- Insider asked professional chefs to share some of the steps you can’t skip when preparing potatoes.
- They said it’s important to wash and cut your spuds as close to your cooking time as possible.
- Salting potatoes while they’re hot is also recommended over seasoning them cold.
Potatoes come in all sorts of different colors, shapes, sizes, flavors, and textures, and there are so many ways to prepare them.
But whether you’re baking, frying, or mashing, there are some key steps that can make or break the final dish.
Insider asked two professional chefs to share the most important tips for cooking potatoes.
Here’s what they had to say:
Choose the right potato based on your cooking plans
Some potato varieties are better suited for certain dishes than others, according to Byron Halliburton, chef de cuisine and general manager at SoBou.
For example, if you plan on baking, frying, sautéing, or mashing your spuds, then opt for a low-water, high-starch potato like a russet.
Red potatoes, however, are the way to go if you’re making soup, stew, or even potato salad because their high water content and low starch help them hold their shape when cooked.
“Of course, if there is one potato that could be called an ‘all-purpose potato’ it is the yellow potato,” Halliburton told Insider. “Yukon Gold is but one of many varieties of yellow potato. It can be baked, mashed, or used in soups and salads, and it has a buttery taste and creamy texture.”
Make sure you’re buying quality spuds without cuts, scars, or sprouts
In addition to choosing the right kind of potato, it’s equally important to shop for quality.
“When selecting potatoes at your local grocer or farmers market, look for potatoes that have clean, smooth, and intact skins — no cuts or scars or sprouting eyes,” Halliburton told Insider.
The potatoes should also be firm without any soft spots, bruises, or discolorations.
Potatoes need dark storage to keep them from turning green
Once you get your spuds home, you need to store them properly. Potatoes grow in the dark and are fittingly best kept in a similar environment.
“Sunlight causes potatoes to start greening. The green is from a chemical called solanine, which can be toxic,” Halliburton said.
But the chef added that if there are only a few green spots, you probably don’t have to toss the whole thing.
“Just cut away all of the green-tinted parts and use the rest,” he said.
It’s also best to keep the starch in a cool environment
Potatoes are best stored in an environment that mimics a root cellar.
“Choose a spot that is cool and dark with good ventilation, but forgo the refrigerator,” Halliburton told Insider. “At fridge temperatures (34 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit), the starch begins converting to sugar, which can change its taste and can impact how it behaves in your recipe.”
Keeping your potatoes too warm is also a recipe for trouble, so it’s all about finding the temperature sweet spot.
“If possible, store potatoes around 50 degrees Fahrenheit,” the chef said. “Think Goldilocks: not too hot, not too cold, but just right.”
You should aim to use potatoes within a week of buying them
When stored in ideal conditions, potatoes can last for a couple of weeks, if not longer. But it’s best to use them within a week, according to Halliburton.
If you do forget about a spud or two though, it’s pretty easy to cut away any sprouts.
“Of course, we’ve all found a potato or two in our pantry that has begun sprouting,” he told Insider. “While the texture will be a little softer, once you remove the sprouts you can still use the potatoes.”
If you can’t use all your potatoes in time, they store nicely in the freezer
If you have more potatoes than you need, potatoes can be frozen and kept on hand for up to a year, according to Halliburton.
To freeze potatoes, cut them the way you intend to use them — sliced for scalloped potatoes, grated for hash browns, cubed for home fries — and partially cook them in boiling water.
“This way, you’ll be ready for that impromptu brunch crowd that shows up three Sundays from now,” the chef told Insider.
Peeled potatoes can be placed in cold water until they’re ready to be cut
Peeled potatoes oxidize and can start turning brown when left out for an extended period, according to Palak Patel, a chef at the Institute of Culinary Education.
To reduce the browning phase, place the peeled whole potatoes in cold water until you’re ready to cut them, the chef suggested. The water rinses the starch and keeps them from discoloring.
The potatoes can be stored this way for up to a few hours, but if they’re left any longer, some of the water-soluble nutrients will be lost, according to Halliburton.
It’s best to wash potatoes just prior to using them in a dish
Like most vegetables, it’s best to not wash or rinse potatoes before storing them as the damp exterior can encourage spoilage.
When you’re ready to use them, Halliburton recommended giving them each a gentle scrub.
Make sure to salt your potatoes while they’re hot
Potatoes are very starchy and require more salt than other vegetables, according to Patel.
This makes it really important to salt them when they’re hot, whether they’re mashed, roasted, or baked.
“The heat helps carry the salt to the center of the potato,” she told Insider. “It’s not ideal to salt cold potatoes.”
For mashed potatoes, start with cold water instead of an already boiling pot
A common mistake when making mashed potatoes is adding the raw starch to already boiling water, according to Halliburton.
Instead, start the potatoes in cold, salted water and let everything come to a boil together. While your potatoes are cooking, start heating your milk, cream, and butter in a small saucepan.
“When it’s time to bring the magic together, everything should be hot,” he told Insider. “Mash your cooked potatoes by hand, use a potato ricer, or pass through a food mill, then add your hot dairy and stir until smooth and silky.”
You can fry your french fries twice for extra crispiness
There’s a trick to getting french fries perfectly crisp: double frying.
“This is a fail-proof way to get crispy fries on the outside, with a fluffy and airy interior,” Patel told Insider. “Be sure to salt them right out of the fryer after the second fry.”
Ditch the foil on your baked potatoes for a crispier exterior
For the perfect baked potato with a fluffy interior and crispy skin, avoid using aluminum foil.
“Baking potatoes without the foil wrap create a treat that is crisp and savory on the outside but light and steamy on the inside,” Halliburton said.
The potatoes are done when they yield to gentle pressure on the sides.
The secret to perfectly roasted potatoes is a sprinkle of baking soda
To achieve the crispiest coating on roasted potatoes, try partially boiling them in a pot of water with half a teaspoon of baking soda before popping them in the oven.
“Baking soda breaks down the pectin in the potato and draws starch to the surface,” Halliburton told Insider. “What do you get? Wonderful browning and a crispiness you wouldn’t otherwise achieve.”