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Boiled Potatoes

Asked by Imke. Answered on 7th April 2011

Full question

For me, this is an awful question to ask - because I should know this by now - but if I boil my potatoes, they always come out a bit crumbly; which I absolutely hate. Boiled potatoes therefore, aren't my favourite, which is such a pity, as they make a good basis for a lot of dishes. Have you got any tips to let these potatoes come out beautifully and let them taste moist and soft? Or am I just a terrible potato-chef?

Our answer

The main thing that will determine the texture of your boiled potato is the type of potato that you choose. Potatoes come in two types, known as "floury" and "waxy" - floury potatoes have a flesh which contains less water and more dry matter than waxy one. In the UK potatoes are graded on a scale of 1 (very waxy) to 10 (very floury). Waxy potatoes will keep their shape and absorb less water during boiling so will be firm when cooked and are popular for items like potato salad. Floury potatoes are better for dishes like mashed potatoes, baked potatoes and chips (French fries). If you are not sure about the potato types available in your area then aim for the smaller new or sald type potatoes as these are more likely to be waxy varieties.

The way potatoes are boiled can also affect their texture. Make sure that your potatoes are cut in equal-sized chunks so that they all cook at the same rate. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan full of cold salted water and bring it up to a boil. Once the potatoes are boiling turn down the heat slightly so that the potatoes are simmering rather than on a rolling boil, and cook only until the a table knife can be inserted easily into the potato then drain straightaway as if the potatoes are left to sit in the hot water they will continue to cook and could easily overcook.

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