perfect roast potatoes

perfect roast potatoes

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Here it is: the reason for the blog and why it’s here. My take on perfect roast potatoes.

Perfect for me means golden nuggets: crunchy, shiny outside and ivory fluff inside.

One of the key components to a roast dinner being truly memorable is perfect roast potatoes. I’ve spent a long time eating and cooking roast potatoes, and have tried all the methods from all the chefs – Heston Blumenthal, Delia Smith, Jamie Oliver, the lot. In 2009 The Guardian published an interesting article comparing different celebrity chef techniques. Many spuds later I feel somewhat qualified to give the perfect potato.

the potatoes

First, the potatoes. You need lovely dry-matter-packed potatoes, such as Maris Pipers or Yukon Golds. Peel them but keep the skins, in a muslin cloth or brand new J-cloth tied at the top. This may sound bonkers but these peelings will lend a real earthy note to the final product. Cut the potatoes into golf-ball size chunks. Get some water on a really rapid boil and salt much more than you usually would. When you reach your salting limit, add a touch more (this is more chemical- than taste-based). Pop your pots in the water and dunk the skins in too.

the boiling

Leave to boil until tremendously tender – up to but not as far as potato soup. This is a test of nerves. Drain and return to the pan to steam-dry, discarding the skins. If you dare, shake the cooked potatoes a little to break the edges.

(The potatoes can be frozen or fridged at this point, leaving you free to do the actual roasting when you’re ready.)

the roasting

When you’re ready to cook, get the oven dead hot, around 220C. Pre-heating is the order of the day – don’t put the potatoes in then turn the oven on. Give it at least 10 minutes to reach the optimum temperature. A couple of minutes before the potatoes go in, add your fat of choice to a large baking tray. I favour a 50/50 mix of pork and duck fat. I add enough to barely cover the base of the tray. Put this back in the oven to get smoky, wibbly hot. At this point add the potatoes to the fat.

the seasoning

After 20 minutes, take the tray out, add a sprig of rosemary, a couple of bashed (no need to peel) garlic cloves and a few splashes of red wine vinegar. Add a slice of orange zest if you have it. Take a fork and gently press on the back of each spud. You want them crispy, right? That’s formed by the crags on the potato opening up, so this squishing makes as much surface area as possible. Try not to break them up, but if you do you get the by-product of little crispy bits in the tray. Season with salt and pepper here, toss it all together and pop back in the oven.

After another 20 minutes they will be approaching done. Keep tossing the potatoes in the oils and flavourings when you check on them, and pop them back in if you think they could do with a few more minutes. When they come out of the oven sprinkle over some crumbled flakes of delicious Maldon sea salt.

It sounds like a lot of work when you read it all back like that, but it makes the most fluffy-centred, crunchy and gravy-absorbent roast potatoes you can imagine. Give them a try on your next roast!

praise for perfect potatoes the Big Spud way

Have you tried my perfect roast potatoes? Let me know what you think.

“One of the gang cooked roast potatoes for their future in-laws …they were the best Roasties they’d ever eaten”Love Potatoes

“Made them for family and my sister apparently hasn’t stopped going on about them since.”@lukewhitt_

“Big Spud’s guide to perfect roast potatoes is absolutely excellent”She Cooks She Eats

