Should You Boil Potatoes With The Skin On Or Off?


When deciding to peel or not to peel potatoes, tradition states to leave skins on for baked potatoes, and peel them before boiling. But cooking has come a long way and modern cooks now care about maximizing nutrition and flavor. So I did some research on whether you should boil potatoes with the skin on or off.

Boiling whole potatoes with the skin on takes longer but will retain more nutrition and flavor. Peeled potatoes absorb more cooking water, reducing the fluffiness of the mash and leaving less room for them to absorb the butter and cream.

If you don’t like eating the peel, it comes off easily after draining the cooked potatoes – I have some steps to do that below. This article explores which potatoes are best to keep the skins on or off and how to perfectly boil them.

I also looked into whether peeling potatoes on any dish was necessary, and the health benefits of eating the skins or removing them.

When To Boil Potatoes With Skins On?

Leaving the skins on the potato when boiling will preserve nutrition. It also prevents starchy potatoes from absorbing too much cooking water and losing flavor. Thus, the starchier the potato, the more it will benefit from leaving the skins on. 

Starchier potatoes tend to be best for mashed potatoes. Some cooks, however, prefer a potato that falls in-between the starchy and the waxy for mashed potatoes. These potatoes are known as “all-purpose” as they can work in dishes that require a starchy or a waxy potato. 

While it is not as crucial to leave the skins on an all-rounder, it remains the best option in most cases. For example, dishes like mashed potatoes need to absorb flavors after being mashed, such as butter, cream, olive oil, or stock. Whereas potato salad has the sauce coating on the outside of the spuds, so flavor absorption isn’t as important.

When To Boil Potatoes With Skins Off?

Peeling and cubing potatoes before boiling is a good idea when trying to save time. It is also best to peel potatoes if they are boiled in a stew, soup, or chowder unless you enjoy having the skins on. Many people also prefer to peel potatoes beforehand when making potato salad.

Examples Of Starchy, Waxy, And All-Purpose Potatoes

It isn’t always obvious if a potato is starchy, waxy, or all-purpose simply by looking at it. Starchy potatoes are typically larger than waxy potatoes, but this isn’t always the case. Nor can you necessarily tell if a blue-tinged potato is all-purpose or waxy. Thus, it is good to know a few varieties from each category. 

Which Potatoes Are Starchy? 

Starchy potatoes are excellent for making French fries, gnocchi, and of course, mashed potatoes. These potatoes do best if boiled unpeeled and are the worst to boil cut up. 

Examples of starchy potatoes: 

  • Russet
  • Jewel yam
  • Gold Rush

Which Potatoes Are Waxy?

Waxy potatoes are excellent for chowders, soup, stews, potato salad, and gratins. They tend to have smooth, thin skins with waxy inner flesh. There are lower in starch than starchy varieties, which gives them less “fluff.”

These potatoes will hold up well if peeled or chopped before being boiled. Often they are cut in half but not peeled because their thin skins are pleasant to eat. 

Examples of waxy potatoes:

  • New potatoes
  • Red bliss
  • Baby potatoes
  • French fingerlings
  • Red Adirondack

Which Potatoes Are All-Purpose?

All-purpose straddle the starchy and waxy divide. They can be turned into mashed potatoes or potato salad and are an excellent choice to keep in your pantry when not meal-planning and just need a staple at home. 

Examples of all-purpose potatoes

  • Yukon gold
  • All blue
  • Red Gold
  • Purple Majesty

How To Boil Potatoes Perfectly

Boiling potatoes whole takes longer but loses the least flavor and absorbs the least amount of water. Start potatoes off in cold water to ensure the outer part of the potato doesn’t cook well before the inside. Placing potatoes directly into boiling water risks the outsides becoming overcooked while the center remains underdone. 

To boil potatoes perfectly:

  1. Wash potatoes, ensuring all excess dirt has been removed.
  2. If the potatoes are starchy, leave them uncut. If the potatoes are waxy, cut to size. 
  3. Place potatoes in a pot of cold, salted water, ensuring an inch of water covers the top.
  4. Cover the potatoes with a lid and bring them to a boil.
  5. Wait 15 min for waxy potatoes and 25-30 for starchy potatoes.
  6. Prick with a fork or knife to check if done.
  7. Drain potatoes and run under cold water to handle.
  8. Pull skins off if necessary.

Should You Boil Potatoes Whole?

Starchy potatoes do best if boiled whole as they will absorb less water. Waxy potatoes can be cut up as their flesh is firmer and less absorbent.

If you are pressed for time, cut starchy potatoes in half. All-purpose potatoes should not be cut up too small during the boil but do fine cut in half.

Boiling the potato whole with the skin on allows you to easily peel it off after cooking when it’s soft.

Can You Peel Potatoes After Boiling?

Once potatoes are boiled, their skins easily pull off. You will not need a peeler to do this. Peelers can easily be clogged when using them post-boil. 

Running cold water over the potatoes first to cool them will make the job easier on the fingers. Some people also use a kitchen towel to “rub” the spud, further loosening the skin before plucking it off. Finally, for hard spots, such as an eye, use a paring knife to cut them out. 

Some people use a paring knife to peel the entire potatoes post-boil. This method can make it easier for people who struggle with pincher grips.

Pre-Slicing The Potato’s Skin For Peeling

Pulling the skin off a potato after boiling is pretty easy. However, getting a grip on the skin for the first tug can sometimes be tricky, especially if the cook has issues with grip, such as arthritis. An excellent hack is to take a paring knife and run it around the center of the potato. The ring should be slightly deeper than the skin. 

As the potato boils, this center skin will lift. A small amount of water will get into the flesh along the ring. However, this tiny amount of exposed flesh will hardly make a culinary difference. But it will make the initial “tug” post-boil far easier. 

Is Eating Potato Peels Healthy?

Cooked potato skin is where a lot of the nutrition resides. It also has extra fiber and phytochemicals. However, some people do worry about pesticides that might sit on the outer skin of potatoes.

Organic potatoes will not have been exposed to extra chemicals if that concerns you. Their skins are safe to eat, provided they were washed and cooked. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, you should now know whether to boil potatoes with the skin on or off. Peeling potatoes after they have boiled will preserve the most nutrition and keep your potatoes from absorbing too much liquid.

However, the potatoes will take longer to boil if left whole. So if you are pushed for time, peeling and cubing is the easiest option. Peeling first is also best when making chowders and soups with waxy varieties unless you enjoy the skin.

Tom

Hey, I'm Tom. I set up Boss The Kitchen to start answering the thousands of questions people have while cooking. For me, the kitchen is my happy place and I hope to help other people with the knowledge I've gained along the way.

Recent Posts