Don't Skip This Step Before Frying Falafel

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Chef Yotam Ottolenghi – predicted by Mashed to be one of the celebrity chefs that will be everywhere in 2023 – and his co-author Sami Tamimi, both grew up in Jerusalem. They had similar afterschool food rituals, despite living on opposite ends of the city, per Ottolenghi's website. Each would stop for a fat falafel pita on the way home, which would result in spilling tahini on his shirt, ruining his appetite for dinner, and annoying his mother.

Although Tamimi lived with his Muslim family in the Old City, and Ottolenghi was raised with Jewish traditions on the southwest side, each had similar memories of eating falafel – fried balls made from chickpeas. They later crossed paths in London and ended up collaborating on "Jerusalem: A Cookbook" and "Ottolenghi: The Cookbook." One bit of advice Ottolenghi gives is that you should make sure the chopped chickpeas used in falafel are not mushy and can stay together.

One piece of advice is to soak dried chickpeas overnight rather than using canned peas. Suzy Karadsheh of The Mediterranean Dish writes, "If you're after the best texture and flavor, you need to start with dry chickpeas." Canned chickpeas are too wet and will cause the patty to fall apart in the hot oil, she says. There are other steps that will keep your falafel balls solid yet fluffy. Here's one you shouldn't skip.

Falafel that doesn't fall apart

Even if you use dry chickpeas or fava beans to make falafel, moisture from other ingredients can pose a challenge. According to Cook's Illustrated, the onion and herbs used in the dish contain water. That can result in a wet dough that is far too delicate to stick together, let alone hold up to frying. To keep the falafel balls firm while frying, refrigerate for an hour or more beforehand, according to The Spruce Eats. Some people try to get around the problem by adding starch to absorb the liquid and keep the dough intact. However, that can backfire. When Cook's Illustrated tested out cornstarch, flour, and chickpea flour, it produced dense and dry falafel.

What are some other tips for well-formed falafel? Michael Solomonov told Rachael Ray that a leavening agent like baking powder is essential for fluffy falafel balls (via YouTube). He also says you can use an ice cream scoop to form them instead of your hands. And if you're cooking up a big batch of falafel, instead of just refrigerating them before frying, you can actually freeze them until you need them, as noted freezer-obsessed chemist Billie Zeelen on her BZIce. Zeleen advises thawing them slowly in the fridge before frying them.