How to Boil Potatoes

Cooking potatoes in boiling water is a first step for making mashed potatoes, potato salad, or many simple side dishes. We'll show you how to prep your potatoes for cooking and how long to boil potatoes for perfect spuds every time.

Boil potatoes perfectly every time with our no-fail tips.

There’s nothing complicated about boiling potatoes, but as far as basic cooking skills go, it’s a good one to master because you’ll likely use it often. Potatoes are one of the most versatile and widely loved foods out there, largely because you can turn them into so many delicious dishes. Whether you’re planning to boil potatoes for mashed potatoes or for a potato salad, there are a few tips and tricks that will ensure you’re happy with the finished results. Let’s start with a quick breakdown of the different types of potatoes so you can make sure you’re using the right one for the dish you want to make.

Knowing the type of potato you're working with is important and it can change the consistency of your dish.

Types of Potatoes

Because the starch content in potatoes differs from type to type, some are better for boiling than others depending on what you plan to make with the cooked spuds. The amount of starch in the potato can affect the texture, so you want to make sure you’re using the right type of potato for the dish you’re making.

  • High-starch Potatoes: Potatoes such as the Russet or Idaho, have a light, mealy texture. Once boiled, they are ideal for mashing.
  • Medium-starch Potatoes: Varieties such as the Yellow Finn and Yukon Gold, contain more moisture so they don't fall apart quite as easily as high-starch tubers. 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: Potatoes such as the 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.

BH&G Test Kitchen Tip: Many people like to substitute sweet potatoes for standard spuds in their favorite recipes. Learn the best way to boil sweet potatoes if you want to make the swap.

Purchasing & Storing Potatoes

One of the things that makes potatoes such a popular food is that they are relatively inexpensive and available year-round. When you’re choosing spuds at the store, 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 ones 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 Potatoes for Boiling

Start by scrubbing 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 the potatoes into quarters or cubes. Leave small new potatoes whole and halve larger ones. To cube potatoes, slice them to the desired thickness, then stack several slices and cut crosswise several times in both directions.

If you’re doing your prep in advance and won’t be cooking for a while, submerge the peeled and cut potatoes in water and store in the refrigerator. Potatoes left out at room temperature and uncovered with brown. You can keep them in water for up to 24 hours before you cook them.

Boiling Potatoes with Skin On

There’s lots of debate about whether or not you should peel potatoes before boiling them but neither way is really wrong. While leaving the peel on during the boiling process can help the potato hold on to some of the vitamins and nutrients found in the peel, it really just comes down to personal preference.

If you do decide to leave the peel on but don’t want the peel in your finished dish, use a paring knife to score the skin around the middle of each potato. After boiling, rinse the potatoes is cool water and you should be able to peel the skin right off with your fingers.

Cooking times for potatoes can vary based on the size of your cut or whole pieces so keep an eye on them and check often with a fork.

Boiling Potatoes on the Stove

  1. 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.
  2. Turn the burner on high and bring water to boiling. Reduce the heat to medium low or low. Cover the pot 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. You can use a fork to test to see if they are tender enough.
  3. Drain the potatoes in a colander.

If you’re boiling small Red Potatoes or New Potatoes, don’t bother cutting before putting in the pot, and adjust your cooking time to around 15 to 20 minutes. Again, use your fork to check tenderness.

BH&G Test Kitchen Tip: You can boil potatoes ahead of time for use later as long as you cover and refrigerate them. They’ll last for up to three days in the fridge.

Boiling Potatoes in the Microwave

If you want to boil potatoes quickly, try using your microwave. It’s the perfect solution for small batches of spuds.

  1. Place the cut potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl and add water to cover and a dash of salt. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, poking holes in the wrap to vent.
  2. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Stir; cover again with the plastic wrap and cook for 5 more minutes or until tender.
  3. Drain into a colander.

Boiling Potatoes in a Slow Cooker

For the ultimate in easy solutions, use your slow cooker to boil potatoes. It’s perfect for times when you want to be able to work on other dishes do other housekeeping tasks, or see a movie! Your slow cooker doesn’t actually “boil” the liquid, but the effect is the same, and if you’re planning to use the cooked spuds for mashed potatoes, you can mash and even serve right from your slow cooker.

  1. Place your cut potatoes in your slow cooker, then add a cup of cooking liquid like water or broth. Most of the liquid will cook off or be absorbed by the potatoes during the cooking process, making draining unnecessary.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until tender.

Duchess Potatoes: You can use a piping bag (typically used for frosting deserts) to give these whipped potato mounds a pretty presentation.

Boiled Potato Recipes

There are tons of ways you can use cooked potatoes. Here are a few of our favorite ways to use boiled potatoes in savory side dishes.

1 Comment

  1. Cook them 15 minutes at a boil and they are completly overcooked for potato salad unless you like the mashed potato type. More like 10 minutes



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