Phyllo Dough Handling Tips

Tips for Working with Phyllo

phyllo dough
James And James / Getty Images

So you have a traditional Baklava recipe in one hand and a package of phyllo dough in the other. What next? More often than not, pre-packaged phyllo dough is available frozen rather than fresh for better preservation. It is usually sold in pre-made sheets in flat squares or rolls. Though frozen phyllo dough is more readily available in most major supermarkets, you can find fresh phyllo in some specialty stores or international supermarkets, particularly those that specialize in Middle Eastern or Greek food.

Either way, working with the delicate and paper-thin sheets of phyllo dough can be tricky. Below are some tips for working with phyllo dough to make your favorite Middle Eastern dessert recipes.

Working with Frozen Phyllo Dough

If you have purchased frozen phyllo dough for your recipe, there are some crucial steps to take to make sure your dough works with you, and not against you, during preparation of your dish. The first step is ensuring that you properly thaw the dough.

How to Thaw Frozen Phyllo Dough

First and foremost, you must plan and be patient. Working with frozen phyllo dough is not a thing to rush. You will have to give yourself some time to prepare since frozen phyllo takes about 24 hours to properly defrost. Then, follow these tips:

  • Don’t let it defrost too quickly. The trick to thawing phyllo dough is to make sure that it doesn't defrost too quickly. When the dough is too damp (generally from too much condensation in the defrosting process), it becomes gummy and the thin sheets will stick together, which in the world of phyllo is synonymous with unusable.
  • Defrost at room temperature. Upon removing the phyllo from your freezer, keep it in its original packaging and place it directly into the refrigerator. Never thaw at room temperature as it will thaw too quickly and collect too much moisture.
  • Do not separate until completely thawed. If you try to separate the sheets when they are too cold, they will crack. Your best bet is to keep them in their packaging in the refrigerator for 24 hours. This is enough time and just the right temperature to ensure usable sheets of phyllo.

    If you do find your phyllo sheets are still cracking or tearing, you can trim the sheet to remove the tear. If you are in mid-recipe and come across a tear, simply put another sheet over your damaged one. Once baked, it really won't be noticeable. But remember, once defrosted ad ready to go, you have to move fast, as phyllo dough dries out very quickly.

    Working with Fresh Phyllo Dough

    If you have purchased fresh phyllo, on the other hand, you are ready to go. Fresh phyllo can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks if kept tightly wrapped or in its original packaging. Phyllo dough can also be frozen (or re-frozen in the case of thawed phyllo) for 2-4 months.