Every second Friday of my childhood in Melbourne, Australia, my dad’s side of the family would gather around my grandmother’s table for Shabbat. My Nana was an incredible cook, so there were lots of highlights (the gravlax! the chicken! the pickles she did not make but chose with an expert eye!), but the one thing my cousins and I always fought over was the bowl of roast potatoes.
Down the kid’s end of the table (a thing that still exists, despite nearly all of us being in our 30s), someone would grab the bowl - or run into the kitchen to “help” by bringing the precious vessel to the table - for first dibs. The lucky winner would then use the tongs to tap each potato, one at a time, in search of the perfect specimen: golden with a crisp crust that seemed impenetrably thick, yet fluffy on the inside. There was, and is, no doubt that Nana made the best roast potatoes.
Now that I live on the other side of the world, I’ve had to take responsibility for my own potatoes. And, it turns out, the secret to crisp-yet-fluffy spuds is astonishingly simple: grapeseed oil.
Honestly, that’s it. I personally like to add an extra step (courtesy of my mother) by parboiling my potatoes first, but you can skip that if you’re impatient. And, if you’re wondering, I can’t really tell you why grapeseed oil. Possibly because of its high smoke point (ie. it can handle high temperatures), but the real reason is because Nana told me to.
Here’s the way I make my potatoes, but I want to emphasize that you can treat these potatoes pretty fast and loose. Parboil if you want, experiment with temperature and time, play around with shape. Consider this more a technique than a recipe - one with guaranteed results.
Perfect Roast Potatoes
Total Time: 45-60 minutes
- Yukon gold potatoes (1-2 per person)
- Grapeseed Oil
- Maldon or some other flaky salt, plus kosher salt for the water
Step 1: Boil Your Potatoes
First, preheat your oven to 400° F. As it’s heating up, peel your potatoes, put them in a saucepan, and cover them with water. Throw in a palmful of kosher salt, cover the pan, and bring it to the boil. Let it boil for around 10 minutes, or until you can stick a knife in a potato, but still meet some resistance. Texturally, your potatoes should still be a little crunchy.
Step 2: Grapeseed Oil
While your potatoes are parboiling, grab a sheet pan and drizzle with a good amount of grapeseed oil. You want enough so that you’ll be able to coat each piece of potato, but not so much that your potatoes are sitting in an oil bath while they cook. If you want to be safe, just add a little oil as you go.
Step 3: Cut & Coat
When your potatoes arrive at their cooked-ish (but still firm) best, drain and let them cool for a moment. Cut them into whatever you’re feeling that night - I tend to do either thick-cut chips (known to you Americans as “steak fries”) or quarters for roast potatoes. Place your pieces individually on the oiled sheet pan, coating them on all sides as you go. This seems tedious, but I promise it’s what helps achieve prime crispiness. Sprinkle generously with Maldon salt, then place the sheet pan in your pre-heated oven.
Step 4: Flip
After 15-20 minutes, pull your pan out and turn over all of your potatoes. Again, I’m aware this is tedious, but it yields the best results. This is also a good point to reassess your temperature and timing. If things are moving too fast or slow, feel free to turn the oven up or down by 25 degrees.
Step 5: Do The Tap Test
The second side will cook quicker than the first, so keep checking your potatoes until they’re ready. Not sure when that is? Tap a few potatoes with your tongs. If they make a nice crackly sound, that means they’re ready (and perfect).
Equipment You Need
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La Tourangelle Grapeseed Oil
This is the oil I buy, mostly because they have it at my local grocery store and it comes in a can instead of plastic. You don’t need to be picky with your oil, as long as it’s grapeseed.
Nordic Ware Sheet Pans
I like to use a sheet pan for my potatoes - especially when I’m making chips - so they have plenty of room to breathe and get to the correct level of crisp.
Great Jones Hot Dish
If you’re fancy and into cute patterns on cookware that no one will ever really see, do what I can’t bring myself to do and buy this $75 baking dish.
A good pair of tongs is very important for roast potato perfection - because about halfway through roasting, you need to turn each of your precious potatoes over so they crisp evenly. I like these because it’s extremely funny to watch dinner guests try to figure out how to open and close them. The secret is in the name.
Heath Ceramics Shallow Salad Bowl
Technically, this is called a salad bowl. But if you’re making perfect roast potatoes, you’re going to be picking through them to find the most perfect one, and this bowl allows plenty of space for that. I like the Redwood color.
Mosser Glass Large Bowl
Another (much cheaper) bowl for potatoes, or really anything, in the color I can’t stop myself from buying everything in.
Inku Scalloped Ceramic Cake Stand
Technically this is a cake stand, but if you’re going to make fantastic potatoes, you should really put them on full display.