July 25th, 2014
11:15 AM ET
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America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-­time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most­ foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook's Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines, and on our two public television cooking shows.

Despite the cozy image conjured by the name, few people actually make home fries at home, probably because the dish calls for more time, elbow grease, and stovetop space than most cooks care to devote. We wanted nicely crisped home fries with tender interiors that would serve six to eight hungry people—and wouldn’t chain the cook to the stove for an hour. Because if you’re making a beautiful batch of perfectly scrambled eggs, you probably need some equally good potatoes to go alongside.

Since time was a priority, we decided to parcook the spuds before roasting them in the oven. Parcooking would dramatically cut down on roasting time, while finishing them in the oven would allow us to make a big batch.

We chose to parboil russets, whose high starch content would aid in our goal of a crisp exterior.

But parcooking was tricky. In order for the potatoes to stay moist on the inside while they browned on the outside in the oven, we’d have to parboil them until the outsides were blown out and starchy—but the middles were still completely raw. In short, we needed a method for making really bad boiled potatoes. The solution was just the right amount of alkaline baking soda, which produced floury outsides and uncooked insides. Two more small changes also helped: starting the potatoes in boiling water and tossing the drained spuds with salt (which roughed up their edges, leading to better browning).

The final challenge was incorporating onions into our home fries. We found something that worked perfectly: placing oiled and salted onions in the center of the potato-filled baking sheet partway through cooking and then mixing the two components together after a few more minutes of cooking.

Home Fries

Home Fries
(Serves 6 to 8)

Ingredients:

3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon baking soda *
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions
3 Tablespoons fresh chives

* Baking soda provides an alkaline environment so the exterior of the potatoes soften quicker. The result is a more crisp crust.

Instructions:

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.
2. Bring 10 cups water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat.
3. Peel 3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes and cut into ¾-inch dice.
4. Cut 2 onions into 1/2 inch dice.
5. Mince 3 tablespoons fresh chives.
6. Add potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to boiling water.
7. Return to boil and cook for 1 minute.
8. Drain potatoes.
9. Return potatoes to Dutch oven and place over low heat.
10. Cook, shaking pot occasionally, until any surface moisture has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
11. Add 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and pinch cayenne pepper.
12. Mix with rubber spatula until potatoes are coated with thick, starchy paste, about 30 seconds.
13. Remove baking sheet from oven and drizzle with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
14. Transfer potatoes to baking sheet and spread into even layer.
15. Roast for 15 minutes.
16. While potatoes roast, combine onions, remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt in bowl.
17. Remove baking sheet from oven.
18. Using thin, sharp metal spatula, scrape and turn potatoes.
19. Clear about 8 by 5-inch space in center of baking sheet and add onion mixture. Roast for 15 minutes.
20. Scrape and turn again, mixing onions into potatoes.
21. Continue to roast until potatoes are well browned and onions are softened and beginning to brown, 5 to 10 minutes.
22. Stir in chives and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

More from America's Test Kitchen:
Our favorite Dutch oven
Testing spatulas
Perfect Scrambled Eggs
Scrambled Eggs with Sausage, Sweet Peppers, and Cheddar
Perfect Fried Eggs
Follow our online cooking school tutorial for Home Fries

Previously:
Great potato salad for (waaayyyy) less than $40,000
Americans just don’t understand the potato. Colombians do.
Growing potatoes on the roof

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Filed under: America's Test Kitchen • Breakfast • Content Partner • Dishes • Potatoes • T1


soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Obama2016

    Best fries are the ones I get for free with foodstamps

    August 20, 2014 at 8:57 am |
  2. foodfight

    My God these people take something as simple and wonderful as home fries, and complicate the devil out of it. It doesn't need to be this complicated to get the same results - crunchy, crispy exterior, creamy center. Home cooks have been doing it for decades. It is a whole bunch simpler than this recipe with its 21 steps to basic home fries with onions makes it out to be.

    KISS!

