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Roast potatoes – how do you cook yours?

Parboiled or from raw? Goose fat or olive oil? Skin on or skin off? Everybody has an opinion on how to cook roast potatoes – but which method is best?

Roasting the beloved British spud is one of those things that most people think they do better than anybody else. So we want to narrow down the definitive recipe.

Which? can help you pick out a Best Buy potato variety for roasting, and we can even divulge the secrets of how to grow them. When it comes to cooking our spuds though, we bring in the professionals.

How to make the perfect roast potatoes

Chef Adam Byatt told Which? Gardening magazine how he makes the tastiest roasties. He got our mouths watering as he explained how to ensure a satisfying crunch – after peeling, boiling and draining the halved potatoes, he shakes them for a minute in the pan with the lid on to get them fluffed up and slightly broken.

Adam then spreads them on a roasting tray with a preheated lashing of vegetable oil or duck fat, seasons them with sea salt and shoves them in the oven for 50 minutes on 170Β°C. When the time’s up, the roasties should be crispy and fluffy inside – ready for a sprinkle of finely chopped rosemary and serving after resting them for 10 minutes. Delicious.

Spud, sweat and tears

But not everybody agrees with Adam – other celebrity chefs have their own ideas of how to prepare the Sunday lunch staple.

Jamie Oliver claims that the potato masher is the secret behind getting the best roastie. His trick is to get his potato-packed roasting tray out of the oven after 30 minutes and then gently squash each spud with the masher to increase their surface area and guarantee a great crunch.

Nigella Lawson swears by dredging her parboiled potatoes through semolina before they go in the oven. While Gordon Ramsay (unsurprisingly) likes to give his potatoes a bit of a kick – he adds chilli flakes and turmeric before they go in the oven.

What’s your surefire way to fill your plate with perfect roast potatoes? Do you agree with the experts? Or do you have your own unusual recipe for the ideal roastie?

What's your favourite way to cook a potato?

Roasted (41%, 410 Votes)

Mashed (21%, 215 Votes)

Baked (20%, 200 Votes)

Fried (7%, 74 Votes)

Boiled (6%, 59 Votes)

Steamed (2%, 25 Votes)

My favourite isn't here, better write it in the comments (2%, 25 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,008

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We always parboil in lightly salted water from 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the type of potato). If they are very firm, we may shake them in an old colander with a lid over it to rough them up. Then roast in a hot over for 35-45 minutes in proper fat – goose or beef fat, depending what is available. Now that the ‘experts’ have finally decided that advice on animal fat being so bad, it is good to know that the traditional recipes were just fine after all!

Always make sure your par boiled. Potatoes are dry, don’t roast them straight after draining them.

Mike says:
12 January 2015

Pretty good advice from Adam unsurprisingly – always par boil them!

You can put them to one side at this point and keep for 24 hours if you want to do some of the work in advance.

Goose fat is best (I bought extra at Xmas as it’s most readily available then) and it needs to be crackling hot. Rather than semolina I’ve used plain flour after giving them a good shake in a colander.

They come up nice and crispy!

Seems like I use a similar tactic for my roast potatoes. Once par boiled I drain them and give them a good shake in the pan. I then give them a sprinkle of flour and splash of olive oil – Nigella seems to use semolina but I never have it to hand and think flour does the trick just as well. And once the edges have fluffed up I put them straight into the roasting tray. 40 minutes later you have the perfect roast potato πŸ™‚

Great to hear from all these people with their hints and tips. The one person I don’t think we’ll be hearing from is Aunt Bessie. Who knows what they get up to in the roast potato factory?

MrTayto says:
13 January 2015

I recommend drying them out thoroughly before par-boiling.
Best results, bizarrely, can be had using a tumble drier, on a slow cycle.
My Best Buy machine does a great job!

Clare says:
13 January 2015

I’d love to give this a go, but don’t think that would be covered by the extended warranty on my dryer

Spuds says:
13 January 2015

Mr Tayto makes a valid point, it is all about the reduction of steam in the oven.

I would personally recommend storing your potatoes in bags packed with rice, this will adsorb any residual moisture in your potatoes/cupboard.

