Potato fries are an American favorite. Yet, these things are often loaded with fat and sometimes unwanted chemicals. With the trend toward roasting vegetables without added oils, I decided to do a comparison test of roasting potatoes with and without oil. The results were truly interesting and even unexpected! See the video below for the results. My test notes are following the video. Enjoy!
I hope this helps!
Comparison Test – Oven Roasted Fries Oil vs No Oil
White potatoes were peeled and cut into average French fry size pieces. The potato pieces were divided into three groups and different treatments were applied to each group:
Group #1 – These were roasted raw with a light coating of extra virgin olive oil. A relatively small amount of oil was used, with no more than one teaspoon of oil on 9 potato pieces.
Group #2 – These were roasted raw without oil.
Group #3 – These were first boiled for about 5 minutes, until not quite fork tender, then roasted without oil.
The three groups were placed on their own sheet of parchment paper and all placed on the same baking sheet. They were roasted in a preheated 400F oven with the rack in the middle of the oven. All three groups were baked for 32 minutes then removed from the oven.
The test results are as follows:
All samples were baked at 400F for 32 minutes at the same time on the same baking sheet.
Group #1 had the most browning with the browned areas being relatively spotted along the pieces. This probably reflects the areas where oil was actually coating the potatoes, with more browning on the oil-coated areas.
Group #2 browned, but not as much as Group #1. The browning was more evenly disbursed along the length of the potato pieces.
Group #3 had the least amount of browning, probably due to the added water content. It appears they may have browned more if they were left to roast for a longer amount of time.
Group #1 had the texture one would typically find in a French fry. The outside had a crispy crunch to it, while the inside was soft.
Group #2 was slightly dry on the outside, while the inside was tender. It did not have the usual “crunch” of a typical potato fry. It was not rubbery nor hard to bite into.
Group #3 turned out very much like Group #2. The outside was slightly dry while the inside was tender. It had no noticeable crunch. It was very difficult to tell the difference between Groups 2 and 3.
Group #1 had an excellent flavor…exactly what you would expect from a homemade potato fry. It did not taste oily even though it had a light coating of oil.
Group #2 tasted like dry potato with some moisture inside. The flavor was slightly different from that of Group #1, resulting from the omission of oil.
Group #3 had a very slightly better potato flavor than Group #2, although the difference is flavor is hardly noticeable.
Preference Ranking [Note: The following is the opinion of the tester (Judi). Your opinion may differ based on your own preferences and test results.]
First place: Group #1 ranked first overall. It had the most browning so the appearance was what you would expect of a potato fry. The flavor and texture were excellent, with the outside having a crispy crunch, and the tender interior being what we look for in a quality potato fry.
Second place was tied: Groups #2 and #3 tied for second place. With the exception that Group #3 needed a little extra oven time for browning, the texture, appearance and flavor were extremely close and hard to tell apart between the two groups.
If you want to avoid using added oils when making homemade oven-roasted potato fries, either method (roasting raw without oil or boiling first then roasting without oil) would be acceptable regarding texture, appearance, and flavor. There is little difference between the two except that when boiled first, the potatoes will need a little more roasting time for browning to occur, and the boiling seems to add a slight more potato flavor.
It is important to note that peeled and cut potatoes will oxidize (turn dark) quickly. If opting to roast potato fries without boiling them first, it will be helpful to place them in a bowl of water to prevent them from turning dark, if they will not be used immediately. Boiling the potatoes before roasting eliminates this potential problem.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.