Surely this is a life skill everyone needs?
The perfect roast potato is one of life’s purest pleasures. With golden, crisp exteriors sharp enough to emit a tinkle when tumbled onto a ceramic serving plate; they also need light and fluffy middles that soak up the puddles of gravy in between your roast meat and veg. At Christmastime, the success of The Dinner itself can and has hung on obtaining that perfect crisp-to-fluffiness. No one wants a greasy spud nor an undercooked one with an icy hard middle. I’ve made my fair share of disappointing roasties in my time through being impatient, disorganised or just too naive about cooking time and temperature so I feel I’m the person you need to tell you how to produce these mouth watering Perfect Roast Potatoes.
Now, first thing’s first. You need a floury tattie to make perfect roasties, waxy ones are vetoed! I use Maris Pipers, King Edwards or those simply sold as “baking potatoes”. They need to be put in a pan of cold water and brought to the boil, before simmering for 8 minutes. Don’t use boiling water – potatoes are such solid vegetables they need to be started from cold to give time for the heat to permeate to the core. I know, as I’ve tried to speed the process up and it just doesn’t work. In fact, let me give you a rundown on my perfect roast potato pointers:
- Select a floury potato
- Cut each large potato into 3 even, pyramid shaped pieces to promote even cooking
- Parboil for 8 minutes, starting in cold water – test with the point of a knife and they should still be a little bit solid in the very centre
- “Chuff” them up in a sieve once drained – i.e. bash them about a little to fluff up the edges – this produces those delectable crispy bits around their edges
- Leave them to steam dry in the sieve for at least 10 minutes before roasting
- It’s much less stressful to precook to this stage and allow the tatties to go cold earlier on in the day whilst the turkey is cooking than to have to rush the spuds and veg at the last minute
- Preheat the oven as hot as it will go with the tray/dish you are using to cook them in with your oil of choice in to get hot
- Duck/goose fat is the best oil to cook them with, failing that vegetable/rapeseed can be heated extremely hot and doesn’t have the strong flavour of oil oil
- Don’t underestimate how long or how hot the oven needs to be – at least 40 minutes, if not 60 at almost maximal temperature in most domestic ovens is the aim.
When you are ready to cook the potatoes for a large roast dinner like Christmas Dinner, unless you are lucky enough to have two ovens, it’s likely the potatoes will be sharing shelf space with other veg or stuffing and this reduces the overall heat available to crisp up your tatties. I like to pull the turkey out, pop in the tray with it’s duck fat to get ferociously hot and wop the heat up at high as it goes. Once the potatoes are in, you can turn it down to 220˚C but I’d not go lower than that and I would use the oven thermometer I use on the shelf, not the dial on the oven itself to be sure. I’m always surprised that my oven dial remains very close to the advertised 270˚C on the dial outside but the internal thermometer can get as low as 200˚C. I like to pop some fresh herbs and garlic in to flavour the fat (which I save in a sterile jar in the fridge from previous crispy duck dinners) and I season with salt and pepper once they are cooked and ready to serve.
- 3 baking potatoes
- 2 tbsp duck/goose fat or vegetable (rapeseed) oil
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 2-3 sprigs of thyme
- 1 stem of sage
- 4 cloves of garlic
- Sea salt & black pepper to season
- Peel your potatoes and cut into three pyramid shapes as per the graphic below this recipe.
- Put the potatoes in a large pan of cold water and bring to the boil, then reducing the heat to a persistent simmer for 8 minutes.
- Test the potatoes with the point of a small sharp knife - the very middle bit should still have some bite, the exteriors will be soft.
- Drain into a sieve or fine colander and toss GENTLY a couple of times to fluff up the edges. Leave to stand in the sieve/colander for at least 10 minutes to steam dry a little but you could prep to this stage much earlier in the day and allow them to go cold.
- Heat oven as hot as it will go (if you're just cooked the turkey, it won't take too long to get ferociously hot). Put a small oven tray* with the fat of your choice in to preheat with the oven.
- When the fat is shimmering, quickly and carefully remove from the oven and using tongs, slowly lower a potato into the hot fat - if it doesn't sizzle immediately, put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. If it does, place all the potatoes in the oil spaced out 1-2 cm and then nestle in the herbs and garlic cloves between them.
- Roast on the top rack of the oven for 20 minutes, before removing and turning the potatoes over once in the fat - the surface immersed in the oil will already be crisp and golden. Return to the oven for another 20 minutes.
- Repeat once more (total cooking time of 60 minutes). When golden and crisp on all sides, remove from the fat and season generously with sea salt and pepper.
- NOTE - I keep the oven on as high as it will go as I'll be cooking veg and stuffing on the lower two shelves and this means the heat is dissipated somewhat. Always go by an oven rack thermometer to control the heat. If you feel better, reduce the heat to 220˚C and be prepared to give an extra 10-20 minutes cooking time.
- *= I use a 30x19cm heavy duty metal baking tray. It's the perfect size for 2 people's worth of potatoes and it means you don't need a gallon of fat to have adequate depth to roast in. I prefer using metal trays as they conduct heat better than ceramic ones - just make sure it has a reasonable lip on it to contain the fat when the potatoes are added.