These spicy crispy oven fries are everything a home fry should be.
(And there’s scientific reasons why!)
Updated from the archives.
A few weeks ago, I got my hands on a copy of The Food Lab. This book is the happy place where science and food meet. SUCH a fascinating and tasty read. They’ve got tested (like, scientifically tested) methods for producing some amazing dishes, from extra-gooey mac and cheese, to the best ways to prepare meat, to perfectly braised vegetables and beyond.
One of the first methods that caught my eye was their formula for extra crispy oven roasted potatoes. They prepared theirs cubed, but I wondered if the same method would work on fries or wedges.
Turns out, it does. Really, really well.
According to the Food Lab (and my slightly less scientific home testing), partially cooked (or par-cooked) potatoes provide a much crispier end result when roasted or fried. The reason is that, when you’ve partially cooked them (boiling for a few minutes) and then toss them with olive oil and seasonings, you rough up the surface a bit. That roughed up surface gets extra crispy and extra delicious in the oven, and the inside is fluffy and cooked through.
So, basically everything a person could want in crispy oven fries.
The Food Lab went much further into detail about the science of why and how this method works so well (involving terms like “dehydrated layer of gelatinized starch”), but I’ve crystalized some of the finer points below.
NOTES ON THE RECIPE
1. Po-TAY-toh, Po-TAH-toh. Which potato works best? Russets get the crispiest and fluffiest thanks to their high starch content. Yellow or Yukon Golds are next on the list. We used Yukon Golds for the photos since we had them on hand, but both are awesome.
2. Which fat to use? You can choose a lot of different fats and have good results. Some people can’t get enough of duck fat, but honestly, that grosses me out for some reason and it’s also really hard to find where I live. Bacon fat was also highly suggested. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s amazing. If you prefer to stay away from animal fats or simply want a less saturated choice, extra virgin olive oil will also get the job done (though, admittedly, not quite as crispy).
My personal favorite? I go halvesies with bacon fat and olive oil. I buy pretty high-quality bacon, so I feel comfortable using a little bit of bacon fat here and there.
3. Par-cooking really makes a difference. I tried this both ways (see, I can totally science!) to see if it really did make as big a difference as the book said. It absolutely did. The par-cooked potatoes had that nice roughed-up, crispy exterior and the inside texture was MUCH better. The potatoes I roasted from a raw state didn’t get as crispy or have as nice a middle texture.
The other thing I tested was that you can par-cook them ahead of time. So, I can par-cook the potatoes in the morning, pop them in the fridge and then roast them in the super-hot oven for dinner, which saves me time on evenings where we don’t have quite as much time for dinner prep.
4. Do NOT over stir. If they’ve been coated with a layer of cooking fat and you’ve got your oven hot enough, the potatoes shouldn’t stick to the pan. Seriously. No little potatoes stuck or accidentally cutting off the crispy outer layer as you try to pry potatoes off the pan. They’ll naturally release from the pan when they’re good and ready. It was like magic.
AS FOR THE END RESULT…
They really were crispy on the outside and dynamite on the inside. The spice mixture is one of my recipes and it put them over the top (though you could certainly leave it off). It’s spicy, but not mouth-burning (I’m a wimp). If you’re nervous, skip the cayenne, or reduce the amount.
If you have any leftovers, they re-heat really well in a skillet for breakfast potatoes, or you can give them a rough chop and pop them into a frittata. Your future self will be so glad.
Like this post? You might also like…
- Bacon and Potato Breakfast Bake (a great way to use leftover oven fries!)
- Crispy Halibut (or Cod)
- Honey Lime Tilapia
p.s. This spice mix is one of the first recipes I ever posted on my blog (back in 2008!). My food photography has gotten a little better, and this method is even better than it was then!