How to Boil Potatoes

Cooking potatoes in boiling water is a first step for making mashed potatoes, potato salad, or a simple side dish. Start by choosing the right spud for your recipe.


Potato Picks

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Some potatoes are better than others for boiling, depending on what you plan to do with the cooked potatoes. This is because the starch content varies, which affects the texture.

  • High-starch potatoes, such as russets, have a light, mealy texture. Once boiled, they are ideal for mashing.
  • Medium-starch potatoes, such as Finnish yellow and Yukon gold, contain more moisture so they don't fall apart quite as easily as high-starch potatoes. They work well for mashing, adding to soups or casseroles, and serving as a side dish. They can also be used for potato salad.
  • Low-starch potatoes, such as round red, round white, and new potatoes, are often called waxy potatoes. They hold their shape better than other potatoes when boiled, making them perfect for potato salads or tossing with seasoned butter as a side dish.

Purchasing and Storing Potatoes

  • Potatoes are available year-round. Look for clean potatoes that have smooth, unblemished skins. They should be firm and have a shape that is typical for the variety. Avoid potatoes with green spots or that are soft, moldy, or shriveled.
  • Store potatoes in a dark, cool, well-ventilated place for up to several weeks. Do not store them in the refrigerator.

Prepping the Potatoes

  • Scrub the potatoes with a clean produce brush to remove any dirt, then rinse. If desired, peel the potatoes with a vegetable peeler or paring knife, cutting away from your hand. Remove any sprouts and any green areas with the tip of a potato peeler.
  • Cut potatoes into quarters or cubes. Leave small new potatoes whole and halve larger ones.

Tip: To cube potatoes, slice them to the desired thickness, then stack several slices and cut crosswise several times in both directions.

Boiling Potatoes

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  • Place the potatoes in a large saucepan or pot. Add enough cold water to cover the tops of the potatoes. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt to the water.
  • Turn the burner on high and bring water to boiling. Reduce heat to medium low or low. Cover the pan with a lid. Cook the potatoes in gently boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes for cubed potatoes and new potatoes and 20 to 25 minutes for quartered potatoes.
  • Drain the potatoes in a colander.

Serving Boiled Potatoes

  • For a simple side dish, toss boiled potato chunks or wedges or boiled new potatoes with butter, snipped fresh parsley or basil, and salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Our Favorite Potato Recipes

Gruyere-Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Potato Salad

New Potatoes and Peas

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