Whether you are making a potato salad for a picnic or creamy mashed potatoes for a weeknight supper, you know there is a type of potato for every job. For crispy roasted potatoes, you want one that isn’t too starchy but isn’t too waxy, either. An all-purpose potato, such as Yukon gold, red, or fingerling, is a good choice, but the russet potato, usually reserved for baking, will do in a pinch. Wash, peel (you can skip this part if you are using a thin-skinned potato such as a red), and cut the potato into halves or quarters, depending on the size of the potato. Just be sure to cut all the pieces the same size so they will cook evenly.
The key to getting that crispy, golden surface on your roasted potatoes is to roughen up the outside of the potatoes after you peel them. You can do this one of two ways. In the first method you will use an ordinary dinner fork. Run the tines of the fork up, down, and all around each washed (and peeled, if desired) potato, loosening the surface. Salt the potatoes next; this adds flavor to the potato and also dries out the surface, which aids in achieving maximum crispiness. Let the potatoes sit two to three minutes (to absorb the salt) before you toss them in fat and roast them according to your recipe directions.
The second method is to parboil the potatoes, which simply means to simmer them in boiling water only until the surface is tender –don’t let them simmer too long or you may as well opt for making mashed potatoes. Place the potatoes in a colander and shake them; as in the first method, your goal is to roughen up the exterior of the potato. Do this in batches if you are working with a large amount of potatoes. Sprinkle the potatoes with flour, which, just like the salt, dries out the potatoes and helps achieve a crispy surface. Any moisture on the potato will create steam, which in turn creates a soggy potato so make sure the potatoes are dry before basting them with oil or butter, and proceeding with your recipe.
The following holds true regardless of which method you choose:
Preheat your pan along with the oven. The pan will be screaming hot when you add the potatoes and the crisping action will start immediately.
And don’t overcrowd the pan. Space the potatoes; if they are touching, they will steam instead of get crispy.