Ah, the humble potato. It’s an incredibly classic ingredient that’s equally at home as a side dish or as part of the main meal. Potatoes have also got a pretty bad rap lately. That’s partly because of their high starch content and partly because we keep deep frying them or smothering them in butter and cheese.
Yet, potatoes themselves are surprisingly healthy. They contain a decent collection of nutrients and are a fantastic way to balance out a meal. You’ll often find yourself serving a potato dish with something protein heavy (like steak) and some delicious greens (like a salad or perhaps green beans).
Potatoes have a decent shelf life, but even so, you might find that you have too many on your hands. Plus, if you live somewhere hot and humid, your potatoes may go bad surprisingly fast. In either case, learning how to freeze potatoes is a powerful approach.
Frozen potatoes can also be a time saver, especially if you cut them into the right size and shape before freezing. Once everything is set up, you can simply throw the potatoes in a pot when it’s time to use them.
The process of freezing potatoes starts with prepping your potatoes, boiling them on the stovetop, then dropping them straight into ice water. This approach is known as blanching and the ice water stops the cooking process immediately. Blanching the potatoes is essential for giving you the right flavor and texture. Otherwise, your potatoes will end up grainy and discolored.
How To Freeze Potatoes
Steps For Freezing Potatoes
Before you do anything, it’s important to think about how you’ll use the potatoes later. Do you plan to make mashed potatoes, wedges, or fries? Are you going to use the potatoes in a stew?
Your planned use will determine the size and shape of your potato pieces. If you have multiple uses in mind, you could freeze different potato shapes in separate bags. Later on, you’ll be able to grab the bag that best matches your needs.
Clean And Cut Your Potatoes
Once you know how the potatoes will be used, it’s time to clean them and cut them to size. You might remove the skin at this point or leave it on. Either style works and potato skin freezes without a problem.
If you’re making mashed potatoes, small pieces are best, as these cook the fastest. For other situations, think about the size you normally use. This is particularly true for wedges, as some people like large thick wedges, while others prefer small ones instead.
You might use a tool here, like an apple corer to get the wedges the shape you want. Simply use the same approaches you would if you were about to prepare a full meal.
The next step is blanching. This means you start the cooking process, then dump your potatoes in ice water to quickly arrest the cooking process. For some vegetables, like spinach and even zucchini, blanching is a short process and can even be skipped if you wish. For potatoes, the process is essential.
Specifically, you dump your potatoes in a pot of boiling water like normal and allow them to cook for around five minutes. Then you quickly drain the potatoes and throw them in a bowl with ice and cold water.
Blanching stops some natural enzyme reactions in potatoes, helping the potatoes to retain their color and texture after freezing. Because of the size and water content of potatoes, they should be blanched for at least three minutes, although five minutes is more common.
You can even blanch the potatoes for longer than this. Doing so partially cooks them and may give you better results.
Pay attention to the size when you’re thinking about blanching time. For example, small wedges are going to need less blanching than large ones. Hash browns require barely blanching time at all.
Dry The Potatoes
Once the potatoes have cooled, it’s time to dry them. A tea towel or some paper towels should be all you need here. Doing so is important, as any excess water can quickly turn into ice crystals upon freezing.
Separate On A Baking Tray And Freeze
Instead of throwing your potatoes straight into bags, it’s best to spread them out of a baking tray first. You’ll need a tray that easily fits into your freezer, ideally a non-stick one. If you don’t have a non-stick pan, you’ll need to line it with baking paper first.
Arrange your potatoes or potato pieces on the tray so that none of them are touching. If they touch, they’ll stick together as they freeze, which can be frustrating. Once the potatoes are arranged you can place the tray in the freezer.
The baking tray has two main benefits. First, it allows you to spread the potatoes out while they freeze. If you tried using a bag instead, you’d find that the potatoes all clumped together and were difficult to separate.
Second, the tray means your potatoes will freeze faster. This is helpful too, as rapid freezing helps to retain quality (that’s why flash frozen vegetables from the grocery store are always a little better than those you freeze at home).
Bag Them Up
After a few hours, or perhaps overnight, you can take the potato pieces from your tray and bag them up. Use freezer safe bags here and make sure you label them appropriately.
A vacuum sealer works well if you have one. Vacuum sealing the potatoes will reduce your risk of freezer burn and helps with the quality. Still, doing so isn’t essential. Regular freezer bags will work fine.
What Happens If You Freeze Raw Potatoes?
While blanching and drying your potatoes adds time to the process, doing so is absolutely essential. If you try to freeze them raw, you’ll find that the water in your potatoes freezes and bursts the cell walls, giving your thawed potatoes a grainy texture.
