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Help! Why do my potatoes stay hard ( RAW ) in the slow cooker / crock pot?

  • fr1p Jul 12, 2010 12:37 AM
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This is my third attempt at making a crock pot recipe that involves chunks of potatoes, and once again, after many many hours of cooking (8 minimum) everything in the crock pot is incredibly tender and done EXCEPT for the potatoes. They appear to be "cooked" but the texture is only slightly softer than raw.

The usual method I have been using (following the recipes I have):
1. Cut potatoes up (cubes or chunks of about 1 inch wide by maybe 2 inches long)
2. Put at bottom of crock pot
3. Add other ingredients (meat, vegetables)
4. Cover all ingredients with liquid (broth)
5. Let it sit for hours on end, at least 8 (medium or high depending on recipe)

Everything else I've put in the slow cooker turns out great, but not the potatoes. They are overly firm, bordering on crunchy. I have no idea what's up.

Any of you 'hounds out there have any ideas? It's driving me crazy that I have to fish out my potatoes and microwave them whenever I do this. I have tons of crock pot recipes that claim you can just slap those potatoes right into the pot raw and magic will happen.

Am I not giving them enough time? Is submerging them the wrong way to go? Why do they have the texture of an under-ripe melon?

Thanks in advance for any advice!

-fr1p

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  1. I'm perplexed as to why that's happening; I've cooked potatoes in the crockpot this way for 6-8 hours and have had no problem getting them tender. Submerging them is the way to go. Perhaps the potatoes are old? But they should still cook in the same amount of time...I'm at a loss....

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cherylptw

      I was playing around with the idea that my potatoe chunks are too big? But I would think cooking them longer would take care of that. I don't know what's up!

    2. Check the temperature of the liquid in the crock. According to some sources, potatoes must reach an internal temperature of 210F before they soften, very close to boiling.

      The other ingredients may be ready at a lower temperature. For example, well done beef has an internal temperature of 170F.

      1. Very frustrating, indeed! Similar issues with rice (jambalaya disaster). The culprits seem to be acidic ingredients and any sort of interruption of the cooking process.

        1. Slow cooker recipes that include starches (potatoes, rice, pasta) are somewhat dicey in my experience. These ingredients seem to come out either rock hard or turned to mush. I stick to slow cooker dishes that either don't include them or that call for them to be cooked by conventional methods and combined before serving, which rather cancels out the convenience of pushing a button and waltzing back home eight hours later just in time for dinner.

          1. It sounds like your crockpot may not be getting hot enough to cook down the potatoes. I agree with icecone, you should check the temp, you need to boil water to get potatoes cooked all the way through.

            Cutting them smaller may help, but I also agree with mandycat in that some crock recipes with potatoes or rice in them are not foolproof. And I tried to do jambalaya also, and the vegetables weren't done, (tiny small pieces of onion, pepper & celery) and the rice was very unevenly cooked. I'm convinced it's just not a slow cooker recipe.

            1. I have heard that you must not "shock" the potatoes. So no hot liquid poured over them. I have also found that a sudden acid bath makes them hard in spots so if you are cooking them in tomatoes, precook them! I read this tip somewhere... I believe I heard the "shock" tip on Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals.

              1. @ fr1p: Try nuking your spuds (after pricking w/ fork all over) for 6-9 min. on max power. Should be enough headstart to wind up w/ soft end results. adam

                1. Thanks to everyone for the tips!

                  1. Just curious.. What brand slow cooker are you using?

                    1. Potatoes cook about five times as slowly as everything else in the crockpot. If you want to use them the recipe books say to cut them into TINY pieces and put them on the bottom of the crock. Or else you could par-cook them in the microwave first to start them off...

                      1. I've never had any luck with potatoes in the crock pot, so I just don't do it anymore. I think they just need a lot of liquid - more than the things I tend to cook. My usual attempt was with pot roast and beef stew. Never had luck, but neither are liquidy. My mom always made her corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's day in there with potatoes and carrots, and they were the only thing I'd eat from that bucket of slop. ;-) The crock would basically be full of water to simmer everything in, as opposed to little liquid or a thick sauce.

