Over the years I’ve come to realise that, in a similar way to conducting a successful laboratory experiment in Biology, there’s more to preparing a roast dinner than just using the right ingredients. If you want exceptional results, then you have to learn a few tricks of the trade. This rings especially true when it comes to roast potatoes. I may not be a gourmet chef, but having spent many a Sunday afternoon preparing a roast for the family, I do know a thing or two about how to serve up the crispiest, most flavoursome roast potatoes. Here are five mistakes to avoid when it comes to roasting potatoes to ensure you get the best results:
1. Chopping the potatoes too small
Roast potatoes aren’t chips. Yes, you want them crispy but you don’t want them bitesize, otherwise you’ll lose the fluffy quality of the centre. Make sure each potato is at least half the size of your fist. This will allow for some degradation later on.
2. Putting them straight in the oven
Not only are steamers good for retaining vitamins in the vegetables we eat but they’re also very good for producing fluffy potatoes. The trick here is to steam the potatoes for just 10 minutes or so, giving them enough time to go soft on the outside. After steaming, take the tray to the sink and shake it vigorously. The rough outer texture of the potatoes will give the end product a crispy finish.
3. Using the wrong amount of oil
Although roast potatoes shouldn’t be drowned like chips in a vat, it’s important to make sure that you add enough oil to make them crispy. I tend to add enough sunflower oil just to cover the base of the roasting tin. I then warm it in the oven for 10 minutes before carefully lowering each potato into the tin with a spoon and drizzling oil over them.
4. Not adding any flavour
I’m the kind of person who can’t eat chips unless there is a whole cup of ketchup to go with them. That’s because, in my opinion, potatoes are rather bland and unless you add seasoning to them, they can be a rather boring element of any meal. Before putting the roasting tin back in the oven, why not sprinkle a little salt, pepper or rosemary and thyme over the potatoes?
5. Getting the timings wrong
As I’m sure many of you know, one of the greatest challenges of making a roast dinner is getting the timings right. If you’re cooking chicken, for which a fan oven is set to 190°C, I’d recommend putting the potatoes in the oven at around 50 minutes before the chicken is ready to come out (although be aware that the meat needs to be left to stand for 10 minutes before carving). With lamb or beef, usually cooked at 220°C, I’d put the potatoes in around 40 minutes before the meat is ready.