There’s something fundamentally loveable about potatoes. Simple, hearty and dependable. As famed Chef Massimo Bottura once put it, “Not everyone can be a truffle. Most of us are potatoes. And a potato is a very good thing to be.” No matter how they’re cooked or what dish they feature in, it’s almost impossible to encounter a bad potato. By extension, it’s one of the most popular ingredients across countries and cultures. But even though potatoes are usually willing to bend and adapt to any dish or style of preparation, they do still need a little bit of TLC to get them to shine. 

There are some very common mistakes that we all make on occasion when cooking buying, storing and cooking potatoes, but with this handy guide, you can avoid some of the most common pitfalls and ensure that your potatoes get treated right. 

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6 Common Potato Mistakes To Avoid

1. Improper Storage Temperature

Mistake: Storing potatoes in the refrigerator.

Fix: If you’re keeping your spuds in the freezer, it increases the chances of the starches turning into sugar which will affect the overall texture after they’re cooked. Potatoes are best stored in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and heat. Also, be sure to store them in a ventilated bag to avoid moisture build-up which can cause them to rot.

2. Mistreating Sprouted Potatoes

Mistake: Throwing out any potatoes with sprouts

Fix: There are definitely some people who get squeamish when potatoes start to sprout, but overall they’re entirely harmless. Cut out the sprouted eyes and any green parts of the potato around it and they’ll be perfectly safe to use. The greening indicates an increase in the levels of solanine and can be very bitter (and sometimes toxic in large quantities), so if the entire potato is green, only then is it truly unusable.

3. Underseasoning

Mistake: Forgetting to season potatoes adequately.

Fix: Potatoes are inherently quite neutral in flavour and this can lead to the final dish being bland if not seasoned properly. Use plenty of salt during cooking and consider adding additional herbs or spices to enhance the flavour. Taste and adjust before serving.

4. Using the Wrong Potato for the Dish:

Mistake: Using the same potatoes for every dish.

Fix: There are dozens of potato varieties to pick from so it’s important to get the right one for your dish. The primary consideration when selecting potatoes revolves around their texture. The starch content determines whether potatoes will hold their form or disintegrate during cooking. Potatoes retaining their structure fall into the "moist, waxy" category, while those prone to breaking apart are termed "dry, mealy."

5. Cutting Potatoes Unevenly

Mistake: Cutting potatoes into uneven sizes for roasting or boiling.

Fix: While it’s a little more effort to put in, it’s definitely worth the extra few minutes it takes to cut potatoes to similar sizes. This helps to achieve consistent texture and doneness throughout the dish without any stray pieces that are over or undercooked. 

6. Over-mashing Potatoes

Mistake: Mashing your potatoes for too long to get a smoother consistency.

Fix: While it’s definitely tempting to keep mashing potatoes until you get every little lump broken down, it can easily backfire and make your potatoes gluey as the more you work the potatoes the more the starch tends to bind together. To avoid this, pass the potatoes through a ricer or wide sieve and then mash along with a splash of milk or cream to reach the perfect texture.