What’s more, uncooked potatoes often end up brown or black after freezing. All in all, raw potatoes end up pretty gross if you throw them in the freezer as-is.
Freezing Fully Cooked Potatoes
You can also freeze fully cooked potatoes. This works when the potatoes have been cooked in some type of fat or oil – like with fries or wedges. Mashed potato balls are another option, as are regular mashed potatoes. These work best if the recipe includes butter or an egg.
Meals that use potatoes as an ingredient, like potato gratin and potato salad are generally a poorer choice for freezing. Here the potatoes tend to get soggy as the dish thaws and the texture is completely ruined.
Also think about the other ingredients in your recipe, as some of these may not survive freezing. For example, mayo tends to separate after freezing, ending up with a completely different texture.
If you want to freeze a complex dish, look for specific instructions. For example, potato gratin is freezable if you stop cooking it once the potatoes have just started to get tender. Then, allow the dish to cool and freeze it. You’ll then be able to thaw the potato gratin and finish cooking it later.
How To Thaw And Use Frozen Potatoes
If your potatoes were just blanched, rather than fully cooked, you’ll normally be able to use them straight from frozen. So, for mashed potatoes, you’d throw the frozen potatoes back in a pot of boiling water. For fries or wedges, you’d cook these from frozen in the oven or air fryer.
You can also add frozen potatoes to recipes, like casseroles and soups. This is true even if the recipe was designed for fresh potatoes rather than frozen ones. Just allow enough time and temperature to fully cook your potatoes.
Some situations may call for thawing potatoes first. For example, you might have frozen whole potatoes and realized you needed wedges for your recipe. Or, you may have frozen fully cooked potatoes.
As with most vegetables, it’s best to thaw your potatoes slowly, ideally in the fridge. If you need the potatoes sooner, try running cold water over the bag of potatoes. You could also immerse the bag in a cold water bath.
Many microwaves have a defrost option that can help. However, it’s important to be cautious with this, as you can easily cook your potatoes when you’re trying to defrost them.
Best Types Of Potatoes To Freeze
Different potato varieties vary in their starch and water content, leading to differences in how they freeze. High starch baking potatoes and waxy potatoes are both good types to experiment with. Yukon Gold potatoes are a great place to begin.
That said, starchy potatoes will become grainier than waxy ones, making high starch potatoes best for meals where their texture won’t be too noticeable.
Other Ways To Preserve Potatoes
Dehydrating potatoes is an easy approach, especially if you have a dehydrator at home. To make these, you’ll first need to remove any blemishes from your potatoes. You can remove the skin too if you wish, although this isn’t essential.
Once the potatoes are ready, they should be cut into even slices and plunged into water until the next step (this stops the potatoes from browning). You’ll then need to blanch the potatoes, as we talked about earlier. Don’t skip the blanching step or you’ll end up with black potatoes.
After blanching, the potatoes can be strained and laid onto the dehydrator screen, then dehydrated as normal. You can do this with shredded potatoes too.
Dehydrated potatoes can be used as-is in some casseroles. You can also rehydrate them and fry them. While the texture isn’t quite the same as fresh potatoes, these are still well-worth trying for yourself.
Freeze Dried Potatoes
If you have a freeze drying machine, you can try this approach with potatoes. Freeze dried potatoes retain most of the flavor found with regular potatoes, although they tend to be much crisper.
This crispness means that sliced freeze dried potatoes are an excellent alternative for chips. Or, you can rehydrate the potatoes and use them in your recipes.
As with other techniques, you can choose the size and style of your potato pieces. You’ll just need to ensure the potato pieces fit inside your freeze drier.
Canning is another option. Because potatoes are low in acid, you’ll need to use a pressure canner to get a safe product.
Most testing appears to have focused on canning potatoes in cubes. Other shapes or even canning small whole potatoes may be viable too, but less is known about the safety of doing so.
As with other canned food, you’ll need to take all the necessary precautions to keep your potatoes. After all, you don’t want your canned food to make you sick.
Store Them In A Cool And Dry Environment
Finally, you could take a traditional approach and store potatoes in a root cellar. Potatoes can last more than six months this way, so you can enjoy them at your leisure.
It’s best to leave your potatoes unwashed, as washing them tends to decrease their shelf life. You should also avoid storing them near onions. Onions are notable because they release a gas makes your potatoes deteriorate faster.
You’ll also need to check your potatoes regularly and remove any that are damaged or rotting. If you don’t do this, the problematic potatoes will make others spoil more quickly.