Avoid These Mistakes When Storing Cut Potatoes


I am in the kitchen preparing my favorite homemade chicken pot pie and bring out the vegetable ingredients. While peeling each potato, I wonder how to make this task easier and faster since it is time-consuming. I see frozen french fries and potato slices sold in the grocery, so how can I do the same?

In general, if potatoes are peeled and cut they must be submerged in water. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking or baking. Frozen potatoes that were blanched and drained before freezing will last up to 12 months in the freezer.

Potatoes are part of everyday meals and are cooked in many forms, baked, fried, and mashed. You eat it alone or mix it with stews and chowders, or bake it with pot pies or casserole dishes. When you read a recipe, you will see the instructions to peel or dice or slice a tomato, but that’s before going through the process of peeling it.

Peeling and cutting tomatoes take time, but you can apply the short cuts so your potato is ready to use. This exercise saves you half the time to peel and cut potatoes, making cooking or baking faster and easier to manage.

How Long Can You Leave Potatoes In Water?

Potatoes are easy to prepare and store as long as you remember to keep potatoes soaked for a maximum of 24 hours. That does not mean you leave it longer because it will not have the qualities expected of a potato. Unless it is a mashed potato, you want to bite into it and be able to chew it.

Soaking potatoes longer than 24 hours will force you to use them for mashed potatoes. The ideal time to drain the water from the potato and cook it is between 8-10 hours. 

  • The potato maintains its structure and not mushy.
  • You can still bite into a potato and chew it.
  • It still tastes like a potato.

There is a chemical reaction to soaking potatoes in water. Osmosis is the diffusion of water across a surface where things can go through from a portion of a potato’s high concentration to an area of low concentration. In this case, water goes through a potato and has a different reaction between plain water and saltwater.

Some have experimented with soaking a potato with salted water to enhance the flavor. The brine water should be a typical preserving solution for food. But based on the potato’s reaction to different liquids added, water and salter water will have a different result.

POTATO SOAKED IN WATERPOTATO SOAKED IN SALTWATER
The water is an opaque and murky white after soaking the potato.The water is dark brown after soaking the potato.
The potato feels firm and crispy to snap.The potato is bendy and does not snap.
Water stays in the potato and maintains the structureWater moves out of the potato making the potato flimsy.

Maximum Time Potatoes are Soaked in Water before Frying?

When you soak potatoes in water before frying, it reduces acrylamide. 

This is a naturally occurring chemical reaction when starch is cooked at high temperatures. Potatoes are fried, baked, roasted, or grilled, and this is when acrylamide is active.

When potatoes are soaked in water, acrylamide is reduced by 48% with less harmful effects.  

Cut and peeled potatoes that are soaked in water can stay in the refrigerator for 24 hours. This is ideal for french fries, sliced potatoes for gratin, cubed potatoes for a salad, etc. It is recommended to use large potatoes instead of small ones, but will still have the same results. Here are some tips to achieve maximum crispiness of potatoes after soaking in water.

  • Clean and peel potatoes under cold water.
  • Potatoes should be completely soaked in cold water and cling-wrap the top of the container.
  • Leave in the fridge for 24 hours to remove excess starch
  • Blanch the potato or fries in oil until tender but not crispy or brown from frying.
  • Before serving, fry the cooked potato in 380°F oil temperature until golden and crispy.

French fries should be soaked between 30 minutes to two hours to reduce acrylamide formation and lessen the starch. Once you take out the potatoes from the fridge, you have to drain and rinse again with cold water. Washing twice removes the excess starch and makes the potato crispy when you roast or fry it. 

How Long to Boil Potatoes?

Boiling potatoes are the least exciting thing to do when cooking. But it is one of the essential steps to making all kinds of dishes using this staple vegetable.

Before you can make your mashed potatoes or potato salad, you will need to boil the potato for 20-40 minutes. You also do this to ensure the potato is cooked evenly.

