How Long To Boil Potatoes (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 12-30 minutes

Potatoes are the most versatile and widely used food item. A boiled potato finds its uses in several dishes, from the thanksgiving favorite mashed potato to a potato salad.

Boiling potatoes as such is not a complicated task. However, this skill is a must-have in every cook’s arsenal. The key to mastering boiled potatoes is to get the cooking time right. The cooking type primarily depends on two factors- the size of the potato and the cooking method. The number of potatoes cooked in a batch also affects the time taken.

How Long To Boil Potatoes?

Potatoes are available in various sizes, from baby potatoes to large ones. These potatoes cook at different times.

Baby potatoes, generally 1 inch in diameter, cook in 12 minutes. Small potatoes, on the other hand, boil in 15 minutes. A medium, large and extra-large potato, approximately 3, 4, and 6 inches, thoroughly cook in 20, 25, and 30 minutes, respectively.

The second factor affecting the boiling time of potatoes is the cooking method. There are three different ways to boil a potato. The most common cooking method used is cooking over a stovetop. A small potato will cook in 15 minutes using this method.

While most households prefer the stovetop method, one can also opt for the microwave to cook a potato quickly. A microwave can thoroughly cook a small potato in 5 to 10 minutes. Finally, one may also cook potatoes in a slow-cooker. In this method, small potatoes may take 3 to 4 hours to cook thoroughly.

The time also depends on the number of potatoes boiled in a batch. The more the potatoes cooked, the longer is the time taken.
In summary,

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Potato TypePotato SizeTime taken
Baby potatoes1 inch (2.5 cm)12 min
Small potatoes2 inch (5 cm)15 min
Medium potatoes3 inch (7.6 cm)20 min
Large potatoes4 inch (10 cm)25 min
Extra-Large potatoes6 inch (15 cm)30 min

Why Does It Take So Long To Boil Potatoes?

When boiling a potato, different processes happen simultaneously. The taste depends on the amount of water added as well. Do not leave the flame on high for too long.

Firstly, heat will break down and soften potato cell walls. Hence, individual cells no longer remain connected, and the potato becomes soft. Secondly, starch in the potato absorbs water and gelatinizes. Lastly, at high temperatures, sugars, and protein in potatoes react to give them a delicious flavor.

While starch gelatinization occurs at 58 to 66 degrees Celcius, the cell walls only break at 90 to 100 degrees Celcius. Therefore, it takes a while for the potatoes to reach this temperature, become soft and cook thoroughly.

The size of the potato is another influencing factor. Except when using a microwave, heat will always travel from the outside and penetrate towards the inside. Therefore, heat has to penetrate throughout until the whole potato cooks. The shortest distance within the potato determines how fast the heat gets in. Hence, smaller potatoes with a lesser diameter cook quicker than bigger ones. One can also dice or slice a potato before boiling them to speed up the time required.

Microwaves, on the other hand, penetrate through the potato and heat all sections simultaneously. That is why a potato that would take 15 minutes to boil on the stovetop will cook in 5 to 10 minutes in a microwave. A slow cooker must maintain a temperature of 90 to 100 degrees Celcius to boil a potato. As the device design only enables food to cook over a long period, it takes a while for the water to reach the desired temperature. Therefore, one can only cook potatoes for 3 to 4 hours.

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Conclusion

Cooking a potato may seem like a simple process, but the reality is anything but that. With various factors to be mindful of, the optimal cooking time can vary depending on the size of the potato used and the cooking method employed. Choosing the right size and cooking it for precisely the prescribed time as per the given protocol is the only way to guarantee a perfectly delicious potato dish.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043452608004051
  2. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF02365723.pdf
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