Boiled Potatoes, Whole & Unpeeled

Boiled potatoes are a simple way to cook a whole potato and can be used with several Peruvian dishes. Find out tips and tricks to be sure yours are perfect!

It might seem strange to tell you how to boil a potato. Doesn’t everyone know how to boil water? Until I arrived in Peru, I had never seen the entire potato, skin still on and everything, thrown into boiling water to cook. And here’s the thing, it is harder than it looks. 

There are several Peruvian dishes that are served with boiled potatoes that have been peeled and sliced, such as Papa a la Huancaina or Aji de Gallina. So it is a vital skill to know when preparing Peruvian food at home. 

Where can you go wrong with boiled potatoes? My downfall is nearly always in testing for doneness. Once you have pierced the skin, the water and the innards of the potato mix together and the potato begins to disintegrate right before your eyes. This happens much more quickly when you use a “yellow potato” rather than a “white potato.” This distinction in Peru is used to describe the inside flesh, not the actual name of the potato. The yellow potato has a higher starch content and a floury texture, similar to a Yukon potato or what you will find if you purchase blue or purple potatoes. On the other hand, the white potato is more waxy and it holds its shape much better when cubed into stews. 

There are a few keys to making whole boiled potatoes.

Choose your potato wisely. The yellow-flesh potatoes will disintegrate much more quickly than the white-flesh potatoes. Be sure you know which one you are working with as the yellow boiled potatoes cook differently. We are working with white-flesh potatoes for these recipes. 

Do not entirely cover the potatoes with water while boiling. You will test for doneness by piercing them with a fork or knife. If the water covers the potato entirely, it will enter the pierced skin and begin to disintegrate. If there is a bit of potato sticking out of the water, you can then test the boiled potato for doneness and the part that is pierced will not become water-logged.

Do not place a couple potatoes in a gigantic pot. Now that you know that water mixed with the pierced skin could cause some troubles, you must also keep in mind that you cannot have the potatoes rolling around in the water. You want the part that you tested to always stay above the water line. If there are only a couple potatoes in a very large pot, you will not be able to control their movement. While I am not saying you must pack in the potatoes, be sure that they “fit” and cannot move when boiling. I typically place one layer with four medium sized potatoes in a medium pot. They are all touching and there is no way one can flip over.

Only test for doneness above the waterline. Remember to make any kind of piercing in a place that water will not enter. A waterlogged boiled potato is, well, waterlogged. Yuck!

Ingredients

  1. 4 medium-sized, white-flesh potatoes

Instructions

  1. Place potatoes in a medium pot. Be sure that they do not have room to move to roll. Add room temperature water to just below the tops of the potatoes. Cover.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and then reduce heat to low. Cook approximately 30 minutes over low heat or until the flesh of the potato is soft when checked for doneness with the tines of a fork or a sharp knife.
  3. Drain the boiling water and allow potatoes to cool uncovered.

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