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The best fat for roast potatoes

Roast potatoes are one of the most beloved and ubiquitous components of a Christmas dinner - in fact, according to this YouGov report^ they are the most consumed part of the meal.


Which makes them pretty important this time of year. Because if your roasties aren’t up to scratch your festive menu is likely to fall flat. The perfect roast potato is fluffy, crisp and flavourful, and achieving this holy trinity has everything to do with the oil or fat you use.

Of course, in today’s culinary landscape there are other factors that come into play, such as whether an ingredient is suitable for vegans, or those with allergies.

The best fats and oils for roast potatoes are:

  • Goose fat
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Beef dripping
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Butter

Want to know which one is right for your recipe? Our guide to the best fats and oils for roast potatoes can help you decide…

What are roast potatoes?

Roast potatoes are white potatoes that have been peeled, cut into angular pieces, par-boiled then coated with oil or fat and roasted in a hot oven.

Goose fat

What is goose fat?

Goose fat is rendered from the flesh of a goose and used for cooking. It can be either ‘blonde’, which is the white gel-like fat often sold in jars, or ‘brown’, which is that fat residue that comes off a goose that has been roasted.
Goose fat has a high smoke point.

Roast potatoes verdict

Goose fat is the traditional choice, and a roast potato favourite because its high smoke point makes for a crispy coating. Goose fat is especially good for a Christmas dinner because it is rich and silky and adds to the decadence of the meal.

Allergen alert

Goose fat does not contain any of the 14 major food allergens.

Vegetable oil

What is vegetable oil?

Vegetable oil is a cooking oil made of extracts from grains, seeds and even nuts. Rapeseed and linseed oil are common ingredients for vegetable oil in the UK. Vegetable oil has a medium smoke point.

Roast potatoes verdict

Vegetable oil is the ideal choice for those who like a subtle, or blander flavour from their roast potatoes, because it cooks best at a medium heat and so the potatoes won’t take on too much flavour from the oil. This also means the potatoes won’t overpower other dishes.

Allergen alert

Vegetable oil does not contain any of the 14 major food allergens.

What type of potatoes are best for roasting?

Floury potatoes are preferred for roasting, as it's the flouriness that transforms into crispiness during the roasting process. Maris Piper, Desiree and King Edward are all floury varieties of potato.

Sesame oil

What is sesame oil?

Sesame oil is a vegetarian oil derived from sesame seeds. It has a nutty flavour and a considerably high smoke point for a plant-based oil.

Roast potatoes verdict

Sesame oil is the perfect choice for vegans and vegetarians who like their potatoes crispy, due to the high smoke point. However, like beef dripping, sesame has a distinctive taste, and can clash with the other flavours.

Allergen alert

Sesame oil is made from Sesame, one of the 14 major food allergens.

Why is the smoking point so important when roasting potatoes?

The smoking point of a fat or oil is crucial to roast potatoes. For a golden colour and crispy texture potatoes must be exposed to the highest possible temperature during the roasting process.

Oils and fats with a low smoking point will burn in a very hot oven, whereas those with a high smoke point will withstand the heat and roast for longer, giving them the tasty, crispy shell.

Beef dripping

What is beef dripping?

Beef dripping is so called because it’s the fat that drips from a joint of meat while it roasts. This fat is then rendered into solid blocks. It is similar to tallow and lard, and has a very high smoke point. For a roasting tray full of potatoes only a few tablespoons of dripping is needed.

Roast potatoes verdict

Beef dripping is the choice of many top chefs when it comes to roast potatoes, because it is so flavourful and creates the crispiest potatoes due to the longest frying life of any fat.

However, beef dripping isn’t for everyone - it will give the potatoes a slightly meaty taste that can prove divisive.

Allergen alert

Beef dripping does not contain any of the 14 major food allergens.

Olive oil

What is olive oil?

Olive oil is a vegetarian oil that is extracted from pressed olives. Olives are grown on trees native to the Mediterranean.

Olive oil has a high smoke point - that of extra-virgin olive oil is less high.

Roast potatoes verdict

Olive oil is one of the most popular oils for frying and roasting foods, but it is not necessarily the best choice for Christmas roasties because it can be a little greasy. Extra-virgin olive oil should be avoided as it will burn easily in a very hot oven.

Allergen alert

Olive oil does not contain any of the 14 major food allergens.

Why do we eat roast potatoes at Christmas?

Whilst Queen Victoria is widely thought to have been the person who first introduced potatoes to Christmas dinner, the potatoes were mashed rather than roasted.

Roast potatoes however, are traditionally eaten with a roast dinner, which shares several components with Christmas dinner.

Coconut oil

What is coconut oil?

Coconut is a vegetarian fat that is derived from the meat and milk of a coconut. It comes as a while, solid substance and has a moderately high smoking point.

Roast potatoes verdict

Coconut oil is popular in vegan cooking, and though it will give roast potatoes a slight coconut flavour it will be subtle enough not to clash with the other flavours of a Christmas dinner. One downside of coconut oil is that it will brown the potatoes more quickly and they will need monitoring to avoid the oven becoming smoky.

Allergen alert

Despite its name, coconut is not a Nut, and this oil does not contain any of the 14 major food allergens.

Butter

What is butter?

Butter is a creamy yellow dairy product derived from Milk. It is semi-solid (or spreadable if combined with oil) and made from churned cream. It has a moderately high smoke point.

Roast potatoes verdict

Butter is a great choice for seriously indulgent roasties, adding a creamy texture and sweetness. If you opt for butter it’s important to melt it in a pan so you can separate out any impurities from the bottom before adding to the potatoes, and for best results it should be combined with an oil such as vegetable or rapeseed. Butter is a suitable option for vegetarians but not for vegans.

Allergen alert

Butter is a dairy product derived from Milk, one of the 14 major food allergens.

^ https://yougov.co.uk/topics/food/articles-reports/2020/12/17/what-do-britons-have-their-christmas-dinner

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