3 Tips for Perfect, No-Fail Fritters
In the plethora of ways you can use up a bounty of zucchini, fritters fall near the top of my list. Certainly, you can bake zucchini for a flavorful side dish. You can always use a spiralizer to make a low-carb zoodle dish. And in a hurry, there's no reason you can't eat it raw in a fresh zucchini salad.
But when you've exercised almost all your zucchini ideas and your garden basket is still overflowing with the oblong, emerald green fruits, it's time to turn them into a truly special dish: zucchini fritters.
Reminiscent of potato latkes, zucchini fritters boast crispy crusts (if you cook them correctly) and fork-tender insides. All fritter recipes are highly adaptable to a variety of flavorful ingredients, from Parmesan cheese and panko bread crumbs to curry powder and grated carrots. You can use almost any vegetable or vegetable-like fruit you want, from cauliflower and broccoli to yellow squash and corn.
But the zucchini fritter stands alone (at least in my cookbook) as the easiest, fastest, and most forgiving of all the fritter recipes. Whether you're a zucchini fritter novice or just looking to improve how you make yours, these tips are sure to shed some light on strategies that can make for fantastic fritters time after time.
Get the Recipe: Easy Fresh Corn Fritters
1. Remove as much moisture as possible.
Squashes like zucchini are actually hiding a lot of moisture. When you shred or grate them, they release much of that liquid. That might be great for a zucchini gazpacho, but water in a fritter mix is problematic.
So before you combine the zucchini with other ingredients, you need to squeeze out as much of that fluid as possible. The best way: salt, a bit of time, and cheese cloth.
Once you've grated all the zucchini or squash you need for your fritters, toss it with about a teaspoon of kosher or coarse salt in a bowl. The salt draws moisture out of the zucchini faster than it would seep out on its own. Let the mixture sit 10 minutes.
After the zucchini has rested for several minute, spoon it into a piece of cheese cloth. Cheese cloth ($14; amazon.com) is a finely woven fabric that allows you to squeeze foods, like grated zucchini, while the fluid passes out of the cloth and into a sink or bowl.
Once you have the zucchini on the cheese cloth, wrap the sides of the cloth around the zucchini, and hold them all in one hand, forming a ball of zucchini. Gentle squeeze and wring the zucchini to release the moisture. When water stops coming out of the zucchini, place the shreds into a bowl with your other ingredients. If your piece of cloth isn't large enough for all your zucchini, repeat this step until all of the zucchini is squeezed.
If you don't have cheese cloth, you can also place the grated vegetables into a fine mesh sieve ($7; amazon.com) and gently press down with a wooden spoon to push out the water. The dryer you can get the shreds, the better. But even with all your squeezing, the zucchini pieces will retain enough moisture that your fritter is tender and moist.
Note: Some fritters recipes are more pancake than loosely-held-together fritter patty, one where it's important you eliminate a lot of water. For those pancake-style fritters, a loose, moist batter may be preferable. Most recipes will explicitly call for wringing moisture from ingredients if that's necessary.
2. Get the skillet searing hot.
As you're combining all the ingredients for your fritters, go ahead and get the skillet warming up over medium-high heat with a bit of oil. A hot skillet will start cooking the fritters as soon as they hit the pan. That helps sear a crust on each fritter that will hold them together. A pan that's too cool will create a lackluster crust that could result in a floppy fritter if you're not careful.
In my experience, a cast iron skillet ($15; amazon.com) is the best option for fritters. It gets incredibly hot and is naturally non-stick (if it's seasoned properly). It also retains heat well, so when you get read to flip the fritters, you won't have to worry about the pan being too cool, having given the first side all its powerful heat.
Nonstick skillets can work, but you're rarely supposed to heat them above medium heat. They will take longer to get hot enough for a good crust, and they take longer to reheat if you need to cook a second or third batch of fritters. Also, if your fritter recipe calls for you to finish cooking the patties in an oven, you know a cast iron pan can go in there safely; not all nonstick pans are oven-safe.
3. Use a fish spatula for flipping.
You might think one spatula is the same as any other spatula, and that's just far from the truth. Indeed, a fish spatula ($13; amazon.com) is in a tier to itself. That's because when it comes to delicate foods like fritters, and yes, fish, a spatula can make or break the all-important flip.
Fish spatulas are thin, flexible, and slotted, which makes them agile enough to slide between the fritter and the skillet and easily flip the patty. They're far better for flipping fritters than tongs, and once you use a fish spatula, you'll see the difference it makes when you're trying to turn foods that could fall apart (crab cakes come to mind, too).