There’s nothing more annoying than buying some nice crispy breaded chicken, fries, or spring rolls, only to find when you’ve got home that they’re disgustingly soggy. So how do you keep food crispy when transporting it?
The best way to keep food crispy when transporting it is to keep it well ventilated to allow steam to escape. You should also provide absorbent material to soak up excess moisture. On longer trips, you will have to let the food cool and reheat it; on shorter trips, you can keep the food warm.
You can use several different hacks to keep your food crispy when transporting it, so let’s take a look at why food goes soggy, and then see what you can do about it so that you have a better takeout or party catering experience. And if keeping food crispy when transporting it is part of your livelihood, then this post is even more relevant to you.
Why Does Fried Food Go Soggy?
Fried food tends to be full of moisture. As it comes hot from the fryer, the moisture escapes from the food as steam.
If you haven’t taken steps to ventilate your fried food, the steam builds up in the crispy coating, causing it to become soggy and gross. Solutions to this problem must therefore focus on letting the steam escape.
How Can We Stop the Food from Getting Soggy?
Keeping food crispy starts in the kitchen by ensuring that there is not too much oil in your fried food. You can do this by:
- Keeping the lids of pots and fryers half-opened while ensuring that nothing can contaminate the food.
- Draining the food by placing it on a cooling rack stood over a baking sheet. Doing so allows the excess oil to drip off while also allowing enough air to circulate under the food so that it doesn’t get soggy.
If you’ve ever witnessed a fast-food chain kitchen at work, you’ll have seen that they keep deep-fried foods on perforated trays that fulfill the same function as the cooling rack baking sheet combo. This combo also helps excess steam to escape.
Don’t Transport Fried Food in Styrofoam
For many years, Styrofoam packaging was the standard for takeout food containers. Styrofoam is an excellent insulator to keep food warm, and it doesn’t leak.
However, it doesn’t breathe either, which means that it traps steam around fried food and makes it soggy. Styrofoam packaging is also controversial these days because it’s not biodegradable.
Cardboard and paperboard packaging are not only environmentally friendly, but they also allow a lot more steam to escape than Styrofoam does, especially if they are ventilated with holes.
Consider KFC packaging for to-go orders: they use cardboard buckets with well-ventilated lids. Other fast-food outlets use similar concepts that allow the food to breathe.
The Key Role of Ventilation in Keeping Food Crispy
Paperboard or cardboard boxes with plenty of holes for proper air circulation are the best option for transporting fried foods. You can also use perforated plastic food containers.
Avoid sealed Tupperware or other airtight containers since they’ll lock in the moisture and make the food soggy.
Vented containers prevent moisture from building up around hot and fried food. Make sure that the vents aren’t too large.
Large vents will result in the food getting cold, and smaller vents are still large enough to let steam and moisture leave the container.
If you are wrapping the food before putting it in the container (for example, burgers), take care not to wrap it over-tight. A tight wrap will lock in moisture, which for crispy foods is not desirable.
To keep the food crispy, make sure to wrap it loosely to give it space to breathe.
We recommend the following materials for wrapping your food:
- Parchment paper
- Beeswax food wrap (environmentally friendly option)
How Absorbent Material Helps to Keep Food Crispy
When moisture escapes from the food into the air in the travel container, some will condense on the sides of your container, run down, and go back into your food. The result is soggy food.
Placing paper towels or a piece of cloth in your travel container will help to keep your food crispy. The paper towel helps mop up the moisture and prevent it from getting into your food.
We recommend using disposable food gloves when handling the food and paper towels to prevent contamination. Use a double layer of paper towels, as a single layer won’t cut it.
How to Keep Food Crispy By Keeping It Cool
Because it’s steam released from fried food that builds upon the outer surface as condensation to make it soggy, an effective way to keep food crispy when transporting it is to keep it cold.
If you have to transport fried food a long distance, say cross country, let it cool down as long as possible before packaging it. Doing so helps to prevent the steam from making it soggy in the first place.
When you get to your destination, you will have to reheat the food.
Use an oven rather than a microwave to reheat. If reheating fried foods with breading, such as fried chicken, skip the foil, as it will lock in moisture and make the food soggy.
On shorter trips, you can use a passive warming element, such as a pizza stone, slow cooker, or toasty container, to help keep your food warm as well as crispy.
Another option, if you have space in the footwell of your car, is to put the food on the floor under the foot vents. Crank the heat to produce warm but dry air, thus keeping your food warm as well as crispy.
Fried food is always going to be best fresh out of the fryer. However, if you have to transport it, make sure to drain excess oil and moisture and then pack it into a well-ventilated paperboard container lined with paper towels.
You can either keep it warm with a passive warming element, or for longer trips, you will have to let it cool down completely and then reheat it at your destination.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.