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Potato mystery


JAZ
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Several times recently when I've cooked Yukon gold potatoes, something odd has happened. In all three cases, the potatoes were peeled and sliced fairly thin -- about 1/4 inch -- then cooked in liquid. In all cases, I tested a potato slice to make sure they were done and then used the potatoes in dishes that were cooked further. But in every dish, there was at least one potato slice that was hard and seemingly way undercooked, although all the rest were fine. Two of the dishes called for boiling the slices in water (unsalted) and one was a gratin where I cooked the potato slices in seasoned cream.

 

The first time it happened I just thought it was a fluke, but after three times, I'm wondering if it's the potatoes (purchased from two different stores) or something I'm doing wrong. Has this every happened to anyone else, or does anyone have an idea why it's happening?

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I recently got a bag of very small, new Yukon Golds to make a potato salad appetizer where I cut the potatoes in half and scooped them out and then served potato salad in the halves. They took forever to cook. My test half went really badly, it wouldn't scoop, even after boiling for 25 minutes. I wound up making the main 'salad' from some Idaho bakers I had and just cutting out the cavity out of the halves before boiling. I boiled for about 25 minutes in water with a little vinegar and salt. I thought they were done, drained and started to cool them, and then decided to eat one. It was hard. So, I started more water, just salt this time, and cooked them for another ten minutes. They weren't great, but, I had to present something, so, I assembled and went on my way.

 

IMO, my potatoes were just too small, too young and did not have enough starch developed in them.

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I recently got a bag of very small, new Yukon Golds to make a potato salad appetizer where I cut the potatoes in half and scooped them out and then served potato salad in the halves. They took forever to cook. My test half went really badly, it wouldn't scoop, even after boiling for 25 minutes. I wound up making the main 'salad' from some Idaho bakers I had and just cutting out the cavity out of the halves before boiling. I boiled for about 25 minutes in water with a little vinegar and salt. I thought they were done, drained and started to cool them, and then decided to eat one. It was hard. So, I started more water, just salt this time, and cooked them for another ten minutes. They weren't great, but, I had to present something, so, I assembled and went on my way.

 

IMO, my potatoes were just too small, too young and did not have enough starch developed in them.

Acid will cause pectins to resist degradation. I bet that this was the issue with the first batch. Baking soda has the opposite effect,BTW.

 

Discussed a little here http://forums.egullet.org/topic/141973-starch-infused-french-fry-perfection/?hl=french%20fry%20cooking

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Yeah, I know, I usually add the vinegar to help the shaped potatoes retain the details of the knife cuts. It doesn't prevent cooking properly, I do it all the time, it just means that a thin shell on the outside of my potatoes doesn't get fluffy. (in the above case, I cooked the baking potato dice in water with vinegar and it came out just fine) As I mentioned in the potato salad thread, my potato salad is a showpiece for knife skills and the vinegar is the secret to the potatoes keeping their perfect cubic shapes.

 

The other thing I have noticed in the past few months is newer types of potatoes at the conventional supermarkets, like Yukon Rose. I am wondering if some the Yukon Golds have been changed by some of the farmers experimenting with hybrids, or raising from seeds instead of seed potato chunks.

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Where I live it's hard to find real Yukon Golds; we're usually offered what's called just 'gold' potatoes.

BTW, in another thread here there's been conversation about steaming potatoes (and eggs) as a better alternative to 'boiling'.

I haven't tried it yet but I sure am going to do it.

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Do you think some of the slices could have become stuck together and so been out of contact with the liquid on the stuck side?

 

The first time it happened, that's what I figured. But the other two times (with potatoes cooked in water), the slices were moving around with the boiling water, so I doubt that was a factor.

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Did you hand select the potatoes or did they come in a bag?  I'm wondering about some older potatoes mixed in with fresher.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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The potato could have been improperly cured after harvest. If improperly cured, they sometimes they develop rot, other times a hard core (if stored too cold). This may be what caused your potatoes not to soften. 

Sour cream in a recipe can also be a culprit due to its acidity. Acid will prevent veggies from softening.

Anecdotally, I had a good friend who wanted a baked potato. She put one in the oven at 350°F and after testing it repeatedly for doneness and leaving it in the oven for 3 hours, still had a hard potato. She ended up tossing it in the trash and making rice.

