Ever since I learned how to cook roast potatoes in an air fryer, I’ve never gone back. Here are my tips for perfect roasties in under an hour. After all, nothing has the potential to make (or break) your Sunday roast like the humble roast potato. We all know what makes a great roastie: a crisp and crunchy exterior with a fluffy middle, and despite the fact that I’m a pretty savvy cook, I’ve never quite been able to perfect my roastie game. That was, until I tried them in the air fryer.
I learned how to cook roast potatoes in the air fryer, and I’ve never looked back. Not only do they come out crisp and fluffy every time, but they take a fraction of the time and effort that the classic oven roastie does. Just to give you an idea of how much I rate the air fried roastie, I actually used this technique for Christmas last year, and it went down a treat.
When making my air fryer roast potatoes I like to use a large air fryer with a wide basket. The reason is twofold: one, I always cook up a bumper batch of roasties to make sure I’ve got plenty of leftovers, and two, it means they have room to crisp up from every angle, as opposed to being crammed in and pressed together. The best air fryer for this – at least that I have at my disposal – is the Instant Vortex Plus. From the same foodie stable as Instant Pot, this is a 5.7-litre air fryer that goes up to 200ºC.
Should you soak the potatoes before air frying?
Yes! Yes you should. If you were hoping I’d tell you that you can chuck your peeled and halved potatoes straight into the air fryer basket and whack them on for an hour, you’re about to be very disappointed. You could still do that if you can’t be bothered with all the faff of par-boiling and smashing your spuds, but the truth is that perfect roasties are a labour of love, and the extra prep really pays off.
The only difference between my oven and air fried potatoes is where I cook them. When air frying I still par-boil my potatoes to get them all fluffy on the inside. I then drain them and let them sit for a few minutes to release the steam, and then I shake them up a little to get a floury surface on the exterior of the spuds. This is the step that gets you the crispy exterior, because it creates little potato scraps that stick to the outside of the roasty and go all golden and delicious.
How do you roast potatoes in an air fryer?
Prep your potatoes. Use Maris Piper if you can as they make the best roasties. The prep is the same as when making regular roasties, just peel and halve or quarter them depending on the size you’re looking for.
Boil them. Pop them in some room-temperature water (add some salt for seasoned spuds) and then bring this to a boil. You’ll know your potatoes are done when you can stick a fork into them without much resistance – this is apparently called 'fork-tender', which is a term I find a bit weird, but there we go.
Drain them. Then let them sit and steam for a bit, to get rid of the moisture. This prevents soggy or hard potatoes.
Shake them. Add the potatoes back to the pan, pop the lid on, and give them a good old shake. You want them to be coated in a floury layer of potato. Believe it or not, this is now an area of contention, largely due to Tom Kerridge. He says shaking is BAD and that you should instead let your unshaken spuds cool and dry on a backing rack or something similar. This is similar to the process we sometimes use at T3 when making the best air fryer chips.and it works very well for that, but it is clearly somewhat more time consuming than giving them a shake.
Pro tip: make sure the air fryer pre-heats while you drain and shake your par-boiled potatoes (or dry them on a rack).
Add your oil. Air fryers are allegedly a low-fat cooking method, but I refuse to skimp when my Sunday roast is at stake. Add a good glug of oil, a knob of butter, and some seasoning (I add garlic and rosemary, but you could add anything you fancy) and give the potatoes another shake to make sure they’re coated.
Pop them into the air fryer. I set mine at maximum heat, 200ºC, for around 35 minutes. You want to spread them out evenly inside the air fryer basket to make sure that the spuds aren’t touching too much. This will make sure that every surface is able to crisp up during cooking. Ideally, just have one layer of potatoes across your basket to allow air to circulate around them while cooking.
Turn after 20 minutes. At this point, your potatoes should be firm enough to have another shake-up, or go in with some tongs and turn them over. The top will be more cooked than the bottom, so this makes sure they’re evenly cooked. I sometimes add a bit more oil if some of the potatoes look like they need a boost.
Serve up, and enjoy. Yep, that’s it. Feel free to add or detract from the time, I like a very crisp roast potato – borderline scorched, in fact – so you might only need 30 minutes. Once it’s done, you can serve up alongside your meat, meat alternative, Yorkshire puddings, green veg and whatever else is on the menu. Let’s be real though, it’s the roastie that’s the star of the show.
But are roast potatoes better in an air fryer?
Personally, I think air fryer roasties are the best of the best. Because they’re not sat in a layer of oil on a roasting tray you won’t end up with uneven cooking, and you’ll have to turn them fewer times to get an even finish.
Air fryers are known for speedy cooking, and despite the fact that my recipe is an hour-long, it does still save me a lot of time. I’ve been known to serve up some anaemic-looking potatoes in the past because they weren’t cooked after an hour and a half in the oven, and when I do make a roast in the oven, it’s often the potatoes that take the longest. With this technique, you can chuck in your meat and then get to work on the sides.
If you’ve got your oven roasties down to a fine art, perhaps you're worried you won't be able to match them in an air fryer. I challenge you to try it though, because it’s a lot easier this way. Plus, it clears space in the oven for your stuffing, cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire puddings etcetera etcetera. Happy eating!