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Subject: potatoes that won't cook
Newsgroups: rec.food.cooking

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From: jjensen[at]alumni.uvic.ca (jen)
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 18:52:45 -0000
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i've just gone through all the reviews on an epicurious recipe that my 
daughter wants me to try. the recipe is for greek chicken and potatoes and 
a number of the comments complain that the potatoes didn't cook enough 
(after 1 hr. 45 min. @ 375).

i've often had potatoes that i could boil for a long time without them 
cooking through (while the other potatoes in the pot slowly become mush). i 
thought i'd read somewhere what causes this but i'm drawing a complete 
blank on it.

does anyone know?

cheers,

jen

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From: J Quick 
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 19:25:41 GMT
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Jen wrote:

>a number of the comments complain that the potatoes didn't cook enough 

Ignore the comments.  The potatoes will be completely cooked if the oven
temperature is accurate.  Potatoes can be completely cooked without turning
to mush, sometimes as an intentional goal of a recipe such as that one.

> i've often had potatoes that i could boil for a long time without them
> cooking through (while the other potatoes in the pot slowly become mush). i
> thought i'd read somewhere what causes this but i'm drawing a complete
> blank on it.

Acidity will help to keep the structure of the starch intact.  The potatoes
are cooked through: they just aren't mushy.  Compare the taste and texture
of a slice of potato cooked this way with a raw slice.

For potato salad, use waxy potatoes (low starch) and acidulate the cooking
water with a little vinegar to keep the diced potatoes nicely firm.

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From: Kate Connally 
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 11:36:46 -0500
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jen wrote:
> i've often had potatoes that i could boil for a long time without them
> cooking through (while the other potatoes in the pot slowly become mush). i
> thought i'd read somewhere what causes this but i'm drawing a complete
> blank on it.

I've had the same thing happen, potatoes that won't
get done.  And they're not just "firm" as someone
else has averred.  They're still half raw.  I know the
difference between firm but cooked thoroughly and still
half raw.  I've had it happen with baked potatoes,
boiled potatoes, fried potatoes, etc.  I have had it
happen at home and in restaurants.  I once sent a dish
back *three* times because the potatoes weren't cooked
enough and finally gave up, deciding that it wasn't the
chef's fault, that they were just uncookable potatoes.

An undercooked potato really grosses me out and so
if I come across a piece when I'm eating it just spoils
the rest of the meal for me because I'm always expecting
the next piece to be that way as well.  So, I also would
like to know what causes this and what, if anything,
one can do to get the damned things to cook properly to
to somehow identify and weed out the ones that are not
going to cook properly.

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From: J Quick 
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 03:40:40 GMT
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Kate Connally wrote:
> I've had the same thing happen, potatoes that won't
> get done.  And they're not just "firm" as someone
> else has averred.  They're still half raw.

In this case, it's caused by the insufficient heating of the granular
amylose and amylopectin within the Solanum tuberosum above its
gelatinization temperature in an acidic aqueous solution.

In other words, the starch in the potato was undercooked in its lemon sauce.
;-)

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From: jen 
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 05:59:52 -0000
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J Quick wrote:
> In other words, the starch in the potato was undercooked in its lemon sauce.

what about those potatoes that don't cook when boiled in water? while 
their little buddies are turning to mush because they're being boiled too 
long?

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From: J Quick 
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 06:33:21 GMT
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jen wrote:
> what about those potatoes that don't cook when boiled in water? while
> their little buddies are turning to mush because they're being boiled too
> long?

They're both cooking.  The small ones cooked faster than the large ones.
That the small ones begin to absorb water and breakup first merely shows
that they cooked faster, not that the larger ones aren't being cooked.  Dice
those potatoes into a consistent size first and they will all cook in about
the same amount of time.  Or you could wait to add the small ones to the pot
until after the large ones have cooked for a while.   I cook mashed taters
in a pressure cooker in about 10 minutes or so, start to finish including
prep and cleanup.  I first dice them into approx. half-inch cubes.

