You would imagine roasted potatoes would be pretty damned easy, a home run for most cooks. Sadly from experience I’ve found this to not be true.
I’ve tasted spuds ranging from too hard, not crispy enough, too oily all the way through to totally flavourless. After a few years of hard work (and spending too much in restaurants), I think I have perfected the art of roasting spuds.
There are a several key steps you need to master in order to roast a great tater. You might thing I’m going OTT here, but a great roast spud is revelatory.
IMPORTANT TIP 1: Use quality ingredients!
A 20lb bag of value potatoes and crappy value vegetable oil will not make a premium roast potato. Fact! These days I use a decent extra virgin olive oil, fresh rosemary (sometimes ground like shown ), garlic, sea salt and a good russet potato.
Firstly peel your spuds. I generally figure 1.5-2 medium sized tatties per person. Next you need to cut into segments. The smaller your pieces the shorter the cooking time and crunchier the final product. I like fairly small pieces, nothing much bigger than a golf ball.
Next salt a pan of water and heat so it hits a ‘rolling boil’. This means when you add items to the pan it will continue to boil away. Plunge your peeled and chopped spuds into the water and boil away.
IMPORTANT TIP 2: Easy on the oil!
While the water boils up you will need to take an oven tray or oven friendly dish and line with foil. Add a thin layer of olive oil to the tray or dish. Too much oil will mean your spuds will spend their cooking time submerged under a layer of fat – they won’t crisp! All we want is a very thin coating on the spuds, that with the salt (see below) are all they need to crisp up nicely.
Once your oil is ready, throw a few peeled cloves of garlic into the oil. If you had fresh rosemary (or other herbs), also throw some sprigs on now as well.
Place this in the oven for a few minutes so the garlic (and fresh herbs if you have them) starts to infuse the olive oil.
While the oil heats up, you need to par boil the taters until they start to soften. If you boil too much they will disintegrate in the next step (yep, I have done that once or twice). If you dont boil enough the final roastie will be hard and not very pleasant.
I generally let them boil for 5 minutes and get a sharp knife, repeatedly stabbing to test. Once you can easily poke beneath the surface by a half centimetre they are done.
Drain the water from the spuds (if your cooking veggies later, you might want to reserve this water for cooking with!) and return the pan to the stove. Steam off any excess water from the spud taking care to ensure the spuds don’t stick to the dry pan.
IMPORTANT TIP 3: Break those spuds!
When the spuds look dry take off the heat and place a lid on the pan. Next shake the pan vigorously for a few seconds. Take the lid off and check the edges of the spuds are all broken. It’s at this point if you boiled too long you will get a big mush.
Hopefully you got it spot on and you have nice fluffy spuds with broken edges. Why broken edges? This is what makes the perfect crispy texture we want for the spud later on.
Next transfer the spuds to the heated tray of oil. Using a spoon or basting brush, toss the potatoes in the oil making sure they are evenly covered. If you did not add enough oil earlier feel freee to add some more, just remember not to drown them!
Next add your seasonings. I love rosemary and so I use fresh rosemary when available. Today I only have ground rosemary which is still great. Sprinkle the spuds with your seasoning plus salt and pepper.
I find sea salt to be an excellent alternative to standard table salt. It also helps to crisp up the spuds as the cook.
Place the spuds into the pre heated oven and leave, that’s it! You don’t need to turn them or mess around. You can if you like it won’t hurt much.
Depending on the size of the spuds and the heat of your oven, they can take anywhere from 45 -> 90 mins. I like a real crispy tater and generally give them at least an hour.
C’est voila. We had ours yeterday with some coho salmon, fresh green beans and chilled anchovy tapenade. Hmmm.
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.