Does soaking potatoes help them cook better?

You may have heard the culinary secret that soaking potatoes in water can result in ultra-crispy French fries. However, recipes seem to differ on howlongthe potatoes should soak.

Some recipes mention soaking the potatoes for 10 minutes while others say 30 minutes is the minimum.

This begs the question, why not just soak the potatoes overnight? Wouldnt soaking the potatoes longer be better since more starches get released the longer the potatoes are in the water?

Potatoes being soaked in water for more than 2 hours should be refrigerated. Peeled or diced potatoes can be soaked in water overnight in the fridge. However, avoid soaking potatoes longer than 12 hours since the potatoes will begin to lose their structure and flavor.

Keep in mind that unpeeled potatoes should not be soaked as the skin will block the starches from releasing, which is the goal of soaking potatoes. Potatoes should also be dried thoroughly before being fried since the soaked potatoes will absorb excess water.

If you plan on soaking potatoes for more than 2 hours then its recommended to place the bowl of water and potatoes in the refrigerator. This is to prevent any harmful bacteria from growing in the potatoes.

Now lets cover which potatoes you should soak in water, how to properly store soaked potatoes, whether or not to add salt to the water, and why soaking potatoes works.

What Types of Potatoes Can You Soak?

Generally speaking, high starch potato varieties benefit the most from soaking overnight. Soaking potatoes helps release the excess starches so soaking only helps with potatoes that have lots of starch.

Here are the most common potato varieties for high, medium, and low starch content.

High starch potato varieties that should be soaked:

  • Russet potatoes
  • Idaho potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes

Medium starch potato varieties that can benefit from soaking:

  • Red potatoes
  • Yukon gold potatoes

Low starch potato varieties that do not need to be soaked:

  • French fingerlings
  • Baby potatoes

How To Prepare The Potatoes For Soaking

Potatoes should have their skins peeled off before soaking. However, diced or sliced potatoes can still have the skin on since the majority of the inside of the potato will be exposed to water. This allows the starches to release.

Peeling potato

Leaving the skin on the potato will prevent the starches from releasing. So a whole potato that still has its skin on will not benefit from soaking in water.

Potatoes can be soaked whole, sliced, or diced. However, smaller potato pieces require less soaking time for the starches to be released.

It is not recommended that small sliced or diced potatoes soak in water longer than overnight. Small potato pieces that soak too long may absorb excess water and lose some flavor and structure.

How To Store Soaked Potatoes

Potatoes that are being soaked longer than two hours should be stored in the refrigerator. So in order to soak potatoes overnight, the bowl of water and potatoes should be placed in the fridge.

To soak potatoes more than two hours:

  1. Place potatoes into bowl
  2. Submerge potatoes in cold water
  3. Cover bowl with foil, plastic wrap, or beeswax wrap
  4. Place into the refrigerator and keep refrigerated until ready to cook

If the potatoes are going to be soaked for two hours or less than the potatoes can be soaked uncovered on the counter.

Soaking Potatoes in Salted Water

There is some debate among chefs around adding salt to the soaking water for potatoes.

Ultimately, it depends on how you intend to cook your potatoes after soaking but well cover the reason why some people include salt to the soaking water.

Some chefs say adding salt helps draw out excess moisture which results in super crispy fries. So itmightbe a good idea if youre making French fries. Adding salt to the water transforms it into a brine which enhances the flavor of the potatoes.

However, most chefs find that adding salt to potatoes before deep frying causes the cooking oil to break down. So its better to salt and season the French fries when they come out of the fryer.

That being said, if youre preparing oven-roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes then adding salt to the soaking water will make the potatoes taste better. However, adding salt to the water isnt a necessary step.

How Long To Soak Different Cuts Of Potatoes

Whole potatoeswithouttheir skin can be soaked in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Potatoes cut in halves or quarters can soak overnight.

Shredded or grated potatoes should not be soaked at all.

If you intend to finely dice your potatoes then its better to let them soak whole and dice them the next day when you plan to cook.

Do not exceed the aforementioned soaking times; your potatoes will lose flavor and might start to have a mushier texture.

Will The Potatoes Turn Brown From Soaking

Soaking cut or peeled potatoes helps prevent browning. The browning color is caused by oxidation which happens when the potatoes are exposed to air.

So soaking the peeled or diced potato in water helps keep the potato fresh by keeping it away from air.

Peeled whole or diced potatoes should not be soaking in water longer than 24 hours so they will not turn brown within that time.

Why Potatoes Should Soak Overnight

Soaking potatoes removes excess starch. The longer the potatoes soak means the crisper they will be when fried or roasted.

Potatoes that are soaked are also less likely to stick together, which is helpful when deep-frying in oil to make fries.

Some chefs say that soaking potatoes can also result in creamier mashed potatoes. Potato starches are a little gluey as a result of the starch molecule known as amylose.

However, many chefs say rinsing diced potatoes and soaking for thirty minutes is more than enough to achieve a fluffy texture.

Recipes That Call For Soaked Potatoes

Fried potato recipes like French fries and chips tend to call for soaked potatoes. Given the importance of achieving a crispy exterior and fluffy interior, soaking is extremely helpful.

Soaking the potato pieces is also helpful in preventing the potatoes from sticking together when frying.

Many oven-roasted or pan-fried recipes also call for soaking. It can be a little trickier to achieve a perfectly crispy potato in the oven without fry oil enveloping every square inch of the potato pieces surface area.

Soaking the potatoes overnight helps you achieve that crispy texture in the oven.

Mashed potatoes also call for soaked potatoes. As mentioned previously, the potato starch molecule amylose creates a gluey consistency. This is particularly true for high starch potato varieties, which is why theyre often not recommended for mashed potatoes.

However, even moderately starchy potatoes like Yukon golds can benefit from losing some of those excess starches so that you end up with a nice, fluffy mashed potato dish.

Final Thoughts

Overall, if you plan ahead and soak your potatoes overnight, youll be very pleased with the results. Plan carefully to avoid over-soaking so that the potatoes retain their wonderful flavor and structure.

Whole potatoes are good to soak for a full 24 hours. While chopped potatoes should not be soaked longer than overnight.

Its that simple!

Diced or sliced potatoes can be soaked in water overnight in the fridge. Peeled whole potatoes can be soaked in water for up to 24 hours if stored in the refrigerator. Unpeeled potatoes should not be soaked as the skin will block starches from releasing, which is the objective of soaking potatoes. The potatoes should be thoroughly dried before being fried since the potatoes will have absorbed water.

Soak away, and you can get perfectly crispy fries or lusciously velvety mashed potatoes at home!

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