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Brinda Ayer makes the Best Pan-Roasted Potatoes

Episode Summary

Food52 editorial lead Brinda Ayer makes F52er Gretchen's perfect pan-roasted potatoes. You'll learn some potato trivia you didn't know you needed, a very specific slicing technique, and just how hot a crispy potato Brinda is willing to eat.

Episode Notes

On Play Me a Recipe, your favorite cooks will walk you through their most treasured recipes, offering all the insider tips, stories, and tricks you won't get from a written recipe—and you'll be right alongside them, every step of the way. Feel free to pause, jump back, or navigate the steps via the podcast chapters.

If you're cooking along, here's the recipe we're making today. Go ahead and grab the ingredients below (Brinda starts listing them at 0:34) before  starting the episode).

Best Pan-Roasted Potatoes

  1. Halve the potatoes and place the cut side down; halve each half again but keep these halves together.
  2. Choose a cast iron skillet large enough to accommodate the halved potatoes. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan 1/8 inch deep in oil. Heat the oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Sprinkle a generous layer of salt into the oil all over the bottom of the pan, as evenly as possible in a thin layer. Place the potato halves onto the salt (keeping the pieces of second cut together so the potatoes look like just one half). Fry at medium heat (without peeking) until you are sure that the potatoes must be burning (they're not!), about 10 to 12 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. At 10 minutes, gently turn over a potato half to see if it is nicely browned; if not, continue cooking a few more minutes.
  3. When the potatoes are nicely browned, turn the heat as low as possible and cover the pan. You will hear spattering noises as the potatoes start to steam, and they will continue to brown under cover.
  4. Cook about 20 minutes covered. The potatoes are done when a sharp knife slips into a potato easily. Serve hot. Kept covered with the heat off, they will keep for 30 minutes or more. If you are letting them stand, drain off any excess oil from the pan. They are equally good at room temperature.

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Episode Transcription

Brinda Ayer (teaser): Just let them… tumble out.


Brinda: Hi! I'm Brinda Ayer, and welcome to my kitchen in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Today we'll be cooking Food52er Gretchen @ Backyard NotesBest Pan-Roasted Potatoes. I'm gonna walk you through the recipe, which is linked in the show notes and can be found on right alongside you. Feel free to pause or jump back if you just need a second.

Ingredients & equipment

For this recipe, you’ll need about a pound of red bliss or small, waxy new potatoes, some olive oil, some salt and that's it. You'll also need a large cast-iron skillet, or some sort of heavy-bottomed skillet, and a matching lid. If you don't have a matching lid, that's totally OK. You can just use a large baking sheet.

Step 1: Cut the potatoes

Brinda: I'm going to start by giving these potatoes a good rinse. So, just let them tumble out, okay, into a colander and use a vegetable scrubber if you have one. Or just make sure you’re washing them really, really well. I absolutely love this recipe. It's especially wonderful. While it, of course, doesn't use any sort of fancy ingredients, it's truly the definition of a few really choice ingredients and an interesting technique going a very long way.

What you'll get from these potatoes is a perfectly crispy, golden, crunchy, almost french-fry like outside and really creamy, velvety, almost mashed-potato like insides. Truly the best of both worlds. [Finishes washing] All done, and we’re going to get ready to cut them. My potatoes are all scrubbed up and ready to go.

Gretchen has us cut these in a very specific way, so listen up, because it will actually make a big difference to do them this way. I am not usually one to follow specific chopping instructions. I am much more of a... sort of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of cook, so I was initially skeptical. But like I said, you really wanna not skip this step. It makes a huge difference.

Cut them first in half, so you'll have two little potato halves. Then, keep them face down on the cutting board and cut them in half once again, and leave the halves together, so it looks like there's two potato halves on the cutting board, but they're actually in quarters. If the potatoes that you have are really tiny, then don't worry about cutting them in quarters, but you'll definitely need them to, at least, be in half. Today. I have just these little yellow new potatoes. You do want to go with a slightly waxier type of potato that is less fluffy and less starchy. We're going for a potato that has a good amount of sugar in it, like these sort of waxier potatoes, because then they'll get super crisp and caramelized in our pan.

[While chopping] Accidentally separated some, but they got to stay together. Also! I don't know if you know, but this kind of creeped me out when I found out: Potatoes continue growing after they are picked. So that's why sometimes you find those little spikes or little, um, roots, I guess when you keep a potato for too long, which I am definitely guilty of doing. The amazing thing is, if you put that potato root in water, you'll technically grow another potato plant. You can also put them in soil and grow your own potatoes.

