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The best potatoes are roasted the English way

Perfect English roast potatoes are fluffy inside and exceedingly crunchy outside, the perfect side dish for roast chicken or steak.
(Hanna Carter / For The Times)

With so many of you having to stay home and cook for the first time — ever or more than you have in a long time — we get that it can be overwhelming to have to cook all your meals from scratch. So, we’re here to get you started.

Each day we’re going to post a new skill here and go in detail about how to do it — a resource for cooking basics so you can get food on the table and get through this.

A series of simple tutorials for making some basic recipes at home.

Lesson 15: Crunchy roast potatoes
In the canon of roast vegetables, you can’t get any more basic (in a good way) than roasted potatoes. Toss cut wedges or chunks of potato in oil, salt and pepper and then spread them out on a baking sheet to roast in a hot oven until browned and tender — and you’ve got a perfectly wonderful potato! High heat renders the potatoes fluffy and blisters their exterior so it’s burnished and crisp. As elementally pleasurable as they are, they can get even better — just ask the Brits.

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Over in the U.K., they have a particular way of roasting potatoes that are in a class of their own. The Brits boil the potatoes, peels off, until tender, drain them, then give them a shake in the pot. This step roughs up the outsides, creating “craggy” edges — the type of imperfect, pockmarked roughage that, when fried in oil, creates hundreds of crunchy nooks and crannies.

First, start by peeling 2 ½ pounds potatoes. They can be Russets or Yukon golds; I prefer the latter. Next, cut them into rough 1 ½-inch-ish chunks, which are a little larger than “bite-size” — think of them as “two-biters” — to achieve the correct ratio of fluffy inside to crunchy outside.

Pile them into a large saucepan so they’re able to spread out in more or less a single layer. Cover by two inches with cold water, salt the water as you would if boiling pasta and then bring to a boil over high heat. While the potatoes are boiling, place a large roasting pan or baking dish filled with 2 cups vegetable oil in a cold oven, then heat the oven to 500 degrees, or the hottest setting it has. Boil the potatoes, stirring here and there, until they’re half-cooked (you should be able to pierce the largest pieces halfway to their middles with a paring knife), 3 to 5 minutes.

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Once the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander in the sink, then transfer them back to the pot. Clamp on the lid and, with mitts or folded kitchen towels on your hands for protection, give the whole thing a shake up, down and all around to rough up the potato outsides. A few shakes is all it takes; you’re not mixing a potato cocktail.

Using caution, open the oven, pull the blazing-hot roasting pan full of oil out of the oven, then carefully topple the potatoes into the hot oil. Give the potatoes a stir to disperse them evenly, then return the pan to the oven and let the potatoes roast for 20 minutes. Give them a flip to evenly brown the outsides, and roast for another 20 to 30 minutes, until deep golden brown and intensely crunchy.

Once done, use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes out of the oil and onto paper towels to drain. Immediately shower with kosher salt so that it gets into all those nooks and crannies, and eat them while they’re piping hot, preferably with a roast chicken or steak. Or do what I did when I made them last: Pick at them with your fingers straight from the plate, chasing each bite with a sip of cold white wine or beer to tame their heat. Right now, that’s just as acceptable a dinner as anything else.

Perfect English Roast Potatoes

Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

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Want more roast potato recipes?

Super-Crisp Roasted Potatoes

Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Roast potatoes, onions, fennel and bay leaves

Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Potato gratin forestiere

Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

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New potatoes with sage

Time 40 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Cheese-crusted potatoes

Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Roast hedgehog potatoes

Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8


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