There are different kinds of potatoes, but the ones best for boiling are starchy potatoes like Russets. They are considered the best to use for this purpose because they give you the creamiest mash. The middle-starchy potato is the Yukon Golds, and the third is the all-purpose or waxy potatoes or Red Bliss.

The Yukon Golds and Red Bliss will not get waterlogged like the Russets and will turn out lumpy and not absorb dairy as much as the Russet potato. 

You can leave the skin of the potato when boiling to absorb less water and preserve the starch. Leaving the skin on the potato maintains its taste and easier to hand peel with a cloth once it has cooled down. Less water prevents a watery mash and allows better absorption of milk, cheese, cream, and butter.

Potatoes cut into equal-sized chunks of 1 ½ – 2 inches for even cooking. Boil the cubed potato for 15 minutes or until tender. The boiled potatoes are made into a potato salad or mashed potatoes. But potatoes cut for fries or a potato gratin are also boiled the same time until tender. 

If you plan to use your potatoes the next day after boiling, return potatoes in water. This time add a teaspoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar. Use a plastic or glass bowl and cover the lid with cling-wrap to avoid the potatoes from turning brown.  

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Can You Leave Potatoes in Water after Boiling?

Your potatoes are boiled and ready, but you are still finishing up another dish and forget about draining the potato after boiling.  You should not leave cooked potatoes in water for more than an hour after boiling because they will lose their flavor. Depending on how you plan to use the potatoes, be it mashed or cubed, you will have to drain them out after a few minutes.

Leaving the potatoes in boiled water will make them softer and perfect for mashed potatoes  The potatoes stay warm, softer, and creamer, but they also absorb too much water. If you cut it into cubes for a salad, then you should drain it right away.  You will have to make a quick decision whether to strain it out of the hot water or leave it.

You can do a quick boil, then leave the potatoes soaked in the boiled water no longer than an hour to soften but not waterlog it.  But you must remember to drain the water afterward because it will get soggy and lose its structure from the temperature and the boiled water soaking into it. 

Just keep in mind that you avoid biting into soggy potatoes that have collapsed. Imagine expecting some sort of body on a potato, only to bite into mush?  What will happen if you oversoak in water and worse in hot water. 

Best time to Soak Potatoes in Water Before Mashing

You can soak potatoes in cold water for a few minutes to release some of the starch to avoid sticking to each other. The bigger cuts of potato can soak in cold water inside the fridge for 8-24 hours. When you store potatoes longer than 24 hours, it loses its structure, and this mashing a potato is the best way to salvage your over-soaked potato. 

Since you will add liquid like milk or water, you can store the peeled potato soaked in water for half a day then cook for dinner. To make the perfect mashed potatoes, you start with soaking them in water in the fridge, it is best to follow the steps to get the best mashed potatoes.

  • Peel and soak two kinds of potatoes, the starchy Russets and the waxy Yukon Golds for a few minutes.
  • Rice the potatoes by breaking them down to the size of rice grains by using a food mill or potato ricers that act as a press to create creamy and smooth potatoes like a puree. 
  • Stir the dairy of wither buttermilk or cold butter and add the liquid at once then fold, before adding cream at room temperature. 
  • Like mousse, do not over-blend the potatoes and mix the butter and cream slowly.

Freezing Peeled Potatoes

cut potato
Image credit: Canva

Some say that fresh food is always better. But in the absence of spare time, you need to use it wisely. Cook efficiently and save as much time as you can. Since potatoes are part of most of your dishes, it makes sense to prepare them earlier and have them on hand from a ready stash. 

Before you pre-freeze, choose potatoes that are at the peak of their freshness. You can freeze peeled potatoes, but you must first balance in boiling water until tender. Transfer the potatoes in airtight freezer bags in a single-layer lying flat in the rack to last a maximum of three months.  

You can use the frozen potatoes direct from the freezer, but you can thaw them in the refrigerator before taking them out. The taste and texture may not be the same as a freshly cooked or baked potato, but you can solve that by monitoring the doneness to avoid overcooking.

