How to make roast potatoes
Christmas dinner or Sunday lunches just aren't the same without roast potatoes. Get this dinner staple right with our top tips and recipe ideas from famous chefs, including Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith.
As roast potatoes are such a common sight on our table throughout the year, most of the well-know chefs have suggestions for how to cook them to perfection.
Keep reading for the basics on cooking this British classic, as well as their ultimate tips and tantalising ideas on how to make your roasties worth talking about.
Which potatoes roast best?
When we think of a potato, most of us probably think of a standard yellow spud. But there is a huge array of potatoes to pick from, and certain varieties are better for roasting than others.
The best ones to roast are floury or starchy potatoes, such as Maris Pipers, King Edwards and Desiree potatoes (red-skinned). These are the types most of the top chefs use time-and-time again.
You'll want to avoid more 'waxy' potatoes, such as Jersey Royals or Charlottes, as these hold together better when steamed or boiled, but don't have as much of a fluffy exterior to crisp up.
Maris Pipers, King Edwards and Desiree potatoes are best for roasting.
If you're keen to grow your own potatoes, take a look at the results from our potatoes growing trial. We selected 16 varieties recommended for roasting and planted them in May.
Roast potatoes: top cooking tips
First, peel the potatoes and remove any roots sprouting from them. Then, cut them so they're all a roughly even size.
Jamie Oliver's top tip:
He suggests cutting your potatoes to the size of squash balls, and washing them at this stage to remove any extra starch.
All recipes recommend par-boiling the potatoes so they're slightly tender before roasting them. Add them to already boiling water and add a pinch of salt.
Par boil the potatoes before roasting to ensure they're fluffy on the outside.
How long you boil them for varies from recipe to recipe - between five and 15 minutes. If you're cooking a lot of potatoes and they're fairly large in size, it would be nearer 15 minutes.
We'd recommend keeping an eye on them. You'll want to make sure they're a little fluffy on the outside - the more they are, the crispier they will be once cooked - but not quite cooked all the way through.
Once you have drained them, leave them to dry in their own steam for a few minutes, then shake them in the colander to fluff them up even more. Some recipes also suggest adding a little flour to them.
Nigella Lawson's top tip:
When you have par-boiled the potatoes, Nigella suggests covering them in semolina instead of flour and make sure the potatoes are slightly mashed on the outside, so there is lots of surface to crisp up.
Oven temperature and timings
The temperature you set your oven to and the amount of time you cook the potatoes for varies from recipe to recipe. Generally speaking, temperatures and times are as follows:
- 180ºC / 350ºF / gas mark 4 - cook for one hour and 20 to one hour 25 minutes.
- 190ºC / 375ºF / gas mark 5 - one hour 10 to one hour 15 minutes.
- 200ºC / 400ºF / gas mark 6 - 40 minutes to one hour.
- 250°C / 500ºF / gas mark 9 - as little as 30 minutes.
Get the fat or oil nice and hot before you put the potatoes in. Once you have, make sure your potatoes are totally coated. Also, don't layer the potatoes in the pan - make sure they have a little space between them.
Jamie's top tip:
After cooking the potatoes for 30 minutes, Jamie uses a potato masher to slightly flatten the potatoes - the more of them that touches the pan, the more there is to get crisp.
Make sure your potatoes are totally coated and not layered in the pan.
How accurately your oven sticks to the temperature you have is crucial for getting the best roast potatoes. But, sadly, we have found a lot of ovens that increase it by as much as 30ºC during the cooking time. That's enough to give you a burnt Christmas dinner.
Why cook roast potatoes in duck or goose fat?
A lot of recipes recommend roasting potatoes in duck or goose fat. Both have a high smoking point (the point at which it starts to smoke) of around 190ºC/375ºF. This means they can get extremely hot before you add the potatoes, which will help them crisp up.
Some people also say that it makes a real difference to the flavour, too. Goose and duck fat aren't the only fats you can use. Delia uses the fat from anything she is cooking and Heston Blumenthal says he swears by beef fat.
Mary Berry's top tip:
Can I roast potatoes in olive oil, butter or coconut oil?
If you're not keen on cooking your potatoes in meat fat, then there are alternatives. A lot of recipes say you can use olive oil, unsalted butter or coconut oil.
Roast potato seasoning ideas
The simple, unflavoured roast potato can be a thing of beauty. But if you want to really impress your guests, there are a huge array of flavours you can add to them, including:
Read on to find out what interesting herbs and spice combinations top chefs Jamie Oliver, Delia Smith and Gordon Ramsey use.
Roast potato recipes from top chefs
Can roast potatoes be made in advance, reheated or frozen?
You could boil the potatoes ahead of time, such as the day before, and then put them in the oven on Christmas Day.
Jamie Oliver also says that you can put them in the roasting pan and cover them with the oil or fat you want to use the day before. Simply cover them with cling film or foil and put in the fridge.
Mary goes one step further, saying you can even start them roasting for 20 to 30 minutes, or until they are pale gold. After removing any excess fat or oil, allow to cool and then put in the fridge overnight. Then on Christmas Day, heat on the same temperature for around 30 minutes.
You can also freeze roast potatoes, either prepared and ready to cook, or already roasted. But some people have said that they prefer them fresh.