Myth busted! Refrigerate your potatoes!
In this article, you’ll learn:
- When to store potatoes in the refrigerator
- If the potato turns green, is it safe to eat?
- Is it safe to eat if potato has sprouted?
Did you know that potatoes have a “season” – just like any other fruit or vegetable? Potatoes harvested at the prime season will store much longer (and taste better, especially new potatoes!) Potatoes are 80% water, and even after harvesting, they are still “living”, taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. That means potatoes store better in 80-90% humidity, at between 42F-55F.
When to refrigerate potatoes
How to store new potatoes
New potatoes – best in early summer. Store new potatoes in the refrigerator. First, remove the potatoes from the netting that you purchased them in. Refrigerator crisper drawers, are 95% humidity, so it’s best to toss the potatoes in a large brown paper bag and keep them out of the crisper drawer. The paper bag will absorb excess moisture but will still allow air to circulate. Alternatively, you can wrap the potatoes loosely in newspaper.
How to store russet and other mature potatoes
All other potatoes are best in late summer, fall and early winter. Potatoes purchased in this peak season will store much longer. Don’t wash the potatoes until you are ready to cook. Dampness encourages bacterial growth and rotting.
Store in a cool, dark, humid (but not wet or damp) place – the ideal temperature is 42F-55F.
Can I store mature potatoes in the refrigerator?
If your home is too warm, it might be better to store the potatoes in the refrigerator. Warmer environment will cause the potatoes to sprout faster.
Refrigeration will cause some of the starch to turn into sugar (resulting in a sweeter potato), but it also discolors the potatoes to a dark brown when fried. If you are planning to fry the potatoes (potato chips or french fries), don’t store them in the refrigerator.
If you are planning to boil, steam, bake or roast, refrigerating will be fine, as the potatoes won’t discolor. That is why new potatoes are fine refrigerated – those type of potatoes are generally roasted or boiled.
How to store potatoes in refrigerator
Remove the potatoes from the bag it was purchased in. The plastic bag will trap too much moisture. Toss the potatoes in a brown paper bag to allow air circulation, but to also keep the potatoes from the light. Skip the crisper drawer (humidity is too high) and just place on the top shelf.
Can I store potatoes and onions together?
There is a ton of research on the effect of ethylene on potatoes. Unfortunately some of the research is conflicting! The most comprehensive and controlled research found that short exposure of ethylene caused increased sprouting. It is best to keep onions and potatoes separate. In fact, keep all fruit away from potatoes.
Storing potatoes outside refrigerator
In the winter, I’ve found the best way to keep mature potatoes is in a wicker basket, in the garage. We live in Las Vegas, so the winters are mild. But since our climate is dry, I keep the potatoes in the perforated plastic bag that it was purchased in to increase humidity. Do not use plastic bags that are not perforated (the potatoes still need airflow). Cover the bag of potatoes with a small piece of cotton cloth or newspaper. Another enemy of potatoes is light. Light will turn the potatoes green and hasten the spoilage. See below for more information on potatoes turning green.
If your environment is humid, remove the potatoes from the bag, which would trap too much moisture. If you have freezing temperatures, the garage will be too cold. Store the potatoes elsewhere in the house, maybe in an unheated area of the house, like the entry closet.
In the summertime, if I’m planning on making french fries or potato chips, I’ll just buy enough potato for that particular dish, and leave it out on my counter, covered with a cloth, until ready to use.
How to store sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes like slightly warmer temperatures, between 55F-60F, at 80% humidity. Keep them unwashed, throw them in a large brown paper bag or a cardboard box, and store in a cool, dark place.
Avoid storing in refrigerator, or any temperature lower than 50F – the cold will turn the sweet potato hard in the center. Properly cured and stored sweet potatoes can last up to 6 months!
Is green on potato safe to eat?
Potatoes turn green, accumulating chlorophyll, when exposed to too much light or sunlight. The chemical compound that forms during the greening is called solanine. It tastes bitter, and in large quantities, it can make you really sick. Solanine is toxic – it’s the plant’s natural mechanism for pest control. When growing potatoes are exposed to sunlight, solanine will prevent animals or insects from eating the uncovered tuber.
If you see a little bit of green on a potato, you can just slice the green part off. If the green covers most of the potato, it’s best to just discard.
Are sprouted potatoes safe to eat?
Yes, but they might not taste good. If the potato is still firm, just cut off the sprouted parts and proceed. If the potato is soft and wrinkly, throw it away.
What is the black crusty dirt on the potato?
It’s actually not dirt. The black stuff that seems so hard to scrub out of the little eyes and on the surface is actually fungus.
The potato industry calls it “Black Scurf.” It’s perfectly safe to eat. It’s just not pretty. Just try to scrub as much of it off as you can.
What is the hole in the middle of the potato?
If you’ve ever cut open a potato and found a small hole in the middle, sometimes black or brown, you probably thought the potato rotted, or perhaps a bug ate its way through.
But actually, the hole and discoloration, called “hollow heart,” is caused by environmental stresses, like sudden change in weather, too much rain or nutritional deficiency.
It’s safe to eat. Just cut the hole or discoloration away.
Oxford Journals Research
University of Idaho Extension: Options for Storing Potatoes at Home
Plant Physiology: Effects of Ethylene on Potatoes
University of Idaho: About potatoes
Vegetable MD Online: Black Scurf
University of Florida Extension: Hollow Heart
North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission
Favorite potato tools
My favorite peeler is the Oxo brand. The set of 3 featured below is actually a really good price. Usually just one of the peelers will sell for about $8.99. I also like the lightweight Kuhn Rikon, however, you MUST handwash the peeler and dry immediately. They tend to rust.
To make mashed potatoes, there are two different tools that I use. The more traditional mashing tool is the fast ‘n easy mashed potatoes that is a little chunky. Sometimes I like to leave the skin on the potatoes. The Oxo brand has a nice grip, which makes it so much easier to use. I’m not a fan of these types of mashers – too hard to use and clean!
If I’m in the mood for smooth, creamy mashed potato, then I’ll use a ricer. (Here’s my recipe for the Very Best Mashed Potato – a technique that I learned from a chef and only uses 2 ingredients!) The first potato ricer that I bought is horrible – I would not recommend this one – hard to clean, hard to use, awkward angle. Recently, I bought a Cooks Illustrated recommended model, the RSVP Ricer. Love it. Easy on the hands and super easy to clean with interchangeable and removeable plates (course and fine).
My favorite potato recipes
Roasting new potatoes
New potatoes are best simply roasted. Preheat your oven to 450F. Cut any new potatoes that are 2″ in diameter in half, so that the potatoes are similar in size. On a baking sheet, toss the potatoes with a bit of olive oil. Roast for 30-40 minutes (depends on size of your potatoes.) Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
If you like garlicky new potatoes, in a large bowl, add a couple cloves of minced garlic (using a garlic press will give you the best results, as it will smush the garlic better), olive oil, minced fresh rosemary or thyme (don’t use dried herbs, just doesn’t taste the same in this dish). Toss the potatoes in this mixture with your hands until all potatoes are coated. Then roast following above. Season with salt after potatoes are done.
More potato recipes
Herbed New Potatoes – Food & Wine
Garlic and Cumin New Potatoes – Betty Crocker
Butter Steamed New Potatoes – Deep Dish South
Crash Hot Potatoes – The Pioneer Woman