By partially cooking the potatoes, it is a time-saver in the preparation and cooking. You save time peeling and cutting it, and you save time cooking or baking it. When you are ready to cook or bake it, it needs less oven time or frying because it is already half cooked. You are just heating it or making it crispy. 

You should avoid freezing raw potatoes directly because of the enzyme action that causes the potato to turn black and mushy in the freezer. You risk the quality of the potato because it gets mushy during the thawing period. But if you have no time to blanch the potatoes, here are tips you can experiment with.

  • Use aged potatoes as mature as 2-4 weeks after purchase in the grocery, not the freshly harvested ones
  • Scrub your potatoes well and peel them.
  • Wash under cold water and allow to drain or air dry. 
  • Layer the potatoes flat and separate them from each other when placing them in a ziplock bag to avoid sticking when you thaw the potatoes to use.

It is tempting to buy a bag of frozen potatoes in the grocery. But if you are particular about quality and freshness, you would do it yourself. Potatoes that come in a five-pound bag will give you extra potatoes to consume even if it will last a few weeks at room temperature and a month in a dark and well-ventilated area.  

But peeled raw potatoes need to be partially cooked to take out the water and avoid the mushy and grainy texture when frozen. If you cannot blanch the potato and only have time to peel it, then you are better off just soaking it in water than leaving it in the refrigerator. It is not a good idea to freeze peeled raw potatoes. You boil the potatoes, then freeze it so it lasts 6-12 months in the freezer.

How to Prevent Potatoes From Turning Brown After Peeling

Potatoes have a similar enzyme to bananas, apples, pears, and peaches that turn a dark color when exposed to oxygen. Potatoes react to oxygen and produce discoloration on the surface when the skin is taken out. Once the potato is peeled and sliced, the natural barrier is exposed to oxygen, and the natural phenols have a chemical reaction that turns the color a pinking hue. 

When you peel a potato, notice how it discolors and turns a dark shade. From the time you peel the potatoes at room temperature, you will notice the color turn brownish or grayish. There are also other reasons why a potato will darken its color aside from leaving it out.

  • When dry and peeled potatoes are left in a container at room temperature without water.
  • When dry and peeled potatoes are stored on the refrigerator shelf without a lid.
  • When dry and peeled potatoes are wrapped in cling-wrap and left in the fridge.
  • When potatoes are soaked in salt water instead of placing them on regular water.

You have to submerge the potato in cold water overnight and not longer than 24 hours. You can avoid potatoes from turning black by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar to a gallon of water. Another way to deactivate the enzyme reaction is to apply heat by frying, cooking, baking, or roasting to keep the oxygen out.

Boiled or cooked potatoes must be refrigerated and not left at room temperature as they are cooked starch foods. They are breeding grounds for germs if it is not stored correctly. A quick rule of thumb to avoid the potato from turning brown is to remember that exposure to air will make the potato turn dark.  

  • Use a steel knife to peel and cut potatoes, not an iron knife that will react to the potato and turn a dark color.  
  • Before your start peeling the potato, cool the temperature by running it under cold water then soaking it in cold water after you cut it.
  •  Adding lemon juice or white wine vinegar to lower the pH level in potatoes.
  • Limit or prevent air exposure by keeping the potato in airtight containers or ziplock bags without air inside.
  • Remove the potatoes to the baking pan once cooked, because the aluminum will react to the potato and turn dark.

Takeaway

Potatoes can be peeled and cut earlier to allow you to save time and cook faster. 

Simply following the basic steps of peeling, then cut the potato under cold water before submerging fully in cold water then leaving it in the fridge is one way to store it.  You will, however, need to use the potatoes earlier than 24 hours to make sure it is not waterlogged or mushy. 

If you plan to store a potato for a long time that involves freezing, potatoes have to be soaked in water for at least five minutes before blanching in boiling water then draining.  Set up the potatoes in a flat position, not touching each other while you place them in a ziplock bag in the freezer to start the freezing process. Once fully frozen, you can use the potatoes for a maximum of 12 months.

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