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Subject: Cooking Potatoes; Which is Better?
Newsgroups: rec.food.cooking,alt.cooking-chat

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From: Wayne Boatwright 
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2003 02:23:06 GMT
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When boiling cut-up potatoes for mashing (yes, I know, many people boil 
them whole with the skins on), which is better...boiling in just enough 
water to cover adequately, or in a large volume of water?  (By large 
volume, I mean several inches of water above the potatoes.)

...And why?

TIA
Wayne

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From: Jack Schidt« 
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2003 02:29:53 GMT
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It matters only that less water will boil and cook faster.  Otherwise, it's
the same deal; the potatoes need to cook through.

Jack 212║

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From: penmart01[at]aol.como (Sheldon)
Date: 24 Nov 2003 02:34:41 GMT
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Wayne Boatwright writes:
>which is better...boiling in just enough 
>water to cover adequately, or in a large volume of water?  (By large 
>volume, I mean several inches of water above the potatoes.)
>
>...And why?

There is no why, makes no difference how much water so long as there's enough
to completely cover the potatoes during the entire cooking process... so you
want to have enough to allow for evaporation... you don't want to need to add
water during cooking or the cooking will stop which will necessitate bringing
the pot back up to temperature, whereas a much greater risk of overcooking will
ensue.  So why do you ask.... doesn't take that much more time and energy to
boil another inch.

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From: Wayne Boatwright 
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2003 02:38:42 GMT
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Sheldon wrote:
> There is no why, makes no difference how much water so long as there's
> enough to completely cover the potatoes during the entire cooking
> process... so you want to have enough to allow for evaporation... you
> don't want to need to add water during cooking or the cooking will
> stop which will necessitate bringing the pot back up to temperature,
> whereas a much greater risk of overcooking will ensue.  So why do you
> ask.... doesn't take that much more time and energy to boil another
> inch. 

I asked because it occurred to me that in larger quantites of water 
perhaps more of the potato starch would be lost.  I wasn't sure if that 
was true, or good or bad.

I should have included that in the original question.

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From: penmart01[at]aol.como (Sheldon)
Date: 24 Nov 2003 02:57:02 GMT
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Wayne Boatwright writes:
>I asked because it occurred to me that in larger quantites of water 
>perhaps more of the potato starch would be lost.  I wasn't sure if that 
>was true, or good or bad.

The quantity of starch dissolved is almost entirely a product of the size of
the chunks and how long the potatoes cook... the more surface exposed and the
longer the cooking the more stach that will dissolve.  Anyway, if you intend to
discard the cooking water why would that matter, except that would be bad.  Me,
I'd use that water, probably in the next thing I bake, certainly in the next
soup/stew... that would be good.

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From: Tim Challenger <"timothy(dot)challenger(at)apk(dot)at">
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2003 10:13:45 GMT
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Wayne Boatwright wrote:
> I asked because it occurred to me that in larger quantites of water 
> perhaps more of the potato starch would be lost.  I wasn't sure if that 
> was true, or good or bad.

I haven't been aware of potaotes dissolving yet. The amount of starch lost
is minimal - it comes mostly from just the broken and damaged cells on the
cut surfaces.

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From: Peter Aitken 
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2003 02:37:16 GMT
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Wayne Boatwright wrote:
> When boiling cut-up potatoes for mashing (yes, I know, many people boil
> them whole with the skins on), which is better...boiling in just enough
> water to cover adequately, or in a large volume of water?  (By large
> volume, I mean several inches of water above the potatoes.)

I can't see how it would make any difference at all.

============================

From: Jack B 
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2003 21:34:56 -0600
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Wayne Boatwright wrote:
> When boiling cut-up potatoes for mashing (yes, I know, many people boil 
> them whole with the skins on), which is better...boiling in just enough 
> water to cover adequately, or in a large volume of water?  (By large 
> volume, I mean several inches of water above the potatoes.)

Well, I think you want the water at full boil, and the water should
return to the boil as quickly as possible over high enough heat.

Because you want to cook the vegetable quickly. Because it retains more
flavor and texture that way.

So, as with pasta (for which there are additional reasons to maintain a
boil), you want to use plenty of water.

The mass of water, and it's mass of heat helps get you back up to temp
more quickly after adding the product.

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From: penmart01[at]aol.como (Sheldon)
Date: 24 Nov 2003 04:01:37 GMT
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Jack B writes:
>Well, I think you want the water at full boil, and the water should
>return to the boil as quickly as possible over high enough heat.
>
>Because you want to cook the vegetable quickly. Because it retains more
>flavor and texture that way.

Guessing, eh... you have little practical experience cooking, if any.

For evenly boiled spuds they should be started in cold water... by dumping into
already boiling water the exteriors will become mush before the interiors are
fully cooked.

