It’s very easy to make pretty good roasted potatoes — coat them with oil, stick them in the oven, and what’s to stop them from getting done? — but making great roasted potatoes demands a little extra attention.
Tiny new potatoes can be roasted whole and raw, but mature, starchy potatoes need a quick precook in boiling water or the microwave.
After that, the sky’s the limit, in terms of cooking fat (butter, oil, chicken fat, lard), seasonings (warm spices, chilli powders, dry herbs, spice pastes), and garnishes (herb leaves, grated cheese, yoghurt or crème fraîche, olives, citrus zests).
A good guideline is 6 to 8 ounces raw potatoes per person.
If using micro or baby potatoes, leave them whole. For mature potatoes, peel (or not, as you prefer) and cut into even, thick wedges about the size of an orange segment.
Microwave the cut potatoes in batches until softened but still firm in the centre, about 4 minutes total. Or boil in salted water; start testing for doneness after 10 minutes. (Skip this step if using whole baby potatoes.)
When you’re ready to roast, heat the oven to 230 degrees and spread the whole raw potatoes or parcooked wedges on baking sheets.
Drizzle with a little oil or fat and toss well, preferably with your hands. Keep adding oil and tossing to coat: The potatoes should be evenly coated, and the pan should be slick but not drowning in oil. Add plenty of salt and any spices.
Roast 20 to 30 minutes, until bottoms are browned and a spatula slides under them smoothly. Turn and keep roasting until done, another 20 to 30 minutes.
Have in your kitchen arsenal two large, rimmed baking sheets: Giving the potato pieces plenty of breathing room is the most important factor in getting them crispy.
Potatoes should not be swimming in cooking fat; this will keep them from becoming crisp.
To keep the exteriors from becoming leathery, always roast potatoes at high heat.