Cooking potatoes with the skins left on them is an excellent way to improve the taste and nutrients of potato dishes. Some potato recipes advise peeling for a smoother and silkier texture – but is it really necessary? I looked into different recipes and different potato types for this article.
Potatoes require no peeling before cooking if you don’t want to. The skin contains lots of fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidant properties. Only peel if the skin is green, damaged, sprouting, or if you are concerned about insecticides. Thoroughly wash potatoes before cooking them.
More than 4000 different potato varieties are enjoyed worldwide as a staple and much-loved food source. Roughly 300 million metric tons of potatoes are grown per year. That is a lot of potato skins that are probably going to waste.
Whether you peel your potatoes or not is a personal choice, but here are some solid reasons for eating potatoes with the peels on.
Is Peeling Potatoes Necessary?
It is always necessary to wash potatoes with clean water before turning them into your favorite meal, but what about peeling them? Organic potatoes do not have to be peeled at all.
Commercial large-scale potato crops are often sprayed with insecticides. There might be micro amounts of these compounds left on the skin of the potatoes. Wash and peel to remove some of the residual toxins if that concerns you.
When Is It Better To Peel Potatoes?
Peel potatoes when the skin is full of blemishes, scabs, or turning green. Potatoes turn green when they have been overly exposed to light. This extra chlorophyll is not toxic but could indicate the presence of the toxin, solanine.
Green peels have a bitter taste, and it is best to discard them. Store your spuds in a dark, cool place to keep them healthy. When potatoes start to sprout, it is best to peel them.
Specific recipes indicate that potatoes should be peeled. Mashed potatoes or smooth soups might become too textured with the peels included. This is a personal choice as the peels can add a rustic feel and new taste variation to traditional dishes.
All potato skins are edible, but certain varieties have thicker peels. Depending on the recipe, this could be an advantage or a disadvantage. When baked, thicker peels will make a crispy skin but add too much chewiness to mashed potato.
When Does It Not Matter?
Potatoes with thin peels and young potatoes can always be used with the skins intact. For crispy baked potatoes, any skin can be left on regardless of thickness.
Thin-skinned Elba and Onaway potatoes are light in color and ideal for any recipe. These peels turn soft in cooking and enhance a nutty flavor.
Waxy potatoes like Yukon gold have medium-thin skins that can be left on for making rustic stews.
Colored potatoes in pink to blue hues are good for baking. Their skins are on the thin side and can be left on.
French fries and baked potatoes are enhanced by retaining the skins, as this makes a crispy edge that is just delicious. Use thick-skinned Russet potatoes for best results.
Fingerlings and new potatoes (baby potatoes) have incredibly tender, thin skins that need no peeling or slicing. These can be boiled with the skins on and served with salt and butter just as they are.
Floury potatoes like King Edward, Rosamunda, Maris Piper, Blue Congo, Red Baron, and Evergood contain more starch than waxy varieties. They need no peeling and will have more flavor and nutrients when cooked whole.
Is It Better To Eat Potatoes With Skin Or Without?
Nutritionally it is better to eat potatoes with the skin included as the skins contain more nutrients than the inside flesh. It contains lots of fiber, antioxidants and many vitamins like Vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium.
If you prefer peeling potatoes, then consider preparing the peels as a separate dish or party snack. Some ideas to try out are:
- Spicy potato peel crisps – a crunchy vegan snack to serve with sundowners.
- Baked potato skin chips – mouthwateringly thin, crispy, and homemade.
Are Potato Skins Good For You?
Potato skins contain lots of nutrients and health benefits; this is also true of the flesh of potatoes.
Skins and flesh have the same protein content. This means that eating a potato with the skin doubles the protein content.
Some nutrients are denser in the skin and some more abundant in the tuber itself. For the utmost benefit, eat the whole spud, skin-and-all.
Below is a list of the beneficial minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants present in potatoes and potato peel.
- Iron: Potato skin possesses 80% more iron than potato flesh. Iron helps improve the oxygen levels in the body, assists the nervous system, and fights harmful pathogens.
- Fiber: Potato skin contains a third to half of the fiber contents of a whole potato. This is helpful for digestive issues.
- Antioxidants: Potato skins and flesh have antioxidant compounds like anthocyanins, carotenoids, flavonoids, and phenols. These have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy, and immunity-boosting properties.
- Vitamin C: Potato peels and flesh has about the identical amounts of this essential vitamin. Vitamin C helps with the body’s immunity, fights inflammation, and enhances the absorption of other nutrients.
- Vitamin B-6: Potato peel adds 30 – 40 %, and the potato flesh provides 60 – 70 %.
- Thiamin: Potato peel adds 30 – 40 % of this micronutrient containing Vitamin B-1. Potato flesh provides 60 – 70 % of the Thiamin content.
- Niacin: Potato skins and flesh contains the same amount of this antioxidant compound containing vitamin B-3. Niacin helps to lower high cholesterol and break down nutrients for energy.
- Potassium & Magnesium: 40% of these minerals are in the skin, and 60% are provided by the potato’s flesh. These minerals maintain nerve and muscle health and balance blood pressure.
- Calcium: The potato skins contain seven times more bone-building Calcium than the potato tuber.
- Riboflavin: Peels add five times more of this source of Vitamin B-2 than potato flesh. Riboflavin helps with energy production.
What Is The Easiest Way To Remove Potato Skins?
Potato skins can be removed effectively with vegetable peelers. Peelers are available in y-shapes with the blades perpendicular to the handles and swivel peelers with the blades as an extension of the handles. Some people prefer a sharp paring knife with a smooth or serrated edge.
Here is an easy way to remove potato skins AFTER cooking:
Wash and score a line through the potato’s skin right around the long side of the spud. Any sharp knife will do this perfectly well. Boil for 15 minutes and then cool in a bowl of cold water. Remove the potatoes and see how easily the peels drop off.
Electric peelers sporting the hands-free approach are helpful if your hands are impaired by arthritis or other conditions. Starfrit produces an electric peeler that can also run on a battery.
Peeling Vs. Washing Potatoes
Washing potatoes is faster than peeling and will give you the extra benefit of the nutrients and fiber in the skins. Peeling potatoes is best for when you need a smooth potato dish, like in mash.
When cooking with skins, always thoroughly wash and scrub your potatoes lightly with a brush. Potatoes that you plan to peel can be washed after peeling if they are semi-clean.
Keep in mind that peeled potatoes will start discoloring when exposed to air. Simply fill a saucepan with water and let the peeled potatoes soak until you need them. Dry the chips well if you are making French fries.
Soaking potatoes in salt water can make crispier potatoes, see why in my post, what does soaking potatoes in salt water do?
What Can You Do With Potato Peels?
Potato peels are incredibly versatile.
- Use them for a skin or scalp treatment or for removing warts.
- It provides a valuable addition to compost and worm bins.
- Peels can be used to season a new cast-iron pot and to remove rust from old pots.
- You can even brew some homemade vodka by using potato peels.
- Follow this link for more revolutionary potato peel ideas.
Hopefully, now you know all about whether peeling potatoes is really necessary. On most dishes I prefer to keep the skins on for the extra texture, and only peel them on a few select dishes.
Try and leave the potato peels on when next you make a potato dish. It will probably taste better than peeling them and add more health benefits.