Monday, 22 March 2010

The Perfect Roast Potato

The perfect roast potato is a thing of wondrous beauty. There are very few pieces of meat that don't benefit from having these crunchy, fluffy pieces of gold as an accompaniment. In the UK, you can buy bags of frozen roast potatoes in grocery stores, which I believe is truly a crime. Not only because it's such a lazy way to make them, but because the result is so AWFUL.
A proper roast potato is not hard to make, as long as you follow a few rules, and the end result will seriously send shivers down your spine.
Golden yellow, with crunchy, brittle edges the colour of deep amber, which give way to an impossibly light and fluffy interior that disappears like cream in your mouth. NO WAY can you achieve that in twenty minutes from a bag of frozen, congealed lumps. For the same reason, make plenty, but don't make more than you plan to eat the evening of cooking, as they just don't reheat well.

I have spent the better part of twenty years making roast potatoes, stealing tips from here and there. For the past couple, I have been able to turn out platters of crunchy, golden potatoes and this is how.
The goose fat is important. So important that when I went back to the States for the last Thanksgiving, I smuggled a jar in, disguised as a pot of Karma Kream from Lush.
If you can't get goose fat, use duck, which comes in a close second. If you can't get duck fat, use grapeseed oil, as it has a high smoke point.
You need to use a floury potato, In the UK, Maris Piper, Desiree or King Edward work brilliantly, while in the States, a russett is a good choice, it just depends on the time of year and the region you live in. If you boil the potato and it begins to fall apart in a granular, floury way around the outside, then it's probably a safe bet.
So those are the two most important things. The recipe I have below is the method I follow every single time, which has yet to fail me. The addition of a few sprigs of rosemary or halved (skin on) cloves of garlic is lovely when serving with lamb or pork but here is the basic method:

Best Ever Roast Potatoes
To serve 6. Takes approximately 1 hour

1kg (2.2lbs) floury potatoes, peeled and cut into halves (or quarters if very big)
4 tbsp goose fat
1 tbsp sea salt

Heat your oven to 220C (450F)
Bring the potatoes to a boil in a large pan of salted water. Boil for around 10 minutes, keeping an eye on them. The point at which you drain them is important. You want them to be almost cooked, with tender, floury outsides. Drain in a colander and allow them to steam themselves almost dry.
You'll need a roasting tin large enough to hold the potatoes in one layer, with room around each.
put the goose fat in the tin and put on the top shelf of your oven for 5-7 minutes and the fat is stonkingly hot and almost smoking.
CAREFULLY, tip the drained potatoes into the hot fat. You need to turn them in the fat well enough to coat completely, but taking care not to break the potatoes up or splash yourself with hot fat.
Make sure the potatoes are spread out evenly and put them in the oven to roast for 40-50 minutes, removing from the oven halfway through to turn, ensuring even cooking.

Obviously, you can burn them if you leave them in for toooo long, but it's far better to have a dark amber around the edges than to bring them out too early and have a soggy, pale potato.

They're wonderful served with roast beef and Yorkshire pud, but go equally well with just about any other meat dish including pies.

Perfect Roast Potatoes


  1. I'm certainly intrigued! Please tell me why you use goose fat, instead of olive oil or butter? It sounds delicious.

  2. Yeah, You know, I never really heard about roasting potatoes until I moved back to the UK, where it's fairly common practice. The problem with butter and olive oil, is that they have a relatively low smoke point and can taste acrid if cooked at too high a temp for too long.
    The goose fat gets very thin when hot, and so it's absorbed into the floury surface of the potato really easily (which is why you want a rough, almost cooked potato surface and hot fat)
    You can roast them for a really long time before they burn, they just get more deeply golden and more crunchy on the outside.

    I definitely still use olive oil to roast other veggies and even new potatoes with garlic and rosemary. If I am after these sorts of roasted potatoes though, I always use goose fat now.

    I roasted a goose for Christmas dinner, which has given me at least enough to last a year, but you can also buy it in cans or jars. As far as bottled oils go, grapeseed is good because it has high smoke point, but it's not quite as round (if you know what I mean) a flavour.
    The idea of goose fat freaks some people out a little, but it's actually healthier than butter. It’s high in healthy mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids and low in saturated fats.

  3. Oh .. MMMM..I know what this tastes like by looking at the picture. Alternate oil source: When you make a roasted turkey or chicken, scoop the fat off and freeze it, just for making oven-fryed potatoes like this

  4. One good thing about the goose fat is that it's flavourless, just like many veg oils. Also, that it can cook at a very high temp without scorching makes it ideal.

    Even if roast goose wasn't one of the most delicious things to eat, it would almost be worth roasting one just for the PHENOMENAL amount of fat (4 pints last Xmas!!) that comes off it.

    If you do use fat collected from a roast, it's definitely best to filter (coffee filter or paper towel) it before you store it.

  5. So do you leave the potatoes on the top shelf to roast or do you use a lower setting?

  6. You should roast the potatoes near the top of the oven at a nice hot heat. 220C/450F is preferable, but if you are using a fat or an oil with a lower smoke point, like olive oil (don't use extra virgin!) other animal fat or sunflower it's best to turn the oven down to 200/400 so that the oil doesn't burn.

  7. Those look amazing. Great photo. This makes me feel like I need to put some serious effort into my roast potato game. I wonder if I could find any duck fat around here...