How to boil potatoes – There’s something special about passing around a generous serving of light, buttery mashed potatoes during a family dinner or potluck. Whether you’re preparing mashed potatoes or putting together a zesty potato salad with sweet pickles, knowing how to boil your potatoes is key.
Don’t worry—it’s a breeze to boil potatoes. All you need are potatoes, water, and plenty of salt. Boiling potatoes is as straightforward as cooking pasta, and it opens the door to a world of culinary possibilities.
While a pot of boiled potatoes might not seem particularly appetizing or exciting on its own, these softened spuds can take centre stage in various main dishes and sides.
From flavourful garlic mashed potatoes to classic potato salad, or as fillings for knishes and pierogi, there are endless ways to elevate boiled potatoes. You can even turn them into delicious homemade potato chips!
How to Prep Potatoes
To begin, make sure to clean the potatoes thoroughly. Give them a good rinse to remove any dirt or pesticides they may have picked up before reaching your kitchen. If you have a vegetable brush, this is the perfect occasion to use it. Even if you intend to peel the potatoes, it’s crucial to scrub them clean before moving on.
How to Peel Potatoes
It’s totally up to your personal preference whether you peel the potatoes or not. However, if you prefer peeled potatoes, it’s recommended to remove the skin after cleaning but before boiling. The simplest way to peel potatoes is to use a traditional vegetable peeler.
Hold the potato securely with your free hand or stick a fork into one end, and peel it away from your body.
If you choose to peel the potatoes after boiling, wait until they cool to a safe temperature to handle. You might decide to keep the peel on for a bit of added texture.
Do You Cut Potatoes Before Boiling?
You don’t have to chop potatoes before boiling but keep in mind that smaller pieces will cook faster than larger ones. Working with smaller pieces is also handy if you plan to make mashed potatoes later.
The size of your potato cuts may vary based on the type, but as a general rule, consider quartering larger varieties like Russet potatoes. For smaller potatoes, such as new potatoes, just halving them should be sufficient.
Regardless of the size you choose, all the potato pieces must be roughly the same shape and size. This ensures that every piece in the pot cooks evenly.
How to Boil Potatoes
Making boiled potatoes is incredibly simple. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Step 1: Fill and Season the Pot
Start by adding water to a pot and throwing in a few generous pinches of salt. Ensure that the water completely covers the potatoes. Don’t skip the salt—it’s essential for flavour, and you won’t end up with overly salty potatoes.
Step 2: Add Potatoes to Cold Water
Introduce your cleaned, peeled, and halved or quartered potatoes to the cold water. While you can wait for the water to boil before adding the potatoes, they’ll cook more evenly if you put them in while the water is still cold. Adding potatoes to boiling water can result in a mushy exterior and a tough interior. Once the water reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.
Step 3: Boil Until Soft
Boil the potatoes until they become soft, which typically takes about 20 minutes. The exact time may vary based on the size and type of potatoes you’re using.
Check their tenderness periodically by poking a fork into one; if there’s resistance, they’re not ready. Be cautious not to let them get too soft, as they might become mushy or grainy. Once you’re satisfied with their tenderness, drain the potatoes and proceed with your recipe.
How do You Know When Potatoes are Boiled?
To determine if a potato is fully boiled, a helpful cue is if you can easily pierce it with a fork. Aim for tenderness throughout, allowing the fork to slide effortlessly to the centre. If you encounter resistance, boil for a few more minutes and check again.
The boiling time for potatoes varies depending on factors like the potato type, the size of the cut pieces, and the desired texture for your dish. For dishes like mashed potatoes, opt for a more tender consistency, while a slightly firmer texture may be preferable for potato salad.
Begin checking small, one-inch peeled and cubed potatoes at the 10-minute mark, and assess whole potatoes after 15 minutes to gauge their cooking progress.
Here’s a guide for boiled potatoes:
- Peeled, cubed potatoes (cut into small, one-inch pieces): 10 to 12 minutes after reaching a boil.
- Larger pieces (about 2 inches across): Approximately 15 minutes.
- Medium whole potatoes: Boil for 20 minutes until tender.
- Larger potatoes (baking potato size): May require 25 to 30 minutes.
How to Serve Boiled Potatoes
Once you’ve drained the potatoes, your next move depends on whether you’re making a hot or cold dish. If you’re planning to serve them cold in a potato salad, give them a rinse with cold water or place them in an ice bath. This helps prevent carryover cooking.
On the other hand, if your dish is meant to be served hot, go ahead and continue with your recipe. For instance, if you’re whipping up mashed potatoes, gather your butter, cream, and preferred herbs or spices, and start mashing.
How to Store Boiled Potatoes
When you’ve finished boiling the potatoes, transfer them to an airtight container. They’ll stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days and can be stored in the freezer for up to a few months.
4 russet potatoes.
Pinch of salt.
- Clean the potatoes by using your hands or a vegetable brush to remove any dirt in the sink. Optional: If desired, use a vegetable peeler to take off the potato skins. Chop the potatoes into pieces of equal size.
- Place the chopped potatoes in a large cooking pot and fill it with cold water until the water level is 1 inch above the potatoes. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 10-12 minutes. Larger pieces may require more cooking time.
- After 10 minutes, check the potatoes for doneness by poking one piece with a fork. If the fork easily pierces the centre, they’re done. If there’s resistance, boil for an additional 2 minutes and check again.
- Drain the boiled potatoes in a colander.
Boiling potatoes is a straightforward process that opens the door to a variety of delicious dishes. Whether you’re preparing mashed potatoes, potato salad, or any other recipe, cleanliness and uniformity in potato size are crucial.
Pay attention to the cooking time based on the type and size of the potatoes, ensuring they are tender but not overcooked.
After boiling, adapt your next steps based on your recipe—rinse with cold water use an ice bath for cold dishes like potato salad, or proceed with your hot dish recipe.
Finally, store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for an extended shelf life. Happy cooking!
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