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Need help with boiling potatoes!

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  • DanaB Dec 19, 2004 04:00 PM
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I know that boiling potatoes sounds like a routine kitchen task that everyone should be able to figure out without much thought. I'm fine when boiling potatoes for mashed, because it doesn't matter how they look when done (because you are going to smush them up). When making potato salad, though, I'd prefer to have the potatoes come out cooked through, but not lose their shape. The last couple of times I've made them, I've either overcooked them, or there's some trick I'm missing, because they end up falling apart (even when I carefully monitor them). I'm using waxy potatoes rather than russets for the potato salad, and I peel and cut them into uniform sizes (not too small, about in 2-3 inch pieces. Should I not peel them before cooking? Should I be cooking them in bigger pieces? Can you steam them rather than boil for better texture? Thanks for any tips!

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  1. You are right to use red potatoes, but don't cut them into more than one or two pieces before boilng, and only if they are much larger than the other potatoes. After they're done (probably 25 minutes in the water) cool them and THEN cut them to the size you want.

    1. I never peel my red potatoes before boiling for potato salad...I leave them whole...if they are different sizes, well, then I stand around and test the smaller ones first after a while of boiling, I want to say maybe 20-25 minutes; the test is when a knife will just go through the potato...this is very tricky for me...occasionally, mine will be a tad undercooked. But, I cannot stand mushy potato salad! Just my 2 cents.

      1. I use russets for potato salad, boil them whole and peel and cut up when fork tender. The reds are too waxy for a good potato salad and do not absorb the dressing well, this = bland boring potato salad. When fork tender, impale on a fork and peel. Break up in a bowl and salt and then add vinegar to taste while still hot. Allow to come to room temp. before proceeding with the rest of the ingredients.

        1. I have used all kinds of potatoes (Russet, red, Yukon gold, purple) in a cold salad; type depends on the other ingredients and texture I'm trying to achieve.

          Regardless of type of potato, I NEVER peel or cut them before boiling. Boiling peeled chunks not only causes them to fall apart more easily, but also extracts some of their flavor IMO. Always boil w/ skins on. When done, run cold water over them and let them cool for few min. Using a clean dish towel or paper towel to protect your fingers from heat, slough off the skin (it should separate very easily). Cube or slice potatoes into desired shape.

          You may already know this, but it's important to add the vinegar/vinaigrette while the potatoes are still warm to maximize absorption. BTW, when my potatoes have accidentally been too mushy, I just proceeded to make the salad in the same way. Even though it may not have been ideal, it was still pretty darn tasty.

          1. p
            Professor Salt

            The shape of your pieces might have something to do with it, i.e. slices vs. cubes (or quarters). My thinking is that the sharp "corners" of a chunk disintegrate readily during boiling. Good for stews. Bad for potato salad. Slices don't have much of a "edge" to break off, especially with the skin on.

            1. First, use waxy potatoes that are all of roughly the same size so that they'll cook in the same amount of time. Place them--whole and unpeeled--in a pot with enough cold water to cover them. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. Once it reaches a boil add some salt and immediately turn the heat down to a bare simmer. Simmer gently until you can insert a knife into a potato with very little, but some, gentle resistance. In my experience this usually takes about 20 minutes from beginning to end. Drain the potatoes, then put them back into the dry pot and shake them gently over medium heat until they dry out and start to squeak.