Kitchen Confidence

How to Store Potatoes (So They Can Live Their Best Lives)

The last thing you need to worry about right now is your potatoes going bad.

March 23, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

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.

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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

1. Homemade Potato Chips

The next time you need that satisfying, salty crunch of a potato chip, whip up a homemade batch using this tried-and-true recipe.

2. The Best Pan-Roasted Potatoes

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.

3. Diane Morgan's Classic Mashed Potatoes

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.

4. Hasselback Potato Skillet Bake

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.

5. Garlicky Roasted Potato Salad

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.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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I like esoteric facts about vegetables and think ambling through a farmers market is a great way to start the day. My first cookbook, available now, is called Cooking with Scraps.

14 Comments

ggwanda88 December 30, 2015
ggwanda88
Put an apple in your potato basket. It puts off an enzime that keeps them from sprouting.
 
liguy January 25, 2016
It is not an enzyme, it is a gas called ethylene gas
 
ggwanda88 January 25, 2016
Sorry, thanks for the correction.
 
liguy December 15, 2015
Thanks!
 
Your O. November 5, 2015
Happy to see this, but I repeat a question I've posted before with no definitive answer: how close is "too close" for onions & potatoes? Separate baskets I get. If the baskets are next to each other, is that too close? How about on opposite ends of, say, a 4' shelf? Same side of closet, different shelf? Opposite sides of, say, a 3' wide closet/pantry? Or not in the same pantry space at all? I'm an organizer and have never been able to say one way or the other for myself or my clients...please tell me!
 
Astra K. November 4, 2015
Hi there! Well, i have always stored onions, potatoes, green cabbages, squashes, and pumpkins (yes, i buy them to eat them) in real baskets, each in their own basket, all over my living room, which has no direct sunlight, and is always the coolest area of my apartment. They do not ever sprout, and stay fresh and beautiful for a lobg time. I did have an actual root cellar with my apt. In eastern europe, so when i moved here to usa i asked my friends back there...what to do with no cellar? And they advised...go out and buybig,natural baskets, keep in coolest spots. I have a tile floor in my living and dining area, itscool even in summer, so i just fi d strategic spots to place my veggie baskets on the floor. As a matter of fact, the very first thing i do wheni get home with e groceries, is get the vegs out of their bags and into their baskets. Friends tell me it also makes my apt. Look very rustic and unusual in a nice way. About the fridge? I personally have, in the past, totally ruined tomatoes and potatoes in the fridge. I learned the hard way...LOL! Never again!
 
Lynda R. April 6, 2020
I wish that you had added a photo of all your baskets, on your living room floor!
 
Smaug November 3, 2015
I suppose the operative phrase is "over time"- I've refrigerated a lot of potatoes over the years and never had one come out an unappetizing shade of brown, or anything other than potato colored. Maybe if you left them in there six months. Or maybe something happens with russets- I don't remember ever refrigerating those. If they're sweeter, it's not noticeable and anyway, I'm still mourning the long lost supersweet Yellow Finn.
 
AntoniaJames November 3, 2015
An interesting recipe from Amanda (actually, her husband's), relies it seems on refrigerated potatoes: https://food52.com/recipes/2532-tad-s-roasted-potatoes I'd never heard of anyone putting a potato in the refrigerator before I read that. ;o)
 
Greenstuff November 3, 2015
I didn't say anything when Amanda's husband's recipe was posted. It was probably prudent, because recently, someone on the Hotline (maybe it was oldunc!) pretty much told me that I was a scientist with not enough real work to do when I cautioned against storing potatoes in the refrigerator. Truth is I AM a scientist and I wouldn't store potatoes in the refrigerator. But clearly, it's worked for others, sometimes with delicious results.
 
Smaug November 4, 2015
Science mostly comes down to "try it and see what happens", so I guess I'm a scientist too. Not much of anything happened.
 
GMJ November 27, 2017
Just wondering IF storing potatoes in the fridge could lead to gummy mashed potatoes. I am aware that gummy mashed potatoes are the result of over beating &/ or, over cooking,as well as not draining well enough. However, i have also read that cold storage like the fridge can also cause that gluey, gummy mashed as well. Thoughts? Or references?
 
Lynda R. April 6, 2020
Don't store raw whole potatoes in the fridge. It's okay after they are cooked, though.
When I put some whole potatoes in the fridge, they turned blackish. I was very young when I did that! Only the one time....learn from your mistakes.
Trial & error. ;)
 
Lynda R. April 6, 2020
""gluey, gummy mashed" comes from the way they were badly mashed and has nothing to do with the fridge.
Perhaps, that person should read up on making mashed potatoes!
But, they should know what they did wrong!!