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From: Jack B 
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2003 22:13:23 -0600
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Sheldon wrote:
> Guessing, eh... you have little practical experience cooking, if any.

Guessing, eh?

============================

From: Jack B 
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2003 22:46:33 -0600
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Sheldon wrote:
> For evenly boiled spuds they should be started in cold water... by dumping into
> already boiling water the exteriors will become mush before the interiors are
> fully cooked.

Ok, maybe I should amend my potato cooking methods. Your advice sounds
sound.

But what about the amount of water as Wayne asked?

============================

From: penmart01[at]aol.como (Sheldon)
Date: 24 Nov 2003 16:38:32 GMT
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Jack B writes:
>But what about the amount of water as Wayne asked?

Previously answered:

"There is no why, makes no difference how much water so long as there's
enough to completely cover the potatoes during the entire cooking
process... so you want to have enough to allow for evaporation... you
don't want to need to add water during cooking or the cooking will
stop which will necessitate bringing the pot back up to temperature,
whereas a much greater risk of overcooking will ensue.  So why do you
ask.... doesn't take that much more time and energy to boil another
inch."

============================

From: Wayne Boatwright 
Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2003 06:02:35 GMT
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Thanks to ALL for your replies on this...

============================

From: someones[at]thedoor.com (CJ)
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2003 18:18:46 +0800
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Jack B wrote:
>Well, I think you want the water at full boil, and the water should
>return to the boil as quickly as possible over high enough heat.

This advice does not really apply to potatoes:  the general rule is to
place root vegetables into cold water and bring them to the boil; it's
non-root vegetables which are placed into boiling water.
So, the amount of water isn't a big issue, except that a larger volume
will take more time and use more energy to come to a boil.  For these
reasons it's probably better to use enough water to cover the potatoes
and a little more to account for any evaporation.

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From: The Ranger 
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2003 19:50:57 -0800
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Wayne Boatwright wrote:
> When boiling cut-up potatoes for mashing (yes, I know,
> many people boil them whole with the skins on), which
> is better...boiling in just enough water to cover adequately,
> or in a large volume of water?  (By large volume, I mean
> several inches of water above the potatoes.)

It doesn't matter unless you're worried about evaporation.

I add enough water to cover (plus one inch) the potatoes. Boil 30 minutes
and drain.

If you're going to use the water for something else immediately afterwards,
pour it in another pan. Otherwise, dump it.

============================

From: Dave Smith 
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2003 10:54:26 -0500
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Wayne Boatwright wrote:
> When boiling cut-up potatoes for mashing (yes, I know, many people boil
> them whole with the skins on), which is better...boiling in just enough
> water to cover adequately, or in a large volume of water?  (By large
> volume, I mean several inches of water above the potatoes.)

We don't eat a lot of potatoes in this household, and when we do boil
potatoes it is usually for mashing. We usually only do that if we are
having a roast and are planning on gravy. I tend to add a little extra
water because I use the potato water for my gravy.

============================

From: Jerry Avins 
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2003 14:48:47 -0500
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Wayne Boatwright wrote:
> When boiling cut-up potatoes for mashing (yes, I know, many people boil 
> them whole with the skins on), which is better...boiling in just enough 
> water to cover adequately, or in a large volume of water?  (By large 
> volume, I mean several inches of water above the potatoes.)

It matters, but not much. Sometimes I save the potato water as a base
for soup. In that case, I don't want more water than I will ultimately
use. There's the question of how long the cooking takes. In general, the
more water, the longer the time to boiling, but a wider pot can offset
that somewhat. A larger-bottom pot captures more heat from a gas flame,
but the same amount of water is shallower.

Some people start the potatoes in boiling water, then want the water to
return to a boil as soon as possible after the potatoes go in. More
water in the pot means more heat loss through the sides, hence longer to
return to a boil. With more water, the temperature doesn't fall as much
when the potato goes in, but the same amount of heat is absorbed, so the
same amount has to be put back. That takes longer when the water stands
higher in the pot. Between you and me, it doesn't matter.

Potatoes in the skin lose less starch to the water. That can be good or
bad, depending on what you want.

Quickie Manhattan Clam Chowder Recipe:

1/2 cup of diced potato*
1   6-oz can of diced clams
3/4 to 1 cup of chunky tomato sauce (marinara)

Boil potatoes in just enough water to cover, allowing for a little loss
in cooking. When tender (doesn't take long!), add the clams and clam
juice to the potato/water. Stir to mix, then add the tomato sauce.

If your sauce is too uniform, add a little carrot and finely diced
celery, along with lightly browned onions. If you cook the potatoes and
the vegetables together, you might as well put the tomato sauce in after
the cooking is under way, and add the clams with their juice near the
end.

Makes two good portions or four skimpy ones. What the heck: you can
always add a little more water.

* Half-inch cubes. For a double or triple recipe, I use my french-fry 
press. then cut with knife the other way.


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