I will not bore you with my potato trivia for too much longer because our last one is…. Cut.

Step 2: Heat the oil, salt the pan, & start cooking the potatoes

Alright, now I’m going to heat the oil in a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet. And I really love cast-iron for this particular recipe because it conducts heat very evenly, which means that we're going to get a lot of crispiness on the bottom of our potatoes without burning anything or making them better blackened. Going to turn on our skillet and get a good amount of olive oil in the pan. You want it to come up to at least an eigth of an inch up the sides. Also, want to make sure that your oil is not too hot and the fire is on like a medium-low, even low temperature, again to prevent burning and allow for even cooking of the potatoes.

The next step is kind of interesting. You're going to take some of your flakiest salt. I have Maldon right here, and sprinkle it in a fairly even layer—don't be shy—on the bottom of the pan. You just want to make sure it's very even and coating the bottom of the pan, right on top of the oil. This will allow the potatoes—as soon as they enter the pan —to take on a ton of flavor. So I can already tell that my pan is a little bit too hot because the salt is sizzling, which we don't want. So I'm gonna turn it down, even lower, and then get my potatoes into the pan. So I'm just going to put the potatoes into the pan, nestling them in carefully cut-side down, right on top of the salt, and remember that we cut these into quarters. But again, the quarters should stick together so the potatoes just look like halves in the pan. This is so you can get a really delicious and interesting textural variety. The sides of the potatoes that are touching each other are going to kind of steam and fluff up, but then the bottom is going to get really, really crispy. They will shrink as they steam in the water and the potatoes evaporate. If you have too many potatoes like I might, I think you can do them in two batches. Just repeat the process over again. Now, what I'm going to do s let them brown for about 10 to 12 minutes at a sort of medium-low to low temp on the stove top and do not peek at them. I will not. I swear to you I will not peek at theme, and you should not either.


Brinda: I'm Brinda, and today I'm pan-roasting Food52er Gretchen @ Backyard Notes’ Best Pan-Roasted Potatoes, which you can find linked in the show notes or on As a reminder, I'm cooking this recipe right alongside you, giving you helpful tips and cues for how to make, truly, the best pan-roasted potatoes. Right before the break, we added a pound of halved new potatoes into an oiled, salted cast-iron skillet. We've been keeping them there for about 12 minutes, and they look nicely golden brown and ready for our next step.

Steps 3 & 4: Cover & let steam

Brinda: I am going to cover them and turning down the flame to about medium low to low. And I'm gonna let the potatoes hang out there for about 20 minutes, or until a paring knife can easily slip through the potato without any resistance. The reason that we're covering these potatoes is so a bunch of steam kind of rises up as the potatoes are cooking and condenses back down on top of the potatoes. And that's what allows the bottoms to stay super, super crispy while the tops get very tender and creamy and fully cooked and seasoned through. Because, remember, we put all of that salt on the bottom so some of the salty water is rising up to the top of the lid and then condensing back down. The 20 minutes here will seem like an eon. I'm gonna go water my plants and try not to think too much about potatoes. I'll meet you back here in about 20 minutes.

(musical interlude)

Brinda: It's been about 20 minutes, and I am still hearing a little bit of steaming and sizzling, but I'm going to very carefully take off my lid. But I'm going to grab a paring knife and just check and see if my potatoes are done. It's sliding through very cleanly. The bottoms are super brown. So I am just gonna... take a little taste of one. These are really the best eaten when they're hot, and as soon as you finish cooking them. They'll stay crispiest that way. But if you do want to eat them a little bit later, keep them covered on the stovetop. Don't move them to the fridge or anything, because potatoes, especially waxy potatoes, often get a bit hard and unpleasant to eat when they've been refrigerated. You could just let them kind of cool down to room temperature. They're pretty great any which way. You can eat this with a roast chicken. You can eat the potatoes with rice and vegetables. You can eat them on top of salad as crispy, crunchy croutons. Or, you could just eat them as a snack like I'm going to do right now.

[While tasting] Mm. Oh, it's so hot but crunchy, super smooth, and creamy on the inside. These potatoes are the only potato recipe that you'll need. I will go so far to say that.


Brinda: I hope you enjoyed cooking through Gretchen's Best Pan-Roasted Potatoes with me. The recipes in the show notes and on Thanks so much for listening!