How to Store Potatoes to Max Out Their Shelf Life, According to Our Test Kitchen

Including the method for keeping potatoes for up to 1 year. (Yes, really!)

Once you’ve gathered your Russets (or fingerlings, or Yukon golds, or red potatoes…) at the farmers market or grocery store, the conditions they call home until you cook with them make a huge difference in the shelf life of your spuds. To help you master how to store potatoes like a pro, we asked Sarah Brekke, M.S., Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen culinary specialist, to help us dig into this topic.

<p>Getty Images / wmaster890</p>

Getty Images / wmaster890

How to Choose Potatoes

No matter what variety of potato you’re picking out, seek out tubers that are firm with smooth skins that aren’t overly green, Brekke says. Ideally, they’ll have no cuts, discolored portions, or bruises. You don’t need to sweat it if you see a potato or two in your bag that has a bruise or two, though. The U.S. Potato Board suggests simply using a knife to remove any blemishes right before you plan to cook them.

That being said, if you spy any soft spots, mold, or severe damage, it’s wise to compost now. This will free up precious storage space and will preserve the health of the other potatoes. A rotten potato can spoil the whole bunch, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Related: 6 Ways to Cook Perfect Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

How to Store Potatoes Whole

It can be tempting to check an item off your to-do list and wash your produce right when you bring it home. But press pause: Potatoes, like nearly every other fruit and vegetable, lasts the longest if you wait to wash it right before using.

“Any introduction of moisture to a potato will just encourage any bacteria or fungus to grow on the skin of the potato, decreasing its shelf life,” Brekke says. When the time comes, “a simple scrub with water and a vegetable brush will usually do the trick. Really dirty potatoes might require a short soak to help loosen some of that dirt before scrubbing.”

If you grow your own potatoes, feel free to use your hands to brush off the larger pieces of dirt from the exterior, but don’t wash them before storing.

With your dry roots at the ready, follow these pointers for how to store potatoes.

  • Go dark. A pantry, basement, or root cellar—if you’re lucky enough to have one—are all terrific options. Potatoes are plants, and are actually still alive when they’re picked, the Idaho Potato Commission confirms. So when they’re exposed to sunlight, they will start to emit chlorophyll. Green potatoes tend to wrinkle and rot far more rapidly.

  • Dial in the temp. You’re aiming for the “Goldilocks” temperature of between 45° F and 50° F. Too hot, and they’ll spoil faster. Too cold, which a refrigerator definitely is, and the starch in potatoes will start to convert into sugar. In addition to tasting sweeter than you’re used to, refrigerated potatoes tend to discolor when cooked.

  • Allow for air flow. A basket or mesh produce bag (try hanging it over a doorknob or other above-ground object) is ideal, Brekke says. Or try an open-topped cardboard box. If the plastic bag you purchase them in comes with air flow holes, which many do, feel free to keep the potatoes in there—just loosen the seal to allow for more air and moisture to enter and exit.

  • Avoid these fresh potato foes. Keep potatoes separated from their ethylene-producing produce peers. Check out our guide to fruits and vegetables you should never store together for a cheat sheet.

Potatoes stored in these conditions should last for several weeks and up to a few months, Brekke says. You can store potatoes at room temperature; just plan to use them within about 1 week, the Idaho Potato Commission recommends.

If potatoes start to sprout during that time, you can still use them. Simply use a knife to trim away the sprout and any green areas of flesh, then cook as desired.

“The presence of potato sprouts does not indicate spoilage, but because the potato is putting energy into sprouting, the nutrients in the potato are beginning to decline—and so is the shelf life. Use the sprouted potatoes first in your recipes,” Brekke advises.

So how do you know if your spuds are spoiled? Watch for what Brekke deems are telltale signs of not-so-hot potatoes:

  • Soft spots

  • Shriveled or wrinkled skin

  • An unpleasant odor

Related: 33 Fruits and Veggies You Should Refrigerate and 7 You Shouldn’t

How to Store Peeled Potatoes and Cut Potatoes

As we mentioned, it’s best to wash, peel (if you plan to), and slice your potatoes just before you plan to put them to work in your favorite potato recipes. However, we get that in some instances, some early meal prep can really help save the day.

The Idaho Potato Commission gives you permission to peel and even cube your potatoes up to 24 hours in advance. Submerge the peeled whole potatoes or cubed potatoes in a big bowl of water. Cover the bowl, refrigerate, and cook the prepared potatoes within 1 day.

Test Kitchen Tip: Add a 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to every gallon of water to help prevent oxidation that can cause peeled and cut potatoes to turn brown.

How to Store Potatoes For Up to a Year

If you think you won’t make it through your potatoes before they’re past their prime, get a jump on your bounty and put them on ice. As you might guess due to the ubiquitous nature of frozen hash brown potatoes, freezing potatoes works quite well…as long as you prep for success. The key step? Blanching, which essentially turns off the enzymes that degrade texture and alter color, the U.S. Potato Board says.

To freeze potatoes, peel and cut the potatoes into the shape you plan to use them, such as slices, cubes, or shreds. Place the potato pieces in a bowl of cold water with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar.

Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat. As soon as it boils, reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer. Add the cut potatoes to the pot, cooking until they’re not raw but also not fully cooked; about 5 minutes.

Test Kitchen Tip: If cubed or sliced, you should still notice a bit of resistance when you poke the potato pieces with a fork.

Transfer the par-cooked potatoes to a colander to drain off the water.

Spray sheet pans with non-stick spray, then scatter the blanched potatoes to distribute them evenly. Pop the pan in the refrigerator until the potatoes are cool enough to handle. Season as desired, then transfer the pan to the freezer and allow to chill overnight. Place the seasoned potatoes into a freezer-safe zip-top bag, label and date, and freeze for 10 to 12 months.

How about if you’ve already cooked the potatoes? Can you freeze them then? In most cases, yes, leftover mashed potatoes can be frozen for up to 2 months. Here’s how.

Now that you’re a whiz at the best options for how to store potatoes, you’re all set to create any and all of our top-rated tuber recipes. If you’re crunched for time, turn to these 12 healthy potato side dishes and soup recipes you can make in a snap. For the coziest comfort food, flex your skills at trendy Fondant Potatoes, these grandma-approved mashed potato recipes, or silky potato soup. And when potluck season rolls around, these 19 potato salad recipes are tough to beat.

For more Better Homes & Gardens news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Better Homes & Gardens.