“Tasted brilliant”Munchmun.ch

“Farking amazing… it really is all about taking them to the edge” – FoodUrchin

Want more? Check out my potato recipe ebook

perfect roast potatoes
perfect roast potatoes
Yum
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
perfect roast potatoes
perfect roast potatoes
Yum
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Peel the potatoes but keep the skins, in a muslin cloth or brand new dishcloth tied at the top. Cut the potatoes into golf ball size chunks. Get some water on a really rapid boil and salt it much more than you usually would. Pop your pots in the water and dunk the skins in too.
  2. Leave to boil until tender – about 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pan to steam-dry, discarding the skins. If you dare, shake the cooked potatoes a little to break the edges.
  3. Preheat the oven 220°C / 430°F. A couple of minutes before the potatoes go in, add your fat of choice to a large baking tray. Put this back in the oven to get smoky, wibbly hot for another 2 minutes. At this point add the potatoes to the fat.
  4. After 20 minutes, take the tray out, add a sprig of rosemary, a couple of bashed (no need to peel) garlic cloves and a few splashes of red wine vinegar. Add a slice of orange zest if you have it. Take a fork and gently press on the back of each spud. Season with salt and pepper here, toss it all together and pop back in the oven.
  5. After another 20 minutes toss the potatoes in the oils and flavourings, and pop them back in if you think they could do with a few more minutes.
  6. When they come out of the oven sprinkle over sea salt and serve.
Recipe Notes

You can freeze this recipe at just about any point. After boiling is a good time, then add straight to the hot fat. Or you can roast them for 20 minutes and again add them straight to hot fat direct from the freezer.

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56 comments

  • Excellent bit of roasty research there Gary. Top marks. I like the peelings idea.

    I have to say, even though it’s not even 7am yet my mouth was watering reading this 🙂

  • I do them the same way except for the red wine vinegar – will try that this Christmas!

    I love this part “Leave to boil until tremendously tender – up to but not as far as potato soup. This is a test of nerves” – so true! But it’s worth it – so worth it.

    None of the semolina coating nonsense by Nigella is necessary if you treat your spuds properly 🙂

    • The semolina thing is OK and make a nice change with pleasant nutty notes. But this page is all about roast potatoes in their purest form!

  • Yes, similar to how we do it too!

    YUM!

  • ‘smoky, wibbly hot’ – love that description. I’ve never tried the red wine vinegar either – will deffo give that a try with my Christmas bird.

    • The red wine vinegar is a Jamie Oliver master stroke. It’s hard to judge the amount, but it’s not a lot. It creates this lovely aroma and slight tang in the finished product that’s not obvious but missed when it’s not there. It’s close to chips from the seafront that have that vinegary kick wafting off them, but nowhere near as strong.

      Try it out!

  • Hello fellow cold roast tatty fan 🙂 I put the spud peelings in the par boiling water and it definitely makes a difference to the flavour. This is such a comprehensive post – brilliant!

  • these sound brilliant…….

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  • i thought yukon gold had been rejected by Blumenthal and his team of chefs when they were taste testing. did i miss something?

    • A strange one this: I do remember them saying that on the programme (haven’t seen it in a little while) but the cookbook lists them as ones to use. He has also said at other times that Yukon Golds are worthy. So I don’t know where that discrepancy comes from.

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  • well, I dunked the skins – and have to admit I did think it sounded bonkers – but these are the most gorgeous roasties with a taste I’ve never managed to get before. Didn’t add the red wine vinegar this time. They were well worth the effort – thanks

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  • Arran victory = roastie heaven!

  • I dont like to cook them til theyre nearly collapsing cos i find they go too far over and all break up and absorb too much oil. Ive had great results by half cooking them in very salty water (like you say, spud) then shaking in the pan after draining to fluff, and letting them go properly cold in the colander as they drain. Then put them in with the chicken for a good hour and a half at least on v low in only the small amount of butter and oil that leaks out of my chicken under-skin-butter-basting and just turning them and basting every 20 mins or so. (Salt them with good flaky sea salt to help the crust) They hold together nicely in the middle and are fluffy but not soaked with oil in the middle, and the long slow cooking and basting with the chicken juices builds up a gorgeous dark glaze on the edges that fast cooking doesnt achieve as well. They’re amazingly good for a surprisingly low effort. I get the idea of cooking with the skins for flavour – I have in the past experimented with this idea by giving ole spuds a good scrub, and then scrappily peeling them to leave about half the peel on – they look like dalmation spuds! This allows for half the skin flavour to be preserved (and eaten – good for your fibre!) but leaves spots that are properly peeled that can absorb flavour and get fluffy and crispy. It does kinda work but i prefer my spuds to have the chickeny butter glaze!!! Nooomie nums!!!

