Herculean Strength

Skillet Potatoes: For beginners and pros

“Do I really need a recipe to skillet-fry potatoes?” Maybe some of you don’t. Everyone starts out somewhere, so I wanted to post a beginner recipe to showcase how quick and easy a side dish can be. You can even throw this on when you want a light breakfast or lunch.

I’ve seen several different methods to achieve a crispy potato exterior and a soft interior; here I’m just presenting one. Some places will advise parcooking the potatoes (e.g. microwaving shortly or lightly boiling) to get the interiors started, but I’ve found an alternative that doesn’t require additional dishes.

I recommend Russet potatoes here, since their starchiness allows for a crispier shell, but Yukon Gold will also work well here. I don’t recommend doing this with red potatoes.

Skillet-Fried Potatoes (Serves 2). Total Time: 15-20 minutes


  • cooking fat of choice (I recommend bacon grease, tallow, or lard.)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 large potatoes


  • cast iron pan (recommended) or other 12″ skillet
  • large lid (It doesn’t have to match your pan. I grab one from my stew pot and use that. As long as it covers most of the pan, it’ll do.


  1. Dice the potatoes into approximately 1/2″ chunks. Any bigger than this, and your outside will overcook with your insides left undone.
  2. Heat about 2-3 tbsp cooking fat in your skillet until sizzling. (See notes at the bottom.)
  3. Add the potatoes in a single layer and fry at medium to medium-high heat until browning. (Only check this by moving potatoes with a spatula when they’ve been cooking around 5 minutes (or if you’re starting to burn them).
  4. Toss the potatoes, then reduce the heat a bit, place your lid over the potatoes and let cook until a paring knife can slip in and out (5-10 minutes). Toss/move the potatoes occasionally to prevent sticking.
  5. Uncover, increase the heat to medium-high, and finish frying the potatoes until reasonably browned on the exterior.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve.


If you’re using a cast iron pan, note that cast iron take a while to heat up, but holds heat well. I usually start heating mine on medium heat and just wait a few minutes. Starting higher will result in a very hot pan whose temperature you won’t be able to bring down quickly when necessary. When you’re putting the lid on, you likely want to reduce your heat to low or medium-low.

On the other hand, if you’re using a thinner non-stick* or aluminum skillet, you’ll likely be keeping higher heat on for the duration, except at the beginning. Aluminum pans heat up very quickly compares to cast iron, so start your pan no higher than medium. On the other hand, these types of pans respond to heat more quickly, so while the lid’s on the potatoes, you’ll be keeping your pan on the higher end of medium-low.

  • Beginners, it is perfectly fine to begin with a nonstick pan while you’re learning the basics. The rest of you chad-experts should recall the very beginning of your cooking experience and back off. They won’t die from a few months of cooking on a non-stick skillet.


This recipe is one of those that even pros should return to–a simple dish that emphasizes a technique. Repeating this recipe many time will help you really feel how your stove, your cookware, and you all interact.

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