Boiling is one of the easiest methods when cooking potatoes. And while it may not sound difficult (and it’s really not!), there are certain steps to take for the best way to boil potatoes to ensure the best flavor and texture every time.
For example, do you leave the skins on or off? The experts at the Idaho Potato Commission — people who know their potatoes — recommend boiling potatoes with the skin on. This keeps the nutrients inside the potato during the cooking process and adds a bit of flavor and texture to the finished product as well. But if you really can’t stand eating potato skins, you can certainly peel them after they’re boiled. Just 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 before boiling. 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. Also, try to keep the chunks relatively the same size so that they cook at the same time. Of course, if you do decide to peel them after boiling, it's best to keep the pieces fairly large. You can also leave the potatoes whole; this is best for when you are boiling a starchy potato that can become mushy during the cooking process.
Potatoes soak up a lot of flavor, so salting the water prior to cooking is a good idea for the best taste. And you aren’t limited to plain salted water for boiling your potatoes, either. You can add herbs like rosemary and parsley, or spices and seasonings like a Cajun mix or black pepper 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 to really ramp up the flavor.
Once you’ve prepped your potatoes, it’s time to get them in the pot. It’s important to remember to put 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. And finally, keep the boil to a gentle simmer.
Whether it’s the side dish or the main attraction, these easy boiled potato tips and a step-by-step breakdown on how to boil potatoes will wow your dinner guests by cooking them to perfection every time. Here’s how it’s done:
What You Need
- A cutting knife
- Large pot
- Vegetable scrubber
- Herbs, spices or other seasonings (optional)
- Butter (optional)
- Broth (optional)
Step 1: Clean potatoes well with a vegetable scrub brush.
Step 2: Cut the potatoes into chunks. Remember, the smaller the chunks the faster they will cook.
Be careful to not overcook your potatoes or you’ll end up with a soggy mess and little flavor. Your potatoes are done when you can slide the tip of a knife all the way through without resistance. When boiling whole potatoes, such as red potatoes, you may want to drain when when they are slightly undercooked because they will continue to cook after being removed from the heat. If you do this, they’ll be perfect by the time they make it to the table.
It’s important to drain the potatoes immediately after cooking. Don’t leave them to 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.