How to Make Perfect Crispy Potatoes at Home
Which is better, pan-fried or oven-roasted?
If you ask me, crispy potatoes can (and should) be eaten breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and serve as more than just a side. But although pan-frying or roasting potatoes appears pretty straight forward, and the mighty potato often seems forgiving to cook with, all too often, that perfect texture combination of golden crusty glory with a creamy center somehow turns sad and soggy or bitterly burned.
So, to avoid making the same mistakes we’ve come up with a complete guide to help you get the texture just right—from choosing the right pan to choosing the right potato, we got you covered!
Which method to use: pan-fried vs. oven
To roast or not to roast? Roasting your potatoes in the oven definitely has its benefits; it’s healthier than pan-frying, as less fat is used in the cooking process, it’s better suited for big batch cooking, and most of all, it’s super convenient as the oven does most of the job—minus an occasional flip to ensure that the potatoes cook evenly. Just have a look at our how-to below with only 10 min. preparation time.
Though widely perceived as the easiest and most bulletproof way to successfully crisp up a spud without burning, there are some caution areas to be aware of: Never start off with a cool oven, but make sure it’s pre-heated and has reached the desired temperature, ideally around 200°C/400°F, depending on size.
Also, the potatoes should be lightly coated with oil, not bathing in it, and they should be distributed in a single layer on the roasting tray with a little space in between.
Have a look at the infographic below and get inspired by our flavor combinations for oven-roasting.
Even though the convenience of the oven can be considered a shortcut to success, if you ask us, nothing beats the texture and flavor of a proper pan-fried potatoes. Sure, pan-frying is more of a hands-on job and therefore, arguably, more time-consuming, and you have a much higher risk of turning your potatoes into charcoal before even having a chance to check for doneness.
However, when getting it right, the pan-fried potato can absorb much more flavor, and the direct contact with the heat of the pan makes the sugar content in the potato starch caramelize more evenly resulting in that perfect crispy shell and creamy center that we all sought after.
Which potato to use: starchy vs. waxy
Po-tay-to po-tah-to, right? Not quite. The choice of potato really does matter, when looking to achieve that perfect texture: Too starchy, and your potatoes will turn mushy and are likely to burn, due to the sugar content in the starch. Too waxy, and your potatoes won’t caramelize or crisp and you will end up with a tough texture rather than soft and creamy. So, where on the starchy-waxy spectrum do we land? Ideally, somewhere in the middle. You want your potatoes to be waxy enough to hold their shape, while starchy enough to ensure a crisp caramelization and a creamy texture.
A great all-purpose potato to use is the yellow potato, Yukon Gold. On the waxier side, you can find red and blue potatoes which still have a considerable amount of starch in them, and also make for a more aesthetic choice for a dinner party. If you, however, choose to fry or roast your potatoes raw—more on that later— you can allow to move further towards the starchy end and use potatoes such as Russet or Idaho.
How to prepare pan-fried potatoes: raw vs. cooked
Pan-frying raw potatoes is a risky business as they are likely to burn before fully cooked through—hence, the sugar in the starch burning. However, with an alert eye and good temperature control, it is the fastest way around, and once you get a hold of it, probably also the easiest.
Make sure to start at a medium-high temperature and fry the potatoes until golden and crisp on the outside, then lower heat to medium-low and cover with a lid just until cooked through. A pro-tip to avoid this second step entirely, is to cut the potatoes into approx. 0.25 in-./0.5 cm-thick slices rather than cubes or wedges. This way, the potatoes will cook through faster, lessening the risk of burning.
Using cooked potatoes is a great make-ahead trick and a convenient way to use up leftovers. However, there are a few things to consider when using pre-cooked in order to get the best result: Hold off slicing or cutting the potatoes till after boiling—this way they won’t deteriorate in the pan—always make sure that the pan is pre-heated, preferably to medium-high, and be sure the potatoes are completely dry before adding to the pan.
Which pan to use: cast iron vs. non-stick coating
In the pan-battle between cast iron vs. non-stick coating, there are advantages on both sides. A pan with a non-stick coating will heat more evenly and is easier to regulate temperature-wise, making it a safer choice to avoid burning.
On the other hand, a cast iron skillet can heat to a much higher temperature and is better at retaining heat, making it perfect for frying. Not to mention, a good seasoned cast iron will add a well-rounded, deep roasted flavor to your potatoes.
Regardless of which pan you choose, it’s important that the pan is hot before adding the potatoes, otherwise, you will end up with a soggy rather than crispy result.
Also, make sure not to overcrowd the pan and only arrange your potatoes in a single layer with enough space in between to flip—keeping in mind only to flip once one side is perfectly browned, as stirring and tossing too much will cause the potatoes to deteriorate.
Which fat to use: butter vs. oil
When choosing your fat on the quest for that golden crisp, it’s important to pay attention to the smoking point, as you will be cooking at a medium to medium-high temperature. It can be tempting to treat your potatoes to a butter bath or the richness of plenty of porky lard, but sadly these are fats with a low smoking point, which will almost always lead to burning.
Vegetable oil is the safest go-to as it can sustain a lot of heat, however, with its neutral flavor profile, it won’t add as much of a flavor boost. But rest assured, you don’t have to choose between crisp and flavor, simply start out by frying your potatoes in a little oil—you don’t want to overdo it by deep-frying—and once they slowly start to take on color, add your flavor-boosting fats like lard, butter, bacon drippings, or even duck fat for a little French bistro oh là là.
How to serve pan-fried potatoes
As mentioned earlier, I’m a firm believer that crispy potatoes can be enjoyed any time a day! Enjoy it as a hearty breakfast with bacon, onion, and herbs, or as a greasy hangover cure with melty cheddar cheese and a fried egg on top. Have it for lunch with chorizo and green onion—trust me on this one, the potatoes will sponge up all that spicy oil rendered from the chorizo. Serve it as a party snack or a side dish with homemade aioli or pesto.
Or make it a main and surrender to the convenience of the oven on those late-home-from-work days. Toss the potatoes with vegetables and herbs and serve with a tangy mustard vinaigrette—a healthy vegetarian dinner ready in no time!
What is your favorite way to serve pan-fried or oven-roasted potatoes? Let us know in a comment or upload your favorite potato recipe to our app to share it with the Kitchen Stories community.
Published on December 22, 2018