Low and Slow Is the Way to Go
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. 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.
While the potatoes are steaming, there’s also enough oil in the pan to start the browning process. 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. Flip them to another cut side, kick the heat up to medium-high, and 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
I love using my cast iron skillet here because it retains heat so well, but a nonstick pan works just as well. In fact, pick your pan based on which one has a better-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.
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. 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.