Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.
Though potatoes are certainly, well, cut off upon harvest, they continue to breathe (spooky) and, in a way, live. As oxygen from the environment combines with the sugars in patats, it gets respired from the roots as carbon dioxide and water.
Storing them in a cool, dark (but not forgotten) place hugely decelerates this inevitable decomposition, protects against sprouting, and, to some degree, sweetens the tubers.
When stored in areas warmer than their ideal temperature, potatoes will start to sprout, but colder isn’t necessarily better either. In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee explains that when kept at colder temperatures (i.e. your refrigerator), “their metabolism shifts in a complicated way that results in the breakdown of some starch to sugars.” This means potatoes stored in the refrigerator will taste sweeter over time, but when cooked they are more likely to come out an unappetizing shade of brown.
While they shouldn’t be refrigerated, potatoes will still keep the longest when stored in a cool, dark place—specifically somewhere that's around 50°F and 90 to 95 percent humidity, like, you know, a temperature- and humidity-controlled root cellar. So just toss them down there, along with your turnips, onions, and carrots, and call it a day. They’ll be good for weeks, if not all winter long.
Oh wait, I don’t have a root cellar (do you?). Have no fear: Here are four of our best storage tips—root cellar not required—for happy, sweet, and dry taters.
1. Keep Them out of the Sunlight (but Not out of Sight).
Don’t store potatoes out in the open on the countertop. Keep them in a drawer, in a basket, in a closet, in a paper bag, or in a bamboo vegetable steamer—anywhere that's dark. Potatoes are plants, after all. If they see sunlight, they will do their photosynthesis thing and turn green, and eventually wrinkle and rot.
And remember, out of sight, out of mind—keep them in a trafficked-enough part of the pantry so you don’t forget about them.
2. Make Sure They Still Have Airflow
Either transfer your potatoes to paper, mesh, or a well-ventilated container. (They will be releasing carbon dioxide and water in the form of vapor, so things can get a little too damp.) If you’d like to keep them in the plastic bag they came in, make sure it’s well-perforated and that the top isn't tightly sealed.
3. Don’t Store Them Next to Your Onions
It’s tempting to toss both your potatoes and onions together in a basket in your pantry and be done with it—after all, they both like to be stored basically the same way. But resist temptation, because keeping them together (along with potatoes and avocados, potatoes and bananas, and potatoes and apples) might encourage your potatoes to sprout.
4. Avoid Warm Spots
Even if you don't have a cooler storage location than your kitchen, take care to avoid the warmest spots in the room: Don’t store your potatoes next to the oven, under the sink, or on top of the fridge.
When warmer than their ideal storage temperature, potatoes will start to sprout, but colder isn’t necessarily better either. In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee explains that when kept at colder temperatures (i.e. your refrigerator), “their metabolism shifts in a complicated way that results in the breakdown of some starch to sugars.” This means potatoes stored in the refrigerator will taste sweeter over time, and when cooked they are more likely to come out an unappetizing shade of brown.
Now that you're a pro at storing potatoes, check out a few of our favorite recipes below.
Very Good Potato Recipes
The next time you need that satisfying, salty crunch of a potato chip, whip up a homemade batch using this tried-and-true recipe.
If over 70 glowing reviews are any indication, this is the best darn pan-roasted potatoes recipe out there—and it's extra easy, to boot.
Whether you're hosting Thanksgiving, a holiday party, a big dinner with friends, or just want something creamy and comforting all for yourself, these classic mashed potatoes are what you should make.
Put your knife skills to work on this hasselback potato skillet bake, which has all the crispy edges and crackly potato skin you could ever dream of.
A summer staple, this contest-winning roasted potato salad is packed with punchy garlicky flavor, as well as lemon juice and Dijon mustard.
What are your best tips for storing potatoes? Tell us in the comments below!
This recipe has been updated by the Food52 editors in 2020 to include tasty new potato recipes and more spudly information.