Crispiest Skillet-Fried Potatoes

updated Oct 2, 2023

The secret to these impossibly crispy potatoes? Not baking or boiling. All you need is a skillet and a lid (yes, really) to pull off these perfect spuds.

Serves4

Prep5 minutes

Cook30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Even though it’s a humble side dish, pan-fried potatoes are always the first thing to get gobbled up at dinnertime. There’s something about the way the crispy outsides give way to fluffy, tender insides.

Here, they’re finished with fresh herbs (thyme is my personal favorite, but rosemary perfumes the potatoes wonderfully) and an optional pat of butter, which browns quickly, turns a little nutty, and takes the potatoes over-the-top.

Not only are these taters right at home with whatever they’re served with, but this method is also one of the easiest ways to get crispy potatoes without deep-frying or turning on the oven, and it’s mostly hands-off so you’re free to tend to the other parts of dinner. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Photo: Justin Bridges | Food Stylist: Tyna Hoang

Is it better to boil potatoes before frying?

There are lots of recipes that call for par-boiling the potatoes first to reduce the amount of cooking time, but it’s an extra step and an extra pan to wash. If you cook the potatoes over medium heat and keep them covered for most of the cooking time, the lid traps in steam, which helps cook the potatoes through.

How do you know when fried potatoes are done?

It takes about 20 minutes for the potatoes to be tender (which is about the same amount of time it would take for the water to come up to a boil and for the potatoes to cook in it, therefore there’s no need to incorporate boiling into the process). While the potatoes are steaming, there’s also enough oil in the pan to start the browning process. Note that stoves and pans can vary widely, so check on the potatoes every 5 minutes to make sure they’re not burning.

How do you fry potatoes without them sticking?

Make sure the potatoes are golden-brown on the bottom before you attempt to flip or move them. Think of it like searing meat — the potatoes will be easy to move around once they’re browned and ready. Once your potatoes are easy to move around with your tongs:

  • Flip them to another cut side.
  • Kick the heat up to medium-high.
  • Get a second side dark golden-brown, which only takes five to 10 minutes more.

Keep in mind that some pieces may brown more quickly than others depending on your stove’s hot spots, so move them around as needed with tongs so that every piece gets a chance to crisp up. (It’s a meditative process that I recommend doing with a glass of wine in hand.)

The Best Skillet for Fried Potatoes

The best skillet for fried potatoes is the pan that has the best-fitting lid — you want one that will keep the steam in instead of letting it leak out. Don’t have a lid? Use a baking sheet instead.

I love using my cast iron skillet for fried potatoes because it retains heat so well, but a nonstick pan works just as well. If you’re using a cast iron skillet, give it plenty of time to heat up and use the full amount of oil — you want the potatoes to sizzle when they hit the pan. Nonstick pans don’t absorb any of the oil, so you’ll need less to cook with.

Size-wise, a 10-inch pan fits one pound of potatoes in one snug layer, but a 12-inch pan is even better for some extra surface area.

Crispy Skillet-Fried Potatoes

The secret to these impossibly crispy potatoes? Not baking or boiling. All you need is a skillet and a lid (yes, really) to pull off these perfect spuds.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 pound

    medium red or Yukon Gold potatoes (3 to 4)

  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons

    vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • Finely chopped fresh herbs, such as 1 teaspoon thyme or oregano, or 1/2 teaspoon rosemary

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsalted butter (optional)

Instructions

  1. Quarter 1 pound red or Yukon gold potatoes lengthwise, then cut each piece crosswise into 1-inch wide chunks. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a 10 to 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. (Alternatively, use a nonstick skillet and 1 1/2 tablespoons oil.) Add the potatoes, arrange in a single layer cut-side down, and season with 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt.

  2. Cover with a tightfitting lid and cook undisturbed until the potatoes are tender and the bottoms are golden brown, 10 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the herb of your choice, 1 teaspoon thyme or oregano, or 1/2 teaspoon rosemary.

  3. Uncover and flip each piece with tongs to a second cut side. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Increase the heat to medium high and cook uncovered until the second side is golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes more, moving the pieces around as needed so they brown evenly.

  4. Add the herb and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter if desired and cook, tossing occasionally, until the butter is melted and the herbs are fragrant, about 1 minute. Taste and season with more salt as needed.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.