How to Cook Potatoes

Last Update: September 27, 2022

If you think back on some of your favorite meals over the years, chances are there was a potato involved. As one of the most versatile vegetables, potatoes are often cast as supporting characters to a long list of culinary stars, including burgers, steaks, and even Thanksgiving turkey. But today we’re turning the spotlight on these popular tubers to answer your most pressing potato questions, offer our best cooking tips and tricks, and share our favorite ways to make them. Here’s everything you need to know about the unsung hero of the produce aisle.

Potato Q&A

Is a potato a fruit or vegetable?

Potatoes are vegetables as they’re grown in the ground rather than on trees. They’re considered root vegetables and classified as nightshades, aka members of the Solanaceae family, and they contain an alkaloid compound called solanine.

Are potatoes gluten-free?

Yes. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, spelt, and barley and does not naturally occur in potatoes. However, that doesn’t mean all potato dishes are gluten-free. Check ingredients closely if you’re avoiding gluten.

Are potatoes Paleo-friendly?

Maybe. Some feel that since potatoes are in fact vegetables and have a similar nutritional profile to Paleo-approved sweet potatoes, they’re indeed Paleo-friendly. Others claim that their high glycemic index makes potatoes a Paleo diet no-no. Bottom line: If you’re looking to limit your starches, leave them off the menu. Otherwise, go ahead and incorporate them into your favorite Paleo recipes.

Are potatoes good for you?

They’re probably better for you than you think. Potatoes sometimes get a bad rap as an indulgent, high-carb starch, but the truth is they contain vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium, vitamins B6 and C, and fiber. Sweet potatoes also deliver a dose of nutrients with over 400 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement. However, if your doctor has advised you to avoid foods with a high glycemic index, you’ll probably want to nix potatoes.

How should I store raw potatoes?

Ready for a smart kitchen hack? To keep potatoes fresh for six to eight weeks, toss an apple in with your bunch of spuds and store in a drawer in the fridge or a cool, dry cupboard. As the apple ripens, it’ll give off a hormone called ethylene and prevent the potatoes from sprouting.

Tools You’ll Need for Potato Perfection

With so many ways to enjoy potatoes, you definitely need to have the right cooking tools at the ready. Here are a few essentials:

  • Masher: Mashed potatoes couldn’t exist without this smashing tool. All you need is a little elbow grease and you’re in business.
  • Hand mixer: Not a fan of lumps in your mashed potatoes? Smooth things out with a little more power.
  • Peeler: This might go without saying, but if you’re boiling, mashing, or making scalloped potatoes, a peeler is a must-have.
  • Potato ricer: If you’re mashing, make things a little easier on yourself by first pressing potato chunks through this handheld tool.
  • Bird’s nest fry basket: Whether you’re boiling or frying, this spoon-like sieve makes for easy tater handling.
  • Stock pot: Big family meal? Boil up large batches of potatoes at once with a 6- to 8-quart stock pot.

Potato Cooking Tips

Want to nail the perfect baked potato or make your sweet potatoes even sweeter? Here are our best potato cooking hacks:

  • Season first: Be sure to season the skins of potatoes BEFORE baking. Try brushing on olive oil or melted butter and seasoning with sea salt.
  • Skip the foil: Don’t wrap potatoes in foil for baking. If you do, you’ll be steaming them instead, and lose the crispy texture the oven gives the skin.
  • Grab a skewer: According to Martha Stewart, you can stick a metal skewer lengthwise through your baked potato to help the center cook faster.
  • Boil away: Yes, you can boil sweet potatoes. In fact, you can even do it with the skins on. Just try to look for firm potatoes with smooth skin, add enough water to cover the potatoes, and boil until fork-tender (about 20 minutes).
  • Double down: For perfectly crispy French fries, fry them in small batches so they cook evenly—twice! Drain off excess oil onto a paper towel between 2- to 4-minute frying sessions, and you’ll get golden fries every time.

7 Must-Try Potato Recipes

Mashed, boiled, fried, or baked—there’s no wrong way to enjoy potatoes, but we’ve managed to round up a few favorite recipes.

Baked Sweet Potato Chips

You won’t be able to stop snacking on these highly addictive baked (not fried) crisps, which are lightly seasoned with coconut oil, cumin, paprika, and salt.

Cold German Potato Salad

Our modern take on classic potato salad is made with coconut oil mayo, apple cider vinegar, cumin, and stone ground mustard. Take it to a potluck or enjoy a scoop beside a lunchtime sandwich.

Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole

Give your favorite comfort food casserole a vegan spin with creamy almond butter, maple syrup, and a few heaping handfuls of vegan marshmallows.

Duck Fat Domino Potatoes

These thinly sliced potatoes deliver the perfect balance of crispy, golden edges and fork-tender centers. Plus, they’re drenched in rich flavor courtesy of melted cage-free duck fat.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes With Maple Crème Fraiche

These sweet spuds are so nice we baked them twice, and then topped them with a dollop of decadent maple-sweetened crème fraiche.

Pumpkin-Swirled Mashed Potatoes

This unique twist on traditional mashed potatoes swirls in pumpkin (yes, pumpkin!) for unexpected sweetness and also happens to be vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free. Top it all off with a rosemary gravy and pass the spoon!

Hazelnut Sweet Potato Gnocchi With Brown Butter

Looking for a cozy recipe to enjoy with a nice glass of wine? These pillowy-soft sweet potato pasta dumplings are just plain dreamy, especially when paired with brown butter, chopped hazelnuts, chanterelle mushrooms, and sage.

Sweet potato gnocchi

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