May your breakfast spuds be ever crispy on the outside, and creamy on the inside.

By Sara Tane
December 14, 2020
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I do not mess around when it comes to potatoes. They are my absolute favorite vegetable, and I firmly believe that they must be cooked with the utmost integrity and respect. The beauty of the humble potato is that there are so many varieties and so many different ways to enjoy this root veggie. Plus, there’s a potato for every meal  — breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Home fries are an essential component to any breakfast or brunch spread, not only because they’re delicious, but because they’re cheap and super easy to make.

The perfect breakfast potato, in my humble, starchy opinion, is a 1-inch cube or wedge, and it’s super crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and heavy on the salt and spices. So this leads us to our first decision. What is the right potato for the job? Because I’m looking for a creamy interior, I always opt for a Yukon gold potato or red potatoes. While I am a huge proponent of the underrated russet or Idaho potato, I don’t think they are the right spud for this particular job because they’re too starchy. Yukons and red potatoes are a great choice because when they’re cooked, their interior is waxy and velvety smooth.

Credit: Chef John

The next question is how to cook them. If you’re making a big batch of crispy home fries for the whole family, the only logical option is to roast them. Tossing your potato cubes in a sufficient amount of a neutral-flavored oil, like vegetable or canola, and then seasoning them with whatever spices you like (I always go for smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and dried oregano, plus salt and pepper) is the best way to achieve crispy, flavorful potatoes. I like to roast them at a higher heat, like 425°F, because this promotes an even, golden brown color and crispy exterior.

The only problem with roasting cubed potatoes, especially at a high heat, is that the outside cooks way faster than the inside, so you might be left with home fries that are super crispy on the outside, but noticeably firm (i.e. underbaked) in the middle. The way around this dilemma is simple, and it’s a trick that I picked up from my friend and fellow chef, Briana Riddock. 

In order to cook the interior of the potatoes, I toss my potatoes in oil and seasonings (just as I normally would) and then spread them across a baking sheet. Then, I slowly pour in just enough water to completely cover the bottom of the pan. No need to toss the potatoes in the water  — simply transfer your sheet pan directly to the oven after your pour in the water. This addition ensures that when the potatoes hit the oven, the water in the sheet pan will start to evaporate, which creates steam that will cook the interior of the potatoes. 

Once the water completely cooks off, the potatoes will then turn a golden brown and become super crunchy. Make sure that the potatoes are spaced out on the sheet pan so that they can get nice color once the water evaporates. While you can always par bake your cubed potatoes in heavily salted boiling water to make sure that the interior is fully cooked, I prefer the water-in-the-sheet-pan method because it eliminates a full step on the stove.

This sheet pan method is foolproof. The amount of potatoes that you’re cooking will determine how long you’ll need to bake them for, but usually it takes around 40 minutes to 1 hour. If you notice that the water is taking a long time to cook off, you can always test a potato to see if a knife can easily pierce it. If it can, then go ahead and carefully pour off any residual water in the sink so that the outsides of the potato cubes can start crisping. Once there is no more water in the pan, you’ll want to give the potatoes a quick stir in the pan once or twice just so that all sides can get some nice color.

And that’s how it’s done! Perfectly soft and creamy on the inside, yet crispy and crunchy on the outside. See what I’m talking about when I say that I don’t play games when it comes to potato cookery? For me, it’s just as serious as it is starchy.