    August 14, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
    • foodfight

      That'll work. You can also use melted butter or duck/goose fat or lard or whatever fat you wish. If you want a bit more crusty exterior, toss the diced potatoes with some instant four (i.e., Wondra) before the oil.

      August 14, 2014 at 6:54 pm |
  3. Carolyn

    Geez you don't have to go to all that trouble for home fries.

    July 27, 2014 at 6:31 pm |
    • adam 4x4

      Seriously! Chop, place on cookie sheet, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake. Do similar with asparagus, broccoli, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts. I don't do complicated.

      July 28, 2014 at 5:21 am |
  4. Onas

    When it said "kosher salt", I knew this article is one big joke.

    July 26, 2014 at 6:03 pm |
    • Mass Murderer Lincoln

      The cleaners called. Your brown shirts are ready.

      July 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm |
  5. sunnylovetts2

    9/11 was staged by the US government, and we are worrying about potatos.

    July 26, 2014 at 5:55 pm |
  6. Kanageloa

    It seemed like every step he was adding salt. I'd think that much salt would not be good for you. I do like roasted potatoes like this though.

    July 26, 2014 at 5:28 pm |
  7. Fiona

    Too often these test kitchen "best recipe" things should be titled "How to make simple dishes difficult." Home fries are meant to be a stovetop or griddle dish, often using leftovers. There is no way a sensible person would go through all this for such a simple side dish.

    July 26, 2014 at 4:39 pm |
  8. DP

    Fried taters are better. You cut them thin, then dab with a towel to get a bit of the moisture off. It's a precise game after that to get the moisture to cook off before they overcook. You won't get a good brown until the moisture's gone and it's easy to overcook them into mush before that happens so it'll take some practice. No pre-boiling. Just who do you think is going to wash all those dishes? Fry them in the widest pan you can heat evenly and in oil, lard or bacon fat. Cast iron works best. Get it as hot as you can without burning your oil. Heat the oil, then add the potatoes. Smaller batches do better, especially for that first batch, but your family will eat them all before you can step away from the stove if you don't do a big batch. Put them on a paper towel. Salt.

    July 26, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
  9. Sergi Kent

    I used to like these folks for their methodical almost scientific trial and error and testing of approaches. This is not one of their better productions. I had a close friend who ran a small breakfast/lunch old school diner type place in Queens NY and I would spell him on the grill Sunday mornings so he could accompany his wife to their church. We would convert about 40 lbs of potatoes and 20 lbs of onions and other ingredients to home fries every morning and became famous– at least in our neighborhood –for them and though ownership has changed hands the recipe used is still unchanged 30 years later. In contrast the recipe described here, would turn out bland, single dimensional home fries that after one bite and a grimace would get slathered with hot sauce and ketchup and then never re-ordered. We had parsley, garlic, and paprika and got the crust by slow frying on the grill with lots of butter. Vegetable oil on potatoes? Right, I can just see these guys spooning soybean oil onto their baked russet or mashed potatoes. Yum yum. not.

    July 26, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
  10. SAScook

    "...wouldn’t chain the cook to the stove for an hour." Well, when you add it all up, the cooking time for this recipe is just about...an hour. I guess they think the time spent waiting on the fries in the oven doesn't count. If I were a novice cook, it would be recipes like this that would make me give up.

    July 26, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
    • Troll Patrol

      Useless troll. Move along folks.

      August 5, 2014 at 7:55 am |
  11. Steve

    Simple:
    Peel potatoes, cut in chunks of desired size.
    Boil. Until tender
    Drain,.
    Fry in bacon grease, butter, and or oil. Turn occasionally, until outside is golden brown
    Sprinkle with popcorn salt, serve.

    Why season if they're already perfect? No onions, no garlic, no paprika. And no skins– lazy!

    July 26, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
  12. gwtars

    Too much "Alton Brown Factor". Home fries are simple. How simple?

