How Long to Boil Potatoes: A Complete Guide to Perfectly Cooked Potatoes

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how long to boil potatoes

Hey there, fellow food lovers! Ok, let’s talk potatoes, shall we? More specifically, how to boil the perfect potato that will lead to the creamiest mash or most scrumptious, buttery side dish. 

Now, you might think this is a subject matter that does not need covering. Boiling potatoes is quite a simple task, after all, that requires very little in the way of complicated process, and you would be forgiven for thinking that this isn’t rocket science here.

For the most part, you would be right. Simply throw the potatoes in salted hot water, boil for 10 to 15 minutes, and hey presto, your work is done. However, I do like to approach even the most basic of culinary tasks with interesting angles, fresh perspectives, and unique twists, and that is the point of this post today – bringing a little extra life to a pretty mundane task.

Believe it or not, there is something of a low-key art to boiling potatoes – at least if you want to achieve that tricky balance of creamy goodness and satisfying crunch. As a passionate cook, I have experimented with a whole host of different methods over the years, and I am excited to share this comprehensive guide to beautifully boiled ‘spuds.’ 

I will start with the basics, such as how long to boil potatoes as standard, before jumping on a few extra tips and tricks to deliver plenty of potato pazazz. So, go grab your favorite apron and most shiny pan, and join me as we bring some additional love and culinary cunning to the simple question of how to boil potatoes. 

Choose The Perfect Potatoes:

Not all potatoes are created equally, of course. Before I address the boiling process, we should take a moment to talk about selecting the right type of potatoes to use here, as this can greatly impact the texture and taste after boiling potatoes. Here are a few options that you might want to consider:

Russet Potatoes

Russet potatoes (sometimes known as Idaho potatoes) are the go-to choice for most people who follow my blog when it comes to boiling potatoes. With a high starch content and a lovely fluffy texture when boiled, Russet potatoes are perfect for mashing or creating crispy roasted potatoes with that delectable combination of crisp and fluff. These versatile spuds are widely available pretty much everywhere and are excellent for absorbing additional flavors, herbs, and cooking juices.

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes strike a perfect balance between waxy and starchy varieties, making them an excellent choice for boiling potatoes. With a nice creamy texture and a slightly sweet flavor. Yukon Gold potatoes hold their shape well after boiling, making them ideal for potato salads or dishes where you want the potatoes to remain intact, avoiding that crumbled, flattened look.

New Potatoes

New potatoes are small, young potatoes harvested just in time before they reach maturity. They tend to have thin, almost fragile skin and moist waxy flesh. Boiling new potatoes tends to bring out their natural sweetness and full tender texture. They are perfect for simple buttered potatoes or adding to rich, hearty stews and soups. 

Choose well, dearest reader. Whether opting for the floury texture of Russet potatoes, the rich creaminess of Yukon Golds, or the delicate sweetness of classic new potatoes, selecting the right type of potato will add subtle differences to the end result. Either way, any of those will be absolutely fine for boiling potatoes.

adding water to cut potatoes in pot

The Basics

To start our potato-boiling adventure, let’s cover the basic fundamentals. First things first, let’s talk about peeling those spuds. This is actually a point of debate among kitchen newbies and seasoned chefs alike. Shakespeare was wrong, don’t you know… The question isn’t to be or not to be, but rather to peel or not to peel!

I can only speak to my own personal preference here, and while some recipes call for leaving the skin on, I believe that boiling potatoes without the skin can give you a smoother, more consistent result. So, if you agree with my peel-positive philosophy, go grab your most trusty peeler and give those potatoes a quick trim.

Now that our potatoes are peeled, it’s time to get the water boiling. Grab a sturdy pot (preferably one with a thick bottom for even heat distribution), and fill it with enough water to cover the potatoes. Don’t forget to generously salt the water, as this is the secret to enhancing and evoking the natural flavors buried within the potatoes. 

I like to use Kosher salt, by the way, but the truth is that any salt will be fine here. No need to complicate things at this stage!

Cooking Time

Ah, the burning question of how long does it take to boil potatoes? Well, generally speaking, it depends on the size of the potatoes I am using. Usually, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes for small to medium-sized potatoes to become nice and tender when boiled. To check if my potatoes are boiled properly, I simply use a fork. If it slides into the potato quite effortlessly, your potatoes are perfectly cooked and ready to be transformed into something special.

Then, just drain and serve, and that’s it! Again, this isn’t rocket science here, and the basic act of boiling a potato really is as straightforward as that. Now, with those basics out of the way, allow me to dive into something slightly more intriguing, with techniques that can take your boiled potatoes to a whole new level.

Infusing Flavor

If you’re looking to enhance the taste when boiling potatoes, consider adding chicken stock to the plain water. I always find that the stock imparts an amazing savory richness that pairs wonderfully with various dishes. Your taste buds will thank you, trust me on this!

Seasoning with a Twist

Why stick to regular salt when you can add a sprinkle of kosher salt to your boiling water? The coarser texture of kosher salt allows for better absorption and distribution of the seasoning. Your potatoes will be bursting with flavor just from this one simple addition – again, any salt will be fine, but Kosher definitely seems to lend itself to boiled potatoes very well indeed.

Herbaceous Delights!

I mean, let’s be honest, it’s always fun to get a little creative with herbs, don’t you find? When boiling potatoes, try experimenting by adding aromatic herbs like thyme and parsley to the boiling water. They infuse the potatoes with a tantalizing fragrance that will have your kitchen smelling like a gourmet restaurant and, more importantly, leave your potatoes with an extra edge.

A Garlic Infusion

I sometimes like to toss a few cloves into the boiling water, which will release their unique aromatic oils and infuse the potatoes with a subtle yet irresistible garlicky essence. Don’t overkill, however – any more than two or three cloves, and you are in danger of introducing too much garlicky essence into the potatoes. 

Butter Love

If you’re a fan of buttery goodness (and let’s face it, who isn’t), try this technique. After boiling the potatoes, melt some butter in a saucepan and toss the drained potatoes in it. The butter will coat the potatoes, adding a luxurious and velvety touch to each bite.

Keeping Firm but Tender

To ensure my boiled potatoes stay firm but tender, I like to try this trick. After draining the cooked potatoes, plunge them immediately into ice water. The cold shock halts the cooking process and helps the boiled potatoes retain their texture. I always find this is perfect for potato salads or dishes where you want that unique bite.

Sweet Potato Twist

Let’s not forget about the delightful world of sweet potatoes, which easily deserves a mention in this blog post. Boiling sweet potatoes is pretty much the same as boiling regular potatoes, but the only difference is that the cooking time may vary, so be more vigilant with the timings. 

Once again, just keep an eye on them and check for tenderness with a fork. When cooked, they are ready to be transformed into mouth-watering sweet potato casserole or mashed sweet potatoes. Speaking of which, for a scrumptious sweet potato casserole dish, check out this recipe!


And so, fellow foodie, there you have it –  my own personal guide on how to boil potatoes, from the basic steps to the more interesting flavor-enhancing techniques, opening the door to the creamiest mashed potato dishes and the most soul-enriching potato salad

By the way, a personal favorite of mine is this Swiss steak over mashed potato recipe, so please do jump on over and take a look – your loved ones will thank you for it, I promise!

Remember, there’s always something delicious cooking at Lauren’s Latest, so stay tuned for more culinary adventures! And as always, be careful with that hot water- but remember to have fun! The journey of cooking should be as delightful as the destination, and something as simple as how to boil potatoes is no exception to that rule!

Happy boiling!

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