                        1. I always cook my pot roast the same way. potatoes, onions and carrots on the bottom (seasoned) and put the roast on top, cover in liquid (I use about a half a large can of crushed tomatoes and a little water).

                          I use the redskin potatoes and have never peeled them, only cut them into bite size peices. I have not yet had any issues. It could simply be the kind of potatoes you are using. Either red or yukon gold work best in the crock pot because the skin is thinner (and the skin has most of the nutrients in potatoes, thats why I dont peel them). Cook for however long until meat and potatoes fall apart easily.

                          Good luck!

                          1. I have an older slow cooker with only one temperature setting that seems to be "high". I cut potatoes into one inch or so cubes and throw them in near the bottom. They come out done, but not mushy (I don't like mushy). I always add hot water or stock before covering the pot and I don't open it unless I need to add liquid or test for doneness.,

                            1. Cook's Illustrated/ATK has you chunk up the potatoes and place them in a foil packet on top of the food you are cooking. Perhaps the method on top would be something to try. I cannot imagine though why they aren't cooking the first place. I'd try red's quartered and placed in a foil pack. :)

                              1. I think it's probably an acid thing. Tomatoes are the most frequent culprit, when cooked with potatoes or rice. If you're using 'em, add them after the starch ingredients have softened.

                                1. I made pot roast in the crock pot tonight and it was fabulous. The potatoes were perfectly cooked and not mushy at all. I used new red skin potatoes, left the skin on and cut them in half since they are already so small. I had a few tiny potatoes that I thee in the pot whole and they cooked as well. I seared salt and peppered 3.5lb chuck roast and placed it on top of baby carrots, two quartered onions, two celery stalks (cut to the same size as the carrots), 3 cloves of minced garlic and the potatoes with a 32oz box of low sodium chicken stock. In my 7 quart crock, the liquid filled the crock halfway and the meat just sat on top. I cooked it on low. About 1/2 way though the cooking, I noticed the liquid was up to about 3/4 of the way up the crock so beware of that if using a smaller crock. But I had a lot of veggies in mine. I never lifted the lid until 10 hours later and the potatoes were tender but not mushy and full of beef flavor. The veggies give up their essence for the broth that's in the pot, but I don't mind. I eat them anyway. They were also tender but not mushy. I used some of the broth to made a pan gravy and it was excellent too. The roast falling apart and only required a light salting as a flavor enhancement at the very end.

                                  1. I just prepared an Italian tomato and potato dish, that involved cooking diced potatoes with diced tomatoes till soft and mashable. It took more than an hour, and the potatoes were still a bit hard. Initially I though that temperature was the problem, but this was on the stove top. After, it occurred to me that tomato acidity might be the culprit

                                    Next time I'll parboil the potatoes, maybe even include a bit of baking soda in the water to promote softening.

                                    1. I am having the same problem with potato cooking...even when microwaved & cooked on top.
                                      I think there is a problem with the potatoes we are getting lately. I have had baked potatoes where part of the potato is cooked and the other end is still hard.
                                      I recently baked potatoes for 2 hours and they stayed hard. Then I sliced them and cooked on top of stove in water and they still never became really soft. Maybe
                                      we are getting genetically altered potatoes??? Do not have the same problem when using baby potatoes and reds.

                                      1. Just a few days ago, I cooked potatoes in a stew. Parts of the potatoes were still hard and crunchy while most of the potato was soft, as you'd expect after cooking them for some time.

                                        My husband tells me that sometimes, if potatoes are bruised, they can get hard bits on the inside that just don't ever soften. He's encountered that enough times in Sri Lanka. I had never encountered that with my potatoes in Canada, but have on very rare occasion elsewhere (Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore).

                                        I have no other explanation for why your potatoes are still hard.