There is a right way to boil a potato? Believe it or not, enjoying a perfectly cooked potato starts with boiling it in a way that results in great consistency and taste.
Choose the Potato
Always start with the most wholesome ingredients for the best results. Select a tuber that has a smooth, relatively unblemished skin, free of any dark spots, sprouting “eyes,” or a shade of green on the peel — all signs of vegetables not in their prime. You also want a potato that is firm to the touch, not soft when you press on it.
Experts at the Idaho Potato Commission — people who know their potatoes — recommend that you leave the skin on when boiling potatoes. This keeps the flavor and nutrients inside during the cooking process. I think the skins add a bit of flavor and texture to the finished product, but if you really can’t stand eating potato skins, just peel after you boil. Make sure to let them cool down first.
Regardless of what you’ve chosen to do with the peel, your potatoes will cook more quickly if you cut them up into chunks. They don’t have to be super small, especially if you are going to be mashing them, but know that the smaller you cut the potatoes, the faster they will cook. Of course, if you do decide to peel them after boiling, it's best to keep the pieces fairly large.
Potatoes suck up a lot of flavor, so salt the water before cooking for the best flavor. You also don’t have to stick to plain salted water for boiling your potatoes. Add herbs, spices and other seasonings to the pot to enhance the taste of your final product. Some cooks boil their potatoes in vegetable or chicken broth, while others add butter, cloves of garlic or pieces of onion or celery. Some of my favorites are black pepper, Cajun spices, parsley and rosemary.
Boiling the Potato
Now that you’ve selected your potatoes and figured out your cooking medium, it’s time to get them in the pot. Place the potatoes in the cooking liquid before bringing it to a boil — not the other way around. This allows the potatoes and the liquid to heat at the same time for even cooking. It’s also important to make sure the cooking liquid completely covers the potatoes and that you keep an eye on the pot during the cooking process, adding liquid if it gets too low. Keep the boil to a gentle simmer.
Knowing When They're Done
Don’t overcook your potatoes or you’ll end up with a soggy mess of a texture and not much flavor. The potatoes are done when you can slide the tip of a knife all the way through without resistance. When boiling whole potatoes, such as small red potatoes, you may want to drain them when they are slightly undercooked since they will continue to cook after being removed from the heat. This way, by the time they make it to the table, they’ll be perfect.
It’s important to drain the potatoes immediately after cooking. Don’t let them sit in the liquid while you finish preparing the rest of the meal. Potatoes retain their heat quite well, so putting them back in the pot after draining and putting a lid on them will keep them warm until you’re ready to serve.
Whether it’s the side dish or the main attraction, wow your dinner guests by getting the potatoes done perfectly.
What are your favorite recipes for potatoes? Share them here!