Fried potatoes, AKA home fries, are classic southern comfort food and can be served at any meal. These potatoes are versatile, pairing well with many foods.
Any potato can be used for fried potatoes (AKA home fries). I have the best results when I use Russet potatoes. Russet potatoes are those dirty looking and dusty feeling potatoes.
I can be lazy and hate peeling potatoes so my absolute favorite potatoes are jumbo baking potatoes. I can get away with peeling fewer potatoes. There is also less wasted per pound with these potatoes.
Fried potatoes can be made with the skin left on if using thin-skinned potatoes like red or yellow but may separate from the potato as they cook. I don’t like the texture of fried potato skins in this dish. I would not leave Russet potato skin on, they are kind of thick.
Diced or Sliced
Sliced potatoes can be used and they will be more like cottage fries. I think that sliced potatoes fall apart too easily when pan-frying. I think it happens because the potatoes cook all the way through before having a chance to form a crispy skin.
Slice the potatoes fairly thick is using slices.
I prefer diced potatoes for home fries.
I choose the size of my potato dices depending on which meal they are going with.
The smaller the dice the quicker they will cook. When I want super crispy potatoes like with breakfast I dice them small. Maybe 1/2-inch or smaller.
For dinner meals like salmon patties or fried pork chops, I use a 1-inch dice. A larger dice offers crispy outsides with a fluffy middle.
Can I Use Raw Potatoes?
YEP! I always start with raw ones.
The only preparation my potatoes get is peeling and dicing. As I dice the potatoes I add them to a large bowl of water just to prevent browning.
Do I Need to Soak the Potatoes?
No. I do not soak my potatoes in saltwater or even for a certain amount of time. I soak them as long as it takes to get all of the potatoes ready.
Sometimes my potatoes sit in a bowl of water for several hours, only because I prepared them sooner than I needed them.
A cast-iron skillet is the most used pan in the south. I have never had a whole lot of luck. My potatoes always stick to the bottom.
My preferred pan is my trusty electric skillet. It’s non-stick and I can control the heat so much better.
The sides are high enough to keep from diced potatoes from jumping over the edge. But the real reason I use it is that I get crispier potatoes.
If using a skillet on the stove make sure it is a non-stick skillet.
What Kind of Oil?
I fry my potatoes in vegetable oil or vegetable shortening. Lard is also an acceptable fat for frying potatoes in.
I know some people use butter and it can be added for some flavor.
When adding butter wait and add it after the potatoes have gotten some color on all of the sides and a crust has formed. The water content in butter will begin to steam the outside of the potatoes if added too soon.
Another great way to add some added flavor is to add some bacon grease to the oil or shortening. Bacon grease can be added sooner than the butter because it should have little to no water in it and it has a high smoking point like the oil.
Add Peppers and Onions
Diced bell peppers and onions can be added to your fried potatoes. I call these potatoes O’Brien though. I make this version as breakfast potatoes. They go perfectly with omelets and our meal-prep egg bagel sandwiches.
I would add the peppers and onions when the potatoes are close to being cooked. Peppers and onions will cook faster than the potatoes and will burn if added too soon. This is why the frozen bagged version never turns out looking like the package.
Why are They Mushy?
The biggest reason potatoes turn mushy when frying them is that the middle of the potatoes began to cook too soon.
To prevent this from happening, use medium-high heat and do not stir the potatoes until the bottoms have turned brown.
When stirring the potatoes be GENTLE, don’t manhandle them. Don’t stir too often either.
When I say stir occasionally, I really mean to leave them alone until the bottoms have browned, not just the first time, but every time you introduce a new side to the bottom.
The second reason I see this recipe fail is by using a pan that isn’t non-stick.
This is really important, you don’t want the crispy potato crust to get stuck on the bottom of the pan. This crust is what’s holding the potatoes together.
- Use plenty of oil. I always have at least 1/4″ of oil on the bottom of the pan. The amount of oil absorbs in fried potatoes has nothing to do with the amount of oil used. It’s the temperature of the oil that affects it.
- Use cubed potatoes rather than sliced. Sliced potatoes definitely get soft way before they have browned. If you turn those too soon they will break apart. If you insist on using sliced potatoes, make the slices at least a 1/2-inch thick and do not stir them until the bottoms have turned a medium brown.
- Do not crowd the pan with too many potatoes. Ideally, you want at least half of the potatoes touching the bottom of the pan. If you have too many potatoes, the potatoes in the middle layer will start to steam and turn into mush.
- Use a higher heat in the beginning to get a crust formed on the potatoes before they have a chance to cook and fall apart. A crust will keep the potatoes from sticking to each other and the pan.
- DO NOT place a lid on the potatoes. Using a lid will steam the potatoes before they have a chance to crust and the potatoes will start to fall apart. If you are looking for fried mashed potatoes, just go on and make some fried mashed potato balls instead.
- Stir and coat the potatoes with oil before starting the frying process. This will help keep the potatoes from sticking together.
What Goes with Fried Potatoes?
- Garden Fresh Tomato Slices, to some folks in the south, fried potatoes with fresh tomatoes is a complete meal!
- Ham and Beans
- Bacon and Eggs
- Salmon Patties
- Fried Pork Chops – our favorite combination
- Fried Cabbage
- Who are we kidding? Fried potatoes go with just about anything!
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Fried Potatoes (AKA Home Fries)
- Add the oil to a skillet and heat to 350⁰F.
- Add the diced potatoes and stir to coat with oil.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper over the potatoes and stir again to distribute.
- Allow potatoes to cook until the bottoms begin to lightly brown.
- Gently stir the potatoes moving the bottom potatoes to the top.
- Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are cooked as desired. The longer the potatoes cook, the darker and crispier they be.
- Place a paper towel in the bottom of a serving bowl before plating.