Perfectly Perfect Roasted Potatoes

Potatoes – everyone loves them, there are a million ways to cook them, and even if you somehow mess them up, they still usually end up tasting pretty damn good. I remember when I was growing up, my mom would somehow find a way to put a potato in at least half of the meals we ate. Baked, shredded, roasted, scalloped, mashed, smashed… there really is a never-ending list of preparing these little earth apples. Except for raw. Raw is bad. Being part of the nightshade family of plants, they tend to have toxins in them. Eating them raw (in large amounts) can lead to headaches, vomiting, nausea, and potentially even paralysis – so let’s make sure we cook these suckers, okay? Great.

Duck fat and potatoes are truly a perfect match

As potentially poisonous as they are, potatoes really are almost a basic food group on their own. They go with any other veggie, any condiment, any meat, and can easily be made as an accompaniment to a main dish, or the star of the show. One of my favorite ways to prepare them though, is to simply roast them in some fat with a heavy hand of seasoning. That and scalloped potatoes (aka funeral potatoes.) There is something so comforting and homey about roasting potatoes in a cast iron skillet – crispy, tender, savory.

As simple as coating some potato chunks in oil and throwing them into a hot oven seems… there are quite a few ways that it can end up not exactly as planned. Overcooking and undercooking are usually the main problems. And there aren’t many things more disappointing than looking at a perfect looking roasted potato, and then biting into it and realizing that it’s still super hard and starchy. Or the opposite – they’re complete mush. Sometimes savable, but rarely satisfying.

So you better believe how freakin’ excited I was when I made perfect roasted potatoes a week or so back. They were incredibly crispy and lightly charred on the outside, and fluffy like a little pillow on the inside. There are a few things that are a little different than you’ve maybe done in the past… but I promise that they are super simple, and the outcome is totally worth it.

The first secret is duck fat. It’s a big thing in the culinary world right now, and it might seem a little too bougie for some humble at-home cooking, but I promise that you will absolutely love it. Once you use it, you’re never going to go back. It has an insane mouth-feel and gives these potatoes the slightest hint of Thanksgiving dinner. The thought of it might gross you out in the beginning… since it’s literally fat from a duck… but it’s not any different than rendering fat from bacon, or any other kind of meat for that matter. It keeps in the fridge basically for forever, and you typically don’t need very much at a time. So the relatively expensive little jar actually goes a pretty long way.

The second secret is changing the oven temperature halfway through. You start with the oven at 450° for the first 25 minutes, and then you lower it to 350° for another 20 minutes, giving them a nice little toss in between. The other really important part of this secret, is to preheat your cast iron skillet in the oven while you are prepping your potatoes. By placing them into a searing hot pan, you ensure that they will have an exceptional crust while sealing in their moisture to make sure that the inside gets steamed. It’s a total game-changer.

Perfectly Perfect Roasted Potatoes

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. baby red potatoes, diced into uniform pieces to ensure even cooking
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. duck fat, melted
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, kept intact
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 450°, with cast iron skillet inside.
    • If you don’t want to preheat the skillet all the way to 450°, you can take it out at the 350° mark and set it aside. Just make sure that the pan is hot enough that it will sizzle as soon as you pour in the potatoes.
  2. Mix duck fat, oregano, paprika, and thyme and set aside. Place potatoes into a large mixing bowl with rosemary, and pour duck fat mixture over potatoes. Toss to coat evenly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Pour potatoes carefully into hot skillet, and be cautious of splashing oil. Potatoes should sizzle immediately upon hitting the pan. Quickly spread potatoes evenly into one layer using a wooden spoon or spatula, taking care to have the rosemary on top, not underneath the potatoes.
  4. Cook for 25 minutes, and then remove from the oven to toss. Lower the temperature to 350°, and return skillet to oven for another 20 minutes.
  5. When done, remove from the oven and let potatoes cool for a few minutes in the skillet, and serve while still hot.

Notes and Variations

This recipe is really as easy as it could be – and making variations to it is just as simple! Adding some red pepper and lemon zest will give you a Mediterranean flair that would be delicious served alongside any kind of protein. Add green beans and red onions for the last half of the cooking and top with a poached egg to make the potatoes the main dish instead of a side. You have a lot of freedom to do whatever you want!

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