How to Boil Potatoes

potatoes and stainless steel pot

When you need to add a little extra fiber and nutrition to your meal, potatoes are the way to go. In addition, potatoes are useful for a variety of dishes, such as potato salad. You probably already know that it’s really not a difficult feat to boil potatoes, but in order to get a good boiled potato, you need to start with the right potato and avoid overcooking. That's why you need to learn the proper way of how to boil potatoes to get just the right flavor, texture and taste.

How to Choose the Right Potato to Boil

Before you get started, you need to start with a good boiling potato. While it’s possible to boil any potato you have, there are some that boil better than others. The waxy ones will yield the best results. The floury ones will give you mush. When you know the best potato to choose, it makes all the difference in the world.

As mentioned, waxy potatoes are best for boiling because they have a much higher water content and a lower starch content. This means the potatoes will hold their shape much better, which is especially useful if you’re going to be making potato salad.

Additionally, new potatoes – or chats – are ideal for boiling, and you don’t have to cook them nearly as long. Some good options are:

  • Pink Fir Apple
  • Bintje
  • Kipfler
  • Desiree
  • Pink Eye
  • Nicola
  • Chats/new potatoes
  • Sebago
  • Sequoia

When boiling, make sure that you boil similar sized potatoes together. This will ensure that they cook evenly.

How to Boil New Potatoes

In most cases, new potatoes – or chats – are going to be waxy. If you’re not sure, check your fruit and vegetable retailer.

Take some time to carefully wash/scrub off dirt, but make sure that you leave the peel intact. That’s right, you do not want to peel these potatoes. This is a critical part of the taste and texture of the new potatoes.

Put some water in the pot and add a pinch of salt before turning on the heat and bringing the water to a boil. On the other hand, some people prefer not to put salt in the cooking water, but instead to add freshly grated sea salt on them on the serving dish.

Most people wait until the water has come to a boil to add the potatoes. However, there are some chefs who prefer to add new potatoes to the cold water before bringing to a boil. You should take some time to experiment and figure out which you prefer. Make sure that you do not put a lid on the pot. When you cover it, you’ll cause it to boil over and you’ll have a mess on your hands.

 Once the water is boiling, drop the temperature and bring it to a simmer. Allow the potatoes to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are soft enough to eat but still a bit on the firm side. You can check to see if they are done with a fork or a sharp knife. If they feel done, you can remove from the heat and drain into a colander. They are now ready to be enjoyed.

How to Boil Large or Older Waxy Potatoes

Start by cleaning and/or peeling your potatoes. With large or older potatoes, whether or not to peel is a personal choice. You do not have to peel them if you don’t want to- but you definitely want to take the time to wash and scrub them thoroughly and remove any blemishes that you can see.

You should know that it’s typically a good idea to leave the skins on the potatoes, as this helps hold in the flavor and vitamins during the cooking process. You can remove the peels after they are cooked if necessary. Potatoes that are boiled after they have been peeled tend to absorb water, which means their firmness will be affected.

When you are boiling large or older potatoes, you should make sure that you start with cold water and put the potatoes in the water before you put the pot on the heat. Be sure that you do not cover the pot – it will boil over. This is a common mistake that new cooks often make.

Turn up the heat and bring the water to a boil, then drop it to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about 15 to 25 minutes, or until soft enough to eat, but firm enough that they retain their shape. Keep in mind that potatoes that are very large can take up to 40 minutes to properly boil. You can test for doneness with a fork or sharp knife.

Once the potatoes are done, remove them from the heat and drain into a colander. Then, place on your serving tray and enjoy. Alternatively, if you are making potato salad or something else, you can set them aside and allow to cool before cutting into cubes.

How Long Do You Have To Boil A Potato And How To Boil Minted Potatoes?

baked potatoes with slices of greens

There are some people who really love minted potatoes, especially those who grew up eating lamb and potatoes. Here are some instructions on how to properly prepare them.

Start by preparing about 2 ½ pounds of waxy potatoes. Put cold water in your cooking pot, about ¾ of the way full. Add a sprig of fresh mint and just a little bit of salt. Then, add the potatoes before placing on the heat.

Place the pot of water with the potatoes, mint, and salt on your stove and turn on the heat, bringing it to a boil. Then, decrease the heat to a simmer and allow the potatoes to simmer for 15 to 30 minutes. Make sure that you pay attention to the water and time; don’t boil the potatoes too hard or too long, as this can cause your potatoes to break up.

Take the potatoes off the heat and gently drain in your colander. Be sure to throw the mint leaf away; don’t leave it in the potatoes. Toss them in some butter/olive oil and enjoy.

How to Cook Potatoes in a Microwave Oven

Take the time to scrub your potatoes clean. Using a fork, poke a few holes in them, but do not remove the peel. Place them in a microwave safe dish with a wide base and add 1 ½ tablespoons of water. Cover the container with microwave-safe plastic wrap, rolling back one edge to leave a hole to facilitate air flow.

Place the potatoes in your microwave and turn on high power until tender. Only stop to stir once during the cooking process. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before enjoying.

How to Boil Flour Potatoes

While you will typically not be boiling floury potatoes, there are times when you will have to. Here is what you need to do in this case.

First of all, you need to wash your potatoes. Then, remove the peel and cut them into cubes. This allows you to have more control over the cooking process because you can pay more attention to any changes and immediately remove them if you notice they are starting to crumble.

Fill your pot with cold water and add the cubed potatoes. Place on your burner and bring to a boil. Once the potatoes are boiling, decrease the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until soft. Make sure that you don’t boil past the soft stage; they will start to crumble, which is not what you want. As with the other types of potatoes, you can use a fork or sharp knife to check for doneness.

Once the potatoes are done, remove the pan from the heat and drain potatoes into a colander. Serve and enjoy.

There are times when you’ll want to add a little extra nutrition and/or substance to your meal, but you’re not sure how. Potatoes are one way to go. Boiling potatoes is really not a difficult thing to do, but these tips will help you get the perfect boiled potato each and every time you decide to cook them. Be sure to add flavors/spices according to your preference and you may just find a “go-to” dish to keep in the back of your mind for any time you need a little something extra.