How to make the perfect roast potatoes, according to chefs

The roast potato is a key part of the Christmas dinner.

But there is a lot involved in getting it right – from the type of potato, to how and what you cook them in.

For those unsure about parboiling and struggling to choose between goose fat or vegetable oil, we spoke to the experts to get some tips.

This is what chefs do to create something crispy but soft inside, with lots of flavour.

The best type of potato

While you might be tempted by cut price veg, splashing out on particular types of potato, if you can afford to, can help to improve your roasties.

Charlie Hibbert, head chef at Ox Barn restaurant at Thyme, recommends a floury variety like a Maris Piper.

Private chefs from Signature Staff, who cook for royalty and celebrities, agree on Maris Pipers but said King Edwards are also a good option.

Preparing the potatoes

There are a few steps you need to consider before the potatoes hit the oil.

Parboiling is important to ensure you get a fluffy inside. It helps to precook the potatoes, before you roast them to crisp up the outside.

You also need to think about the shape – the size of each chunk and the edges available maximise the crunch.

Tom Westerland, head chef at Crockers said: ‘We peel them and cut them into what I call “roast potato shape” – this is basically as many edges as possible. It’s the trick to maximising your crispy edges! 

‘We then cover them with cold water and a good handful of salt. Bring them to the boil and then rapidly boil them for seven minutes. Drain them off, ruffle them in the colander with some rock salt. (This is the 7 minute shuffle).’

Jeff Baker, executive chef at Farminson & Co, has a slightly different method.

He says: ‘A mistake can be made in trying to crisp up your potatoes by almost drowning them in oil, leaving them burnt on the outside and undercooked on the inside.

‘This is why it is important to fluff up your potatoes before roasting by partially boiling or using my preferred method of steaming.

‘You can parboil your spuds for ten minutes in salted water or steam for 15 minutes (depending on the size of the potatoes). Be sure to allow your potatoes to dry and cool slightly before roasting.’

Tricks of the trade

Each chef has their own technique to get their potatoes as crispy as possible but they all agree that drying them out is important.

Jorjon Colazo, head chef of Aquavit London, says: ‘To make sure you get really crisp potatoes, once you’ve par-boiled them, leave them to cool down slowly to room temperature before putting them in the oven.

‘This helps the potatoes to dry out a little, and if there’s less moisture when they go in the oven they will end up super crisp on the outside, and perfectly fluffy on the inside.’

Working with Aldi, chef Neil Rankin agreed that letting them cool is important. He added: ‘Even better, leave them for a few hours in the fridge or if you’re in a rush dust with a little flour.’

Parboiling the night before and leaving them in the fridge means one less job on the day and helps them crisp up too.

What type of fat is best?

When it comes to the type of fat you cook your roast potatoes in, there are lots of options.

Most chefs recommend goose fat for the ultimate in luxury.

You need to preheat the fat in the oven, so it’s best to do that before you start preparing or parboiling.

You want to make sure the goose fat is melted and very hot before you add the potatoes. Try adding a tiny piece to check before you throw the whole lot in.

If you or your guests are vegan or vegetarian, vegetable oil or coconut oil are a good alternative.

Private chefs from Signature Staff said that when adding them to the pan, leaving space is key too.

They recommend using a few pans if you need as overcrowding stops them crisping up.

What should you add?

While some chefs like to just add some salt to the pan, other popular flavours include garlic or rosemary.

It’s best to add your flavourings at the end, as soon as they come out of the oven. This way it sticks to the potatoes without burning in the pan.

How long do you need to cook roast potatoes for?

While some chefs prefer a long roasts, others go for a shorter cooking time at a higher heat.

Jeff Baker explains that that it really depends on the size of potatoes, how many you have and what else is in your oven so it’s best to just keep checking until they are done.

Jeff adds: ‘The debate of how long you should cook your spuds is definitely up for contesting around Christmas time.

‘I would recommend at least 30 minutes at 200 degrees whilst checking every 10-15 minutes and giving them a shake to increase the crispiness. If you are still unsure after this 30 minutes, take a potato out and give it a try. Not only can you check whether they are ready but you get first dibs on the crispiest roastie.’

Serve them up

Once they’re ready, serve them up to enjoy at with the rest of the trimmings. While you want to keep them warm, don’t let them sit in leftover oil for too long as this can make them go soggy. If there’s lots of oil left in the pan, try to drain it off.

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