I once saw a cross stitch piece that said, "I am thankful for all the ways I can eat potatoes," and thought that it was speaking directly to me. There are so many delicious ways you can enjoy potatoes, from the classics like French fries or a baked potato in the oven, to . . . well . . . even more classics like hash browns, home fries, and potato pancakes! It seems like we'll never run out of delicious ideas for potatoes, and I, for one, am not complaining. The unfortunate part is there are a lot of potato recipes that seem impossible to get right at home! Sure, baked potatoes are fairly simple, but have you ever tried homemade home fries? They always end up a little mushier than you want, at least in my kitchen! Luckily, I have recently been researching a new method that will keep this from happening: parboiling! If you haven't heard of parboiling, or are just starting to learn about this process, you're in luck! Whether you are looking to roast baby potatoes or are trying to make scalloped potatoes, there are many ways parboiling can help with the cooking process. Today, we are compiling all the must-have info and tricks to get the perfect parboil every time, and why on earth you would even want that! Keep reading to get the scoop on how to parboil potatoes to celebrate even more potato variations at home.
What Is Parboiling?
Parboiling is a blended word that takes "partial" and "boiling" and basically smashes them together, because that is what parboiling is: partially boiling something. It involves the process of boiling potatoes until they are partially cooked, but not all the way. Parboiling potatoes allows you to get crispy roasted potatoes that have a nice crust on the outside while being soft on the inside. Some people confuse parboiling with blanching, but in fact these are two separate cooking methods with two different uses! When blanching, you bring the water to a boil and then immediately remove the potatoes (or whatever else you are blanching) from the hot water and soak it in ice cold water. This effectively ends the cooking process right after the food is removed from the hot water and ensures a swift, specific type of cooking. Parboiling, on the other hand, takes a few minutes longer, and cooks your food more thoroughly. Parboiling is almost always combined with a second cooking method, since you're only partially cooking your potatoes! Whether you go for a grilled potato or crispy sliced potato, parboiling is the perfect way to cook your potato exactly how you want it.
How to Parboil Potatoes
Parboiling is pretty much as easy as it sounds. You simply boil your raw potato with a little kosher salt until they are partially cooked through. You can decide whether or not you prefer to parboil your potatoes whole, or peeled and diced--either will have a similar effect, but if you start with them diced, you do not need to boil them as long.
- Start by placing your potatoes in your pot and then covering them with clean, cold water.
- Throw in a pinch of kosher salt, cover the pot with a lid, and then turn the stove on high heat.
- Once the water starts to boil, reduce the heat slightly to keep it from boiling over (or just remove the lid), and continue boiling for about 5-10 minutes--shorter if you are using diced or sliced potatoes and longer if you left them whole.
- Test your potatoes with a fork or the tip of a sharp knife--if it goes in with only slight resistance, you’re done.
- Remove the boiled potatoes from the heat, drain your pot of the excess water, and let them cool a little before moving to your next step, no matter what that next step is. And voila, your potatoes are now parboiled!
- Your parboiled potatoes can then either be cooked in the oven or in a fryer up to two days after you parboil them.
Why Do You Parboil Potatoes?
Now that we have the method part down, let us explore the reasoning behind the methods. Why on earth do you need to partially cook your potatoes before you fully cook them? Do they need practice cooking or something? Not quite. There are actually quite a few reasons why you may choose to parboil your potatoes before cooking them in the oven or fryer.
Parboiling Makes Potatoes Crunchier
Earlier, I mentioned those mushy home fries that I used to make in my own kitchen, in contrast to the deliciously crispy ones I used to get at brunch on Sunday morning! One of the main reasons for this is parboiling. Potatoes are extremely starchy, as you may know, which makes them really tough to break down during the cooking process. One of the best ways to do this is by boiling, but obviously, boiling will not produce that delicious crunch that we are working toward. The process of parboiling your potatoes actually gets rid of a lot of the simple sugars and starches in your potatoes, and gelatinizes a layer on the surface of the potatoes. When you then transfer the potatoes into a different cooking method, this layer becomes dehydrated and browns as it cooks, creating that nice crunchy, crisp outer layer that we love to bite into!
Parboiling Makes Potatoes Cook Faster
This one has been a lifesaver to me on so many occasions since discovering parboiling. The fact is, potatoes are dense. And they take forever to cook, right? Right. Parboiling actually pre-cooks the potatoes in the easiest way, and now they will roast, bake, or sauté much faster, just to name a few of my favorite methods for cooking parboiled potatoes. I used to think that my potatoes were too soggy because I hadn’t cooked them long enough, so I would try to roast them even longer and end up with burnt (and yet somehow still soggy on the inside) potatoes. In reality, now that I have discovered parboiling, I can get that delicious crunch and save time to boot--and anything that saves time in my kitchen is a positive! This is great if you are grilling as well, because the potatoes don’t have to take up space on the grill for hours before being ready to eat!
Not only does parboiling save you time, but can help your kitchen run more efficiently and effectively as well! Because your potatoes will cook faster when parboiled, their cooking time will be more in sync with whatever other ingredients you are using. One of my biggest frustrations with putting together a vegetable medley is that they each take different lengths of time to cook properly, so you try to use a medium length of time, and end up with soggy zucchini and potatoes that are practically still cold on the inside. With parboiling, your potatoes will take much less time to cook, so your other vegetables won’t be sitting around waiting for them to be done (and neither will your family). Think of cooking a stew, soup, or casserole, for instance. If you parboil your potatoes, they will be perfectly in tune with the rest of the ingredients throughout the slower cooking process.
Sweet potatoes can actually be parboiled as well, although sweet potatoes do typically cook differently than regular potato varieties, so keep an eye on them during this process!
You Can Prep by Parboiling the Potatoes Early
As if better flavors and saved time were not enough to convince you to parboil, you can even prep your potatoes early this way. Parboiled potatoes are good for up to one to two days after you remove them from boiling. So if you have a dinner party coming up, friends coming over, or just want to get a headstart on your meal prep for the week, parboiling potatoes helps you be able to cut down on cooking time before the actual event. Simply parboil your potatoes, wrap them in an airtight container, and place them in the fridge as you would any leftovers. When you’re ready to finish cooking them, you’re ready to go with delicious potatoes every time that will cook much faster than if you started from scratch. You can even freeze potatoes after they have been parboiled, and they will last for up to two or three months! That way, an easy side dish is always ready to go when you need it.
When Not to Parboil Your Potatoes
Despite all these amazing reasons to parboil your potatoes, this is not a technique for every potato recipe--some dishes are best cooked using different methods, like mashed potatoes for instance. Mashed potatoes are already supposed to be boiled all the way through, so there’s no need to parboil them. Parboiling is typically associated with high-heat cooking methods, like baking, flash-frying, or grilling, so if you are slow roasting or twice-baking them, then you will not necessarily see benefits from parboiling.
The potato has been around for over 10,000 years, and originates here in the Americas, but it is truly remarkable the number of ways we have developed to enjoy them. No matter which version of potatoes you are enjoying--chips, crispy waffle fries, a baked potato, hash browns, or gnocchi even--you really can’t go wrong. Depending on the recipe you use, parboiling is a wonderful technique to truly get the most out of your potatoes. Try out these tips and tricks for parboiling your potatoes before your next dinner party (and make sure to freeze a few for later) and let us know what you think in the comments below!