The Simple Technique That Will Take Your Roasted Potatoes to the Next Level
It's almost too easy.
This might be a controversial statement, but it’s my personal opinion that potatoes are the perfect food. Yep, I said it. Incredibly versatile, packed with nutrients, and slow-digesting to help balance blood sugar… is there anything the mighty potato can’t do?
My favorite way to prepare potatoes is to roast them, heavily seasoned with garlic and salt, served piping hot along whatever else I’m serving up. I noticed, though, that while my roasted potatoes were getting crispy on the outside, the inside wasn’t as soft and tender as I would like them to be. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were shriveled, but they certainly weren’t the ideal spud I was aiming for. I embarked on a mission to perfect my roasted potato, perusing cookbooks and blogs to see what tips others had.
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My search led me to finally opening up holiday gift that had been sitting on my shelf for a few months, gathering dust. The minute I cracked the spine on Samin Nosrat’s James Beard award-winning cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, I realized that I had been ignoring a treasure trove in my own kitchen. The visually stunning book is more of a collection of kitchen secrets than straight-up recipes. It is divided into four sections, based on the key elements every chef (home or otherwise) should understand and master: salt, fat, acid, and heat.
If you haven’t checked out the critically acclaimed cookbook yet, I highly recommend you go directly to the source for the best cooking cheat sheet I’ve ever come across. It’s designed to not just help you prepare dinner for a few nights, but fundamentally help you improve every single item that comes out of your kitchen. You can also check out Nosrat’s Netflix series by the same name if you just can’t get enough. But, for now, back to the potatoes.
In the first section of the book, Nosrat states: “Salt. It's fundamental to all good cooking. It enhances flavor and even makes food taste more like itself. In short, salt brings food to life. Learn to use it well and your food will taste great." And indeed, it’s salt that is the key to the best roasted potatoes. But not just sprinkled on top, as you likely already do. Among many fundamental tips for choosing and using salt in your cooking, Nosrat offers a specific technique for potatoes: simply boil them in heavily salted water before roasting in the oven. Yes, that’s it.
Here’s how. Salt your water with a big palmful of salt—the kosher variety or whatever you have on hand will do—and bring it to a boil. Taste the water; it should be as salty as the sea. Throw your potatoes in whole, boil until tender when pierced with a fork, and then cut into whatever sized pieces you prefer. I toss mine with a hefty glug of avocado or olive oil, sprinkle more salt and pepper on top, and throw them on a baking sheet into the oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Flip the taters around and put them back in for another 15-20 minutes or until browned and crispy. This will lead to an almost caramelized exterior and a soft, silky inside. This technique works before air-frying, too.