To achieve the ultimate crispy skin, ideally empty your oven, additional items (such as roast chicken) create a lot of moisture in the oven’s atmosphere preventing the potatoes from achieving their optimal skin.

First we have Mr Tayto and now we have Spuds contributing. πŸ™‚

What is the current recommendation for the best variety of potato to use for roasting? I have seen some conflicting advice.

I think it’s King Edwards or Maris Pipers isn’t it?

Personally I think their amusing usernames are half-baked. πŸ˜‰

I wonder if the Duke of York would like to make a comment?

King Edwards used to be a strong recommendation but some would disagree. I wonder if it depends on age, which is a factor in making chips.

The age of the cook or the age of the tatty?

I wonder if the fad for “thrice cooked chips” will spread to roast potatoes?

Well, with par-boiling they’re basically twice cooked. You would get a crispier potato if you roasted them again later, but then how crispy is too crispy?

Patrick wrote: ‘The age of the cook or the age of the tatty?’

Almost certainly.

I prefer to eat them in jackets for crispness.

Beryl, one of our regular favourite teas is jacket potatoes. Rub olive oil and salt into the skin to crisp it, spoon out the potato and mix with butter and creme fraiche, put back and top with grated cheese and diced crispy bacon.

We are lucky having a potato-based diet. They are so versatile. I don’t think rice or pasta-based diets can offer anything like the variety of tastes and textures – or can they? I don’t know a potato equivalent though for rice pudding.

Yes Malcolm I always use olive oil and salt, must try the creme fraiche, cheese and crispy bacon next time. Sounds delicious! You must eat the skins though for the fibre, Rice pudding is off the menu these days I’m afraid in favour of yoghurt.

Thanks for the link, Adam. I gave up trying to grow potatoes years ago because I don’t like using pesticides and too many tubers were affected to make it worthwhile. I had some success with Desiree, which roasted well.

It’s good that supermarkets give the variety of potatoes but seeing unblemished vegetables on the shelves does make me wonder what chemical treatment they have had.

Maybe I should have another go at growing potatoes. Roast potatoes are a firm favourite but one of my early memories is the distinctive boiled potatoes that my grandmother served when I was a child. They had a wonderful floury texture and all I know about them is that they were home-grown.

I tried to grow potatoes on my windowsill in London. As expected it was a little too ambitious and didn’t quite work. I would love to be able to grow my own veg though.

Thanks for the encouragement. I will see what I can achieve.

Something I saw on the Allotment Challenge show that I thought was interesting was that as the potatoes sprout you have to put earth over the green leaves. This stops you from getting green potatoes. I hadn’t really though about that – I would’ve thought the leaves would introduce rot or they wouldn’t get enough energy from the sun to grow into nice potatoes, but it seems not. Sorry if that gives away one of the tips Adam!

Alex – Attempting to grow potatoes on a windowsill seems a bit ambitious:-). The web offers some unusual alternatives such as this one, which dates from early April last year: http://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/how-grow-your-own-potato-chips-home.html

But it doesn’t work with Pringles (thank heavens)!

We used Chopin this Christmas – par boiled, drained, shaken and left lid off to cool and dry until ready to finish. Then into a tin with hot olive oil, basted, 200 deg C. We have made shallow cuts round each one before now, but not worth the effort.
I wonder what famous people would think having potatoes named after them? Nicola – well that’s OK.

Carol A says:
13 January 2015

I Par-Boli my potatoes then thoroughly drain and stand for a while. Place the roasting tray with fat or whatever you choose to roast with, in the oven to get very hot before adding the potatoes for roasting. Baste all of the potatoes with the hot fat and sprinkle with salt (helps to brown them)Leave to roast on a high heat, checking occasionally. If you have any tasty juice left from the roasted meat spoon that over the potatoes. Should come out crisp and tasty. Mum always did hers like this and hers were by far the best for taste.

Anne Oberon says:
23 April 2018

You’re all wrong! My mum and her contemporaries always put raw potatoes round the roast so that they absorbed the meat juices. Leave them to cook while you go to church on a Sunday morning (optional). When the joint is cooked take it out to rest then whack up the heat to do the Yorkshire puddings and crisp the roasties whilst tuning in to Billy Cotton’s Band show on the radio. Happy days.