How to Cook Potatoes
Here are some cooking methods and hints for the basic ways to bring the homey goodness of potatoes to your family and friends.
Boiled Potatoes...Scrub and peel if desired. Place potatoes in a saucepan, adding boiling water as needed to cover and about 1/2 teaspoon salt per quart of water. Cover tightly. After the water returns to a boil, reduce heat to simmer until potatoes are fork tender. Small or cut up potatoes will take 15 to 20 minutes to cook, whole medium will take 30 to 40 minutes. Drain well. Return to pot to low heat and shake the until potatoes are dry. If the potatoes are cooked before peeling, they will peel easier while still warm.
Tip; Do not overcook or they will become watery. While still warm if you wrap potato in a paper towel and gently rub the skin will come off, no need to peel, then just throw skin and paper towel away.
Boiled in the Microwave..Scrub, then peel and quarter similar-sized potatoes. Place in a shallow baking dish and add about 1/4-cup water, cover. Four medium (6 ounces each), will take 8 to 10 minutes at 100% power (high) in a 700-watt microwave, stirring every 3 or 4 minutes to rearrange pieces and move potatoes in center to the outside of dish. Cover and let stand for about 3 minutes or until desired doneness.
Steamed Potatoes...Scrub potatoes and peel if desired. Use a steamer or place a wire rack on the bottom of a large saucepan and add enough water to just reach the bottom of the rack. Bring to a boil, then add the potatoes, cover tightly, you may need to add more boiling water during cooking. Cooking time should be about the same as for boiling.
Tip; Small, new potatoes are especially good steamed, gently scrub and then peel a thin strip around the center to prevent them from bursting while steaming. They should be done in about 15 minutes and shouldn't be overcooked.
Mashed Potatoes...Prepare boiled or steamed potatoes; then drain and peel. Mash using a potato masher, electric mixer or ricer until no lumps remain. Gradually add warm milk, salt, pepper and bits of butter. Beat with electric mixer ,whisk, or wooden spoon until light and fluffy, adding more warm milk until desired creaminess. ( Don't overbeat, it will cause the potatoes to become gummy and sticky because the starch begins to break down.)
Tips; For 1 pound of potatoes, you will need about 2-tablespoons butter and 1/4 to 1/2 cup warm milk. If not serving immediately, spoon potatoes into a buttered baking dish, dot with butter, cover loosely and keep warm in a preheated 250 degree oven.
Baked Potatoes...You can bake potatoes in an oven or toaster oven, along with the rest of your dinner, by adjusting the time and temperature. A medium-sized potato will bake in 40 to 45 minutes at 425 degrees but will take about 1-1/4 hours at 350 degrees. Scrub, then prick the potato several times with a fork before baking to allow steam to escape and to prevent the skin from bursting. For a softer skin, rub with vegetable oil before baking. For a crustier skin, bake longer or in a hotter oven. Wrapping the potato in foil before or after baking gives a softer skin and helps to retain heat, but also causes steaming and a less mealy potato.For ease in handling hot potatoes, bake on a baking sheet or stand upright in muffin tins, allowing ample heat circulation between potatoes. To test for doneness, pinch potatoes with a hot pad and fingers or pierce with a fork. With a knife, cut a slit or a cross on the top to release steam and assure a mealy texture.
Tip; Inserting an aluminum or stainless steel baking nail into a potato speeds up the baking time since it helps get the heat into the center. When you want baked potatoes in a hurry, cut them in half, coat cut edges with oil and place upside down on a baking sheet. Half of a medium potato will be fork tender in about 30 minutes. For a crowd, keep in mind that 20 potatoes will bake in about the same time as a single potato.
Baked in the Microwave...Select whole, slender, similar-sized potatoes. Scrub, then pierce each with a fork 10 to 12 times. Arrange in spoke fashion with smaller ends to the center and at least 1-inch apart on a double thickness of paper towels. Four medium, (6 ounces each) potatoes will take 10 to 12 minutes at 100% power in a 700-watt microwave; rearrange and turn over once during cooking. Cover and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes or until uniformly soft when pinched with your fingers.
Tip; For a single potato, microwave for about 4 minutes, turning over once. For each additional potato, add about 2 minutes.
Pan Roasted Potatoes...Prepare boiled or steamed peeled, (peel if desired), cooking 10 minutes until barely tender; then drain. Arrange in a shallow baking dish, brushing generously with melted butter. Bake uncovered in a preheated 400 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until browned and fork tender, turning occasionally and basting with more butter. When roasting with meat, arrange uncooked potatoes around meat in a roasting pan during the last 1 to 1-1/2 hours of cooking time. Turn potatoes often and baste with pan drippings until browned and fork tender. Sprinkle with parsley, paprika or herbs before serving.
French Fries..Peel,(or not), raw potatoes and cut with a knife or crinkle cutter into 1/4 inch slices, then in strips about 1/4 in thick. Immediately place in a bowl of ice water to maintain crispness and prevent discoloration. You can soak up to 1 hour to remove some of the starch; however, some of the nutrients will be lost. Pat strips very dry with paper towels. Meanwhile, heat about 4 to 5 inches of vegetable oil to 375 degrees in a deep-fat fryer or large heavy saucepan. Place a handful of strips in a wire basket and immerse in the hot oil. (It is best to cook in small batches), Shake basket to prevent from sticking together. Cook about 5 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Drain well, and continue until all strips are cooked. Keep warm in a shallow pan in a 300 degree oven. To prevent sogginess, salt lightly before serving.
Tips; Strips can be fried directly in hot oil without wire basket, when done remove carefully with a slotted spoon.
Strip size can be of different thickness, you will just have to adjust frying time.
Home Fries or Hash Browns..Prepare boiled or steamed potatoes, drain and peel if desired. Slice or dice 1/4 to 3/8-inch thick. Preheat a large skillet(one with a non-stick finish works best), to 375 degrees or medium high. Generously grease skillet with several tablespoons of shortening, vegetable oil, or strained bacon fat. Place potatoes in skillet, tossing gently to coat all pieces. For best results, mixture shouldn't be more than 3/4-inch deep in the skillet. Do not flatten potatoes with a spatula. Lightly toss frequently while cooking until they are tender and golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Add more fat as needed to prevent from sticking.
Grilled Potatoes...Scrub, dry and coat each potato with vegetable oil or soft butter. Place each one in the center of double thick pieces of heavy-duty foil. Season with salt and pepper. Bring two sides of foil together over potato, fold edges several times to seal, allowing for steam. Fold up short ends and pinch to seal. Place on grill about 4 inches above medium-hot coals. Cook for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender, turning several times. (Adjust cooking time according to heat of coals and size of potatoes.)