    This simple:

    1) peel and dice potatoes
    2) dice onions and mince garlic
    3) add bacon fat and butter to heavy skillet, over medium heat, add onions and garlic, cook to translucent
    4) toss in potatoes, stir until well coated, salt and pepper to taste
    5) throw the whole skillet in a preheated 325 degree oven, stir every so often until done

    Simple. I've long since retired from the professional kitchen, but I've adapted to the home kitchen in order to feed my two teenagers. And yes, they eat a LOT. :-)

    July 26, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
  13. brian

    My father owned a luncheonette for 30 years. The "secret" is one thing only... BACON FAT. Cook your bacon before you make the home fries and then use the freshly rendered fat from the bacon (do not burn the bacon or he fat is ruined) to make the home fries... Enough said....

    July 26, 2014 at 11:44 am |
    • jsberck

      Brian,
      You've got it. I usually cook 6 strips of bacon in a pan, eat the bacon. I "roast" the whole unpeeled potatoes first in the microwave, thinly slice an onion, saute the onion in the bacon grease with coarsely milled pepper for a bit, slice the potatoes, mix in with the onions, add more coarse milled pepper, sea salt, cayenne pepper and a touch of roasted Spanish chili pepper and garlic, mash it all down and let it fry until brown at the bottom, then flip and let the other side fry. If I need more fat, I add duck fat! Can't go wrong!

      July 26, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
    • Dover

      Not enough said. There are many techniques to achieve a result. No single technique is best for everyone.

      July 26, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
      • GunnarInLA

        ...correct
        (...none of the suggestions above are of much value, in my opinion...certainly not the test kitchen recipe...)

        July 26, 2014 at 5:39 pm |
  14. JOHNthePIMP

    Don't waste your time! Do this:
    1) Wash and place potatoes in microwave, full power, for 5-7 minutes
    2) Remove and cut into squares
    3) Fry in a pan with oil! (peanut oil is best)
    4) Salt after removing

    July 26, 2014 at 11:20 am |
  15. Floyd Schrodinger

    This recipe is a joke, right? Rube Goldberg would love this one. Here's my recipe: dice 1 onion and saute in butter, peal 3 potatoes, dice and fry in the butter/onion mix, salt & pepper to taste. See how easy it is?

    July 26, 2014 at 8:17 am |
    • Dover

      *peel*

      July 26, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
      • Floyd Schrodinger

        spelln's not my four tay.

        July 27, 2014 at 8:03 am |
    • ray b

      I'll say it olive oil...........................

      July 26, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
  16. Tim

    To the chef who made this thesis on the creation of home fries-Are you nuts or just plain high?

    July 26, 2014 at 8:09 am |
  17. WasteNot

    What the heck is a dutch oven? I have only hear it in reference to shoving someone's head under the covers and farting...lol

    July 25, 2014 at 7:54 pm |
    • Dover

      You're on a food blog yet you don't know what a dutch oven is?

      July 26, 2014 at 2:49 pm |
      • Sapphire

        Don't be a d!ck. You were new to cooking once, too, kettle.

        July 28, 2014 at 10:22 am |
  18. Carn E. Vore

    1) Cut up potatoes and leave the skin on.
    2) Put 'em in a pot of water, crank the heat, and boil for about seven minutes or so. Drain.
    3) Melt some butter and olive oil in a skillet. Add potatoes.
    4) Cook until they're as crispy as you want on the outside.
    5) Eat

    Once you've done them once or twice and know how long they take to cook to your liking, you can add onions, peppers, whatever you want into the skillet while the potatoes cook. If you add them too soon they'll burn. Add too late and they won't be cooked.

    July 25, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
  19. ed

    I owned a breakfast diner and went through over 50 lbs of potatoes every day. Start with russets cooked skin on until the skin starts to split, cool under cold water and refrigerate overnight. Peel and chop,grill with bacon fat and minced onion,salt and pepper.

    July 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm |
    • demaris

      but how do you do the initial "cook"? boil? bake?

      July 25, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
      • ed

        Demaris -Sorry,boil then cool in cold water.

