Potatoes are one of the most useful vegetables in cooking. You could easily have potatoes with every meal and not use the same recipe twice in a week! However, a frustrating aspect of enjoying potatoes is the peeling. How many times have you nicked your fingers or felt like you’ve wasted valuable cooking time slowly whittling away? Thankfully, there are ways you can simplify the potato peeling process.
First, we’ll start with some of the unsightly parts of the potatoes — the eyes. The eyes of a potato are actually little sprouts, called tubers, that are about to grow more potatoes. You can plant sprouted potatoes to grow more potatoes. Neat, right? Well, while potatoes are generally safe to eat, the tubers are not.
The eyes of the potato, along with any greening or bruising, are areas of the potato that contain higher levels of a toxin called glycoalkaloids. If you ingest high levels of glycoalkaloids, you may experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. To prevent this, you should remove the sprouts and any green or bruised areas, or throw away the potato if it’s shriveled or wrinkled.
How do you remove the eyes of a potato? You can scrub them off as you’re washing the dirt off or peel them off with a paring knife or peeler. Perhaps the easiest way is using the scoop on the side of the vegetable peeler to remove it. You may not have realized it, but that’s what that part is for! Simply use the scoop to remove the eye of the potato, and any flesh that was touching it, with ease.
When we learn how to peel a potato, this is how most of us are taught. Dry peeling is done with either a paring knife or vegetable peeler. By carefully slicing off the rough skin, you can expose the softer, starchy meat of the potato. Most people hold the potato in their palm and peel downward. However, this can be a slow and annoying way to peel potatoes, especially if you have a habit of accidentally getting your fingers in the way.
Want an easier way? Place one end of the potato on a cutting board or plate and hold the other end up with your fingertips at a diagonal angle. Then, peel downward from before your fingertips to the other end of the potato and finishing by peeling the ends. One viral Tiktok video showed nice hack: using a fork to keep your fingers out of the way.
If you have some time, you may be able to easily peel several potatoes at once without a peeler or knife. How? By pre-boiling them! This super simple trick makes the skin glide off the potatoes.
Wash all the potatoes you’re planning to peel, scrubbing off any dirt you see. Then, lightly score or slice the outside of the peels and gently drop them into a pot of boiling water. Allow them to boil until the potatoes become tender (about 20 to 30 minutes). Once the potatoes have softened, remove them from the boiling water and place them in a large bowl with ice water. This stops the cooking process and cools the potatoes. When you can hold the potatoes comfortably, all you need to do is gently push the peel back, starting where you scored or cut it. If there are any stubborn bits of peel staying on, you can clip them off with the peeler or paring knife.
You may see some people on the internet saying one method of peeling is superior, but that’s not the case. Dry peeling and the boil method are useful depending on two factors — what you want to do with the potatoes and how much time you have.
If you have the time, pre-boiling makes it really easy to peel potatoes, but since they need to be tender for the method to work, they don’t work well for recipes where the potatoes need to hold their shape, like fries. In that case, dry peeling works better and is quicker. But, if you’re going to be making mashed potatoes or gnocchi, something where the potato needs to be soft, pre-boiling can really be effective.
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If you’ve ever clipped your fingernail or knuckle using a peeler or spent too much time prepping your veggies, you’ll understand the pain of potato peeling. With these tips, avoid the pain and frustration and get back to enjoying the greatness of potatoes.