    • I love potatoes ‘basted’ in meat juices as well, but I find you lose those crispy edges which are what I’m after. Horses for courses though.

      • it might work “frothing” them after the last base. Y’know, like when you sprinkle a bit of flour over them to aid the crispyness. Might work, dunno. Might try it next time.

  • I see it says to keep the peelings back but does it say what to do with them, have I missed that part? Another commenter says it is a great idea but wondering where they saw it being implemented!!

    • “Pop your pots in the water and dunk the skins in too.” Put the skins into a piece of muslin cloth (or a clean dishcloth), tie the top and boil them along with the potatoes. Let me know how you get on!

      • As I don’t possess any muslin, I boil the peelings first (they only take about ten minutes as they are so thin) then remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon. Then pop the tatties in. Again, I don’t like to boil them to the point of collapse, but just so that the edges are breaking up. A gentle shake is all it takes to roughen them up enough to get crunchy roasties but avoids “roasted mash”!!

  • Lovely blog – looking forward to reading my way through it 🙂

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  • I looove roast potaotes and I could eat them for dinner and nothing else. I have to confess I have more of a sweet tooth than savoury but I love roast potatoes (and mashed potato). Your instructions are very clear and understandable, however, my partner calls me “Disaster Chef”, so – it would be quite an achievement for me to follow your recipe! Also, here Down Under (Australia) we have different spuds, but I’ll certainly look for some dry-matter packed pots down under here and there. 🙂

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  • Great pictures. Looks good.

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  • I did this. I did this very thing with my potatoes and I can confirm that this magic formula does indeed work. I didn’t have any decent ‘fat’ in the house so resorted to groundnut oil but hey, they were still very crunchy and oh so fluffy on the inside. And the boiling part not only tested my nerves but also the strength of my pants. Awesome spuds.

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  • gastrojourneyman

    Came across your post while researching on roasted potatoes. Fantastic post I have to say. I tried making these potatoes using other recipes with varying success. Definitely will be trying yours next. My inconsistencies are driving me nuts!!!

    Some questions:
    You mentioned putting barely enough fat to cover the tray. Won’t it be insufficient to cover the potatoes thoroughly with hot oil before dumping them into oven?

    Read somewhere we shouldn’t cramp the potatoes too packed else them will steam instead of roast. How cramp is cramp exactly? I got steamed potatoes a couple of times 🙁

    • Hi gastrojourneyman,

      Thanks for stopping by. Regarding the fat, just enough should crisp it. Adding too much fat will not allow them to crisp just right.

      Yes, not cramming the potatoes is a good idea. There should be some space all around each one.

      Best of luck!

      Gary

      • gastrojourneyman

        Finally tried your recipe.. Awesome! I am sticking with this from now on. Many thanks! 🙂

        Another question.. Most recipes involve cooking the potatoes in cold water till water is boiling, follow by another 6-8 minutes of simmering. In your recipe, the potatoes are dumped into boiling water instead and cooked for 15 minutes!

        This is definitely against what I had researched so far. Any reason for this? Which is better? I would believe you have tried both methods in your journey to the perfect potatoes.

        • Thanks for the feedback!

          As you have correctly guessed, I have tried the boiling all sorts of ways. Cold water or hot makes no difference. I use hot just to save time. Cold water with potatoes in takes nearly ten minuted to get to temperature. I like to take them to very well boiled for maximum fluffyness / crunchiness. Hope that helps!

  • The Rosemary really adds to making decent roasties for a Roast Beef or Lamb, in fact almost any good red meat that inst too strong in flavour. I have found it so easy to totally reinvigorate any regular meal by using the simple seasoning of the roasties with sprigs of herbs. Simple but underrated.

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