You're not imagining it and you're not alone. :wink:

 

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My grandmother grew potatoes, and I recall her discarding a large number of them one time due to "blight."  They looked fine to me, other than a vague concentric circle of darker material inside the potato when cut crosswise through the stem.  She told me blighted potatoes will never cook through - they will remain hard.  I have no idea what the "blight" was or is, but I'm curious if the potato in question had that little line in it. 

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Maybe that one little chunk was from the part of the potato closest to the "stem' ??

 

In one case, the hard potato slice was from one of the ends. Is there something in the stem end that keeps potatoes from softening?

 

As for the ideas about blight or improper storage, would either of those affect different parts of a single potato differently? What was strange about these incidents is that only a few of the slices were hard -- all the rest were fine.

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...As for the ideas about blight or improper storage, would either of those affect different parts of a single potato differently? What was strange about these incidents is that only a few of the slices were hard -- all the rest were fine.

 

I don't know.  Maybe if the culprit had infiltrated only part of the tuber, or if a portion was exposed while the remainder was protected? 

 

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It can also be  due to the potatoes not properly maturing before harvest  or because they are old. 

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  • 5 years later...

Hi, hoping to get some help here, please.

 

I'm talking about russet potatoes, not Yukon Gold. Potatoes are peeled and cut into a small-ish dice. A couple of times, when cooking the potatoes in a stew, they come out still hard. (Cooking time should have been long enough; temperature should have been hot enough.) Other times (same method), they're cooked nicely. Could it be that the canned tomatoes are sometimes preventing a good cook-through on the russet potatoes? (My stews always contain canned tomatoes.)

 

When you guys cook stews, do you drop the potatoes in raw or do you pre-cook? I'd rather drop them in raw, but I'm thinking I need to boil them first for now on.

 

TIA.

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I never pre cook for a stew. I do enjoy Russets. It my be storage differences. I posted about the Idaho bunkers a while ago. II thought they were a joke until the small plane I was in flew over some outside of Boise  Oh the backstories  https://www.unitedcountrycommercial.com/search/id/court-ordered-auction-of-potato-farm-land-bannock-co-idaho/1013606/

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50 minutes ago, MokaPot said:

Hi, hoping to get some help here, please.

 

I'm talking about russet potatoes, not Yukon Gold. Potatoes are peeled and cut into a small-ish dice. A couple of times, when cooking the potatoes in a stew, they come out still hard. (Cooking time should have been long enough; temperature should have been hot enough.) Other times (same method), they're cooked nicely. Could it be that the canned tomatoes are sometimes preventing a good cook-through on the russet potatoes? (My stews always contain canned tomatoes.)

 

When you guys cook stews, do you drop the potatoes in raw or do you pre-cook? I'd rather drop them in raw, but I'm thinking I need to boil them first for now on.

 

TIA.

Are your canned tomatoes whole, or diced? Diced tomatoes contain calcium chloride to reinforce their cell walls and keep 'em from cooking to mush during the canning process. It's possible that's what keeps the potatoes from softening as expected. In fact, if you sometimes use whole and sometimes use diced, that may explain the inconsistency.

 

...there's also the acidity, of course. You may just need to hold off on adding the tomatoes until the spuds have cooked, which would eliminate both variables.

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Acid stabilizes pectin, so the tomato, if acidic enough can give a hard potato.  I've messed around with adding vinegar to diced potatoes, they stay hard-ish after boiling.

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Thanks, guys. I really appreciate the input.

 

@heidih, I store my potatoes in the refrigerator. I had a really bad experience / experiment during school days, trying to sprout a potato with toothpicks and a jar of water. The smell was indescribably bad; hard to believe the smell was coming from a non-meat source. But maybe I'll try storing the potatoes on the counter. Correct, hard potatoes are not a consistent issue.

 

@chromedome, I used "crushed tomatoes and puree." Ingredients list doesn't include calcium chloride, but does include "citric acid." Good idea to hold off on adding the tomato sauce. I do kind of depend on the tomato sauce for cooking liquid (for the potato), but maybe I can just add extra water.

 

@gfweb, sounds like you really did experiment with this. Now that you mention it, one of my pre-potato ingredients was a fair amount of balsamic vinegar.

 

I would appreciate even more input. I really like this combo of tomatoes and potatoes and will continue to cook them together. Just trying to cut out the extra step of boiling / parboiling.

Edited by MokaPot
correct my grammar (log)
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