        July 25, 2014 at 8:55 pm |
    • brian

      exactly... and bacon fat is the key

      July 26, 2014 at 11:46 am |
      • radar8

        Using bacon fat is cheating. :-) Everything tastes better with bacon.

        July 26, 2014 at 11:54 am |
    • Blaze420

      Professional chef here, this is the correct way to make home fries! The potatoes must be cooked the day before and refrigerated overnight and bacon fat is the key ingredient.

      July 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
      • Dover

        Of course you are a professional chef, it's the internet after all. (Spoiler alert: a professional chef would bill him/herself as 'certified'. Professionals go through a certification process until they reach the title of Chef de Cuisine)

        July 26, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
  20. Love to cook

    Sounds good, lots of steps, a little too much salt for my taste, and for people with high blood pressure, although, it might not hurt to add less salt to the recipe.

    July 25, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
  21. michael

    ....yeah but what do you do with all of the food that you test???..is it wasted or does it go to some form of use ...with so many food show now ...what happens to all that food ...talk about waste ....

    July 25, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
    • Shoot The Morbidly Obese

      The only people who don't waste food are the disgustingly morbidly obese. They'll cram any and everything into their gaping maws.

      July 25, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
      • Dr. Phil

        I'm thinking someone did not hugged enough as a child...

        July 25, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
        • Shoot The Morbidly Obese

          I'm guessing someone misses daddy's d!ck.

          July 26, 2014 at 11:33 pm |
      • Klosh Manish

        I'm guessing that you're 500 pounds, and bedridden as you typed that.

        July 26, 2014 at 11:26 am |
    • Ally

      I don't know about the Test Kitchen, but I know some of the cooking shows end up letting the production team eat the food they make.

      July 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
      • goatsandgreens

        Oooo, I want a job on a production team for a cooking show (as long as I can pick the show... I mean, some of the ingredients they have to use on "Chopped" are pretty iffy!)

        July 25, 2014 at 6:21 pm |
  22. Ally

    I love Americas Test Kitchen overall but I've noticed that a lot of posters seem to not like the way the steps for the recipes are listed here on Eatocracy.

    I assume every little step is broken out to try and simplify the recipe for novice cooks. But I think it's affecting people's perception as it being too long or complicated of a recipe just because of the format. If you take all the numbered steps out of the recipe above it's fairly short (would fit on a traditional recipe card easily).

    July 25, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
    • goatsandgreens

      Yes, each step in the recipe above in most cookbooks would double or triple up, and look shorter and less complicated, But as you mention, it has to be being done for the truly novice cook to get a handle (so to speak) on things.

      July 25, 2014 at 6:19 pm |
  23. Shoot The Morbidly Obese

    "Too many steps".................ooooohhhh, such hardship! What a sad nation of soft fat pu$$ies.

    July 25, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
    • gwtars

      STFU. The issue is that there are too many superfluous steps, too much complication, too much "Alton Brown" factor.

      July 26, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
      • Shoot The Morbidly Obese

        "Too much complication".

        You simply are beyond stupid. And a soft, oozing pu$$y to boot.

        July 26, 2014 at 11:31 pm |
  24. Not gonna make'm

    Way too many steps, and way too much effort, all for a side-dish?

    July 25, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
  25. SOUTHERN BELLE

    Wow, so many steps. I make home fries on the stove top, raw potatoes sliced about 1/3 inch, heat oil throw in the potatoes let them cook. do not stir you only have to flip them once. Add onions, green pepper or whatever else you want after flipping... salt, pepper... to taste. Easy easy easy.

    July 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
    • GunnarInLA

      ....YOU...are the one that comes closest – almost perfect!
      (...the "perfect" way shall remain a secret...a secret only those that truly interest themselves in making fries at home without deep frying, eventually discover....but I still don't know where one can buy Kennebec potatoes, but I prefer Russet anyway...)

      July 26, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
  26. Ms. Grammar

    Love, love, love ATK!

    July 25, 2014 at 11:56 am |

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