on a baking pan and place in the freezer.
3. Once it’s frozen, take the individual pieces off the tray and bag them in an airtight bag. They’ll stay separately frozen so you can warm up as many as you need at a time.
Fried foods will last up to three months in the freezer, so you could, in theory, start preparing for Chanukah before Rosh Hashanah.
If you must store fried foods in the fridge, cool them completely, then store in an airtight container with a paper towel to absorb moisture. The food will last three to five days that way.
REHEATING FRIED FOODS
This may be the most crucial step for the crispest results possible. NEVER reheat latkas or wontons or anything fried in a covered pan. Instead, place the food in a single layer on a baking sheet and reheat uncovered at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Watch it carefully that it shouldn’t burn.
If you need to “hold” freshly fried food for a short time, place it in a single layer in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Refrying already fried foods is generally not a good idea, but it can work for fried chicken. Cool the chicken completely in the fridge overnight and then refry for two to three minutes.
TRANSPORTING FRIED FOODS
In past Chanukahs, you might have been transporting your famous fried pickles to the family party. This Chanukah, you’re more likely dropping off a care package at someone’s doorstep. Either way, your goal is to avoid the steaming and condensation that will wilt your food.
- Drain all excess oil and cool the food completely.
- Choose a ventilated box or pan so moisture can escape. Paper or cardboard boxes are ideal. If you don’t have those, you can punch holes in an aluminum pan.
- Place the food in a single layer on a paper towel to absorb moisture and keep food fresh and dry.
Moving on to doughnuts, they’re best fresh, and you can’t get around that. But there are some tips that can make them last a little bit longer.
Rule #1 is that fresh air dries out doughnuts. Keep them tightly sealed in an airtight container. Cardboard bakery boxes aren’t airtight, so transfer the doughnuts once you bring them home.
Doughnuts store best at room temperature away from direct heat or sunlight. Even then, they’ll only stay fresh for about two days.
Refrigerating doughnuts can extend their shelf life but be careful! Not all doughnuts refrigerate successfully.
- Plain and powdered doughnuts do well in the fridge.
- On glazed doughnuts, the glaze can “melt” and get very messy, so the refrigerator is NOT a great option.
- Cream-filled doughnuts, on the other hand, MUST be stored in the fridge for food safety.
Doughnuts will keep about five days in the refrigerator.
Before serving, you can gently heat them in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle on a fresh layer of powdered sugar when you take the doughnuts out of the oven.
Just like with refrigeration, not all doughnuts freeze equally:
- Plain or powdered freeze well.
- Glazed doughnuts may have same the problems in the freezer as the fridge.
- In cream-filled doughnuts, the cream will separate and become inedible.
If you do freeze doughnuts, store them in an airtight container. If you’re taking your chances with glazed varieties, separate them with wax paper. Doughnuts will last in the freezer for one to two months.
When you’re ready to eat them, thaw the doughnuts on the counter, uncovered, for 15-30 minutes. You can also gently heat them in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle on a fresh layer of powdered sugar when you take the doughnuts out of the oven.
One more option to consider if you’re making homemade doughnuts is to prepare the dough in advance. Let it rise, roll it out, and form your shapes. Then freeze in a single layer on a tray. On Chanukah, let the dough defrost and rise for four to six hours, then fry and eat the doughnuts fresh.
While these are good tips for freezing fried food, the best taste is eating it straight from the pan. But who has the time? Use the Manischewitz Donut Mix and Latke Mix) for quick and easy and still delicious latkes and donuts. Now you can eat them straight from the pan in almost no time! And if there are leftovers of these (which we doubt there will be) you know how to freeze them!
Good luck with your Chanukah treats!