If you live at a high elevation, the temperature that water boils drops due
to the lower atmospheric pressure, so food often takes longer to cook.  This
also may cause big chunks to cook much more slowly than small chunks,
because less heat is being applied to the food and won't be able reach the
interior of the food as quickly.  Using a pressure cooker goes a long way to
negate this problem by allowing the water to reach a temp of about 250deg. F
before boiling.

General cooking tip:  add food to a pot or pan based on how long they should
take to cook, from slowest to fastest, so that they all finish cooking at
about the same time, particularly when ingredients cook at vastly different
speeds.  This isn't news to many of the people on this forum, but worthwhile
advice is worth repeating on occasion.

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From: jen 
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 20:20:08 -0000
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J Quick wrote:
> They're both cooking.  The small ones cooked faster than the large
> ones. That the small ones begin to absorb water and breakup first
> merely shows that they cooked faster, not that the larger ones aren't
> being cooked.  Dice those potatoes into a consistent size first and
> they will all cook in about the same amount of time. 

i was using 'little buddies' as a joke. i always cut vegetables the same 
size when cooking them. it's a no brainer.

i guess kate and i are the only ones who've ever had potatoes (cut the 
same size and cooked in the same fashion) not cook through.

one of the mysteries of life, i suppose.

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From: Z GIRL 
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 21:51:59 GMT
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jen wrote:
> i guess kate and i are the only ones who've ever had potatoes (cut the
> same size and cooked in the same fashion) not cook through.

I have to,  Its always a potato that is low in starch content like a Yukon
gold. I have learned from experience to use these only it I want to cut them
up before cooking them . For the most part I stick to Idaho potatoes. ;-)

Barbara

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From: jen 
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 21:51:48 -0000
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Z GIRL wrote:
> I have to,  Its always a potato that is low in starch content like a Yukon 
> gold. I have learned from experience to use these only it I want to cut them
> up before cooking them . For the most part I stick to Idaho potatoes. ;-) 

i was just thinking to myself that i've only had the problem with 
russets!

at any rate, i've sent an email to the US Potato Board. let's see if they 
can help :-)

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From: Kate Connally 
Date: Mon, 03 Mar 2003 11:26:54 -0500
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jen wrote:
> at any rate, i've sent an email to the US Potato Board. let's see if they
> can help :-)

Can't wait to find out what they have to say.

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

From: Kate Connally 
Date: Mon, 03 Mar 2003 11:26:20 -0500
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Z GIRL wrote:
>  I have to,  Its always a potato that is low in starch content like a Yukon
> gold. I have learned from experience to use these only it I want to cut them
> up before cooking them . For the most part I stick to Idaho potatoes. ;-)

Barb,
I've had it happen with russets, Yukon gold, new
red potatoes, and white potatoes.  And I might cook
up to 8 potatoes from the same "batch" and only
some of them will not cook.  They others are fine.
They all look the same when I buy them.  I always
buy loose ones and pick over the pile to find the
best looking ones, so they are generally much more
uniform than when you buy a bulk bag.  It boggles
my mind.

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

From: Z GIRL 
Date: Mon, 03 Mar 2003 20:39:13 GMT
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Kate Connally:
> I've had it happen with russets, Yukon gold, new
> red potatoes, and white potatoes.  And I might cook
> up to 8 potatoes from the same "batch" and only
> some of them will not cook.  They others are fine.

Kate , I have never had it happen with the new red potatoes and I do use
them frequently so go figure. I love the idea of a support group, I will
bring the Kahlua ;-)

Barbara

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From: Kate Connally 
Date: Mon, 03 Mar 2003 11:23:12 -0500
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jen wrote:
> i guess kate and i are the only ones who've ever had potatoes (cut the
> same size and cooked in the same fashion) not cook through.

Jen,
I have a friend here that has had it happen to
her, so that makes 3 of us!  Maybe we should start
a support group.  ;-)

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From: Miss L.Toe 
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 17:19:04 -0000
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jen wrote:
> i've often had potatoes that i could boil for a long time without them
> cooking through (while the other potatoes in the pot slowly become mush). i
> thought i'd read somewhere what causes this but i'm drawing a complete
> blank on it.

Never try to cook Potatoes and Tomatoes at the same time , in the same pot.
Somehow the Tomaotoes stop the potatoes from getting cooked.


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