Whether you’re prepping mashed potatoes for the whole crew at Thanksgiving or potato salad for a church picnic, you might be planning on peeling and slicing your spuds. And if you’re trying to make the dish ahead of time, you may wonder if you can prep your potatoes in advance to make meal planning as easy as possible.
Here’s the truth about getting those tubes ready in advance—and the crucial rules to follow when you do it.
Can You Peel and Slice Potatoes Ahead of Time?
The short answer is yes, according to Chef Fred Tiess, master instructor in the college of Food Innovation and Technology at Johnson and Wales University’s Charlotte campus.
But there’s a specific way to treat taters in order for them to be at their best for your recipe. (And don’t forget there’s a right way to store them, too.)
What Is the Best Way to Prep, Peel, and Slice Potatoes Ahead of Time?
Here is Tiess’s game plan for ensuring potatoes are ready to cook after a little make-ahead magic:
- Give your potatoes a good wash and scrub in cold, running water to remove any dirt and eyes.
- Next, peel and slice potatoes according to recipe instructions.
- Now here’s the trick: Fill an airtight container, sealable plastic bag, or bowl with water and submerge your peeled, sliced potatoes. If you are using a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and press the wrap to the surface of the water. This will prevent oxidation, which presents as sad brown spots on the flesh of potatoes, from occurring as quickly as it would in open air.
- If you’re using the potatoes within a few hours, you can leave them submerged in water on the counter. If you need more time, potatoes can be stored in water in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
- Before you’re ready to cook, check to see if there is starch at the bottom of your container. If there is, give the potatoes a quick rinse in cold tap water. Then cook as directed in your recipe.
How Far in Advance Can You Peel and Slice Potatoes?
If you’ll be cooking the potatoes in the next few hours, you can leave them submerged in water at room temperature, Tiess says.
If it will be longer than a few hours, place them in the refrigerator. Peeled, sliced, submerged, and refrigerated potatoes should be cooked within 24 hours.
Another thing to consider is the size of your slice. The smaller the potato piece—ie, a dice versus a wedge—the more quickly it will oxidize, which means small pieces should be stored for less time.
Can You Peel and Slice Any Type of Potato in Advance?
Waxy potato varieties like bliss, white, and Yukon gold will hold up better refrigerated in water than more “flour-y” potatoes like russet and Idaho. This is because waxy potatoes contain less starch and more moisture, so they’ll take on less water while they hang out in their water bath.
Non-waxy potatoes hold up better when stored in room temperature water on the counter for a few hours, because they have a higher starch content, which means they’ll take on more moisture from the water they’re being stored in.
Like waxy varieties, sweet potatoes can withstand frigerated water storage for up to 24 hours.
Does the Cooking Method Matter When It Comes to Prepping Potatoes in Advance?
The dish you’re making can impact the length of time you can optimally store your potatoes in water, as well as how you should transition them from storage to meal prep when you’re ready to cook.
For boiled or steamed potatoes:
For dishes that require boiling or steaming, you can prep potatoes a day ahead and store them submerged in water, covered, and in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, Tiess says.
When you’re ready to use your potatoes, remove them from the fridge, drain them, and transfer them to a bowl of room temperature water for about 45 minutes to bring the temperature of the potatoes up before adding heat.
For roasted potatoes:
If you’re roasting potatoes, storing them in room temperature water for a shorter amount of time (about two hours) is optimal. When you’re ready to roast, strain the potatoes and toss them around the colander to remove as much water as possible before adding fat and seasoning.
For fried potatoes:
If you’re making French fries, Tiess likes this preparation, which calls for freezing versus refrigerating:
- Peel and cut potatoes into fries.
- Blanch sliced potatoes in 275°F oil for several minutes, until the potatoes are blond in color.
- Arrange blanched fries on a parchment-lined baking sheet, separating the fries to ensure quick freezing and to prevent them from sticking together. Once the fries are completely frozen, you can transfer them to sealable bags and keep frozen until needed.
- When you’re ready to cook, fry the potatoes from frozen to produce a crispy texture. Thawing will cause condensation of water on the fries, and oil and water do not mix. Fry at 350°F until fries are crispy and golden brown with a fluffy interior. Sprinkle them with fine sea salt to finish.
“The process of freezing permits the exterior of the fry to heat first and as the internal temperature rises,” Tiess says. “It’s the reason why properly prepared McDonald’s fries taste so good.”
Can You Freeze Potatoes?
You can freeze potatoes, but the best way to do it depends on the recipe. Check out our comprehensive guide for freezing french fries, home fries, mashed potatoes, and roasted potatoes. The one dish we don’t recommend stashing in the freezer? Potato salad.