why soak potatoes in water before frying

Why It’s Important to Soak Potatoes in Water Before You Fry Them

Light brown and crispy on the outside and cooked and soft on the inside while being strong enough to hold its shape without being soggy or oily, this is the perfect fried potato.

Unfortunately, there are several steps you should take to ensure you get the perfect fried potato, and many people ignore it. Doing so results in soggy, oily, or even sour potatoes.

Why Soak Potatoes in Water Before Frying

Before frying your potatoes, rinse them off in cold water to remove the starch. Starch is what causes the potatoes to stick together when they hit the oil and retain more of the grease to make them soggy. To get crisper potatoes, soak them in salt water for 5 to 10 minutes before you cook them.

Even though you can buy fried potatoes relatively easily, it’s not necessarily a treat to make them. This is especially true if you start with raw potatoes. But, it’s possible for home cooks to master frying potatoes, and we’re going to outline how below.

Cutting the Potatoes Releases Starch

Water and starch make up the two main components of potatoes, and starch is a big carbohydrate that features a long change of glucose molecules in the makeup.

Potatoes have some sugars besides this, a small amount of protein, and a few other minor components. What your potato is made out of depends on how the manufacturer stored them and the potato variety.

A lot of these compounds get locked into the potato cells, but you break some of these cells when you cut them to release the ingredients.

By soaking or rinsing your potatoes before you cook them, you strip these released ingredients from the potato and stop them from interfering with the frying process.

What Happens When You Fry Potatoes

Several processes will take place when you fry your potatoes, and it starts with the water evaporating to dry out the potato a little bit.

This process is critical if you’re looking to get a crispy crust, and you’ll only get this crispiness if there is enough water taken out of the potato before you fry it.

The starch in the potatoes will cook to absorb the water and swell up. The Maillard reaction is another big process that goes on at this time too, and this is a reaction between the sugars and proteins in the potatoes that causes the potato to take on a brown coloring.

What Soaking in Salt Water Does to Potatoes

Soaking your potatoes in a saltwater bath can help them release a lot of their moisture before you cook them, and this allows them to crisp up nicely when you cook them in the oven without overcooking.

You should soak your potatoes in a saltwater mixture for 15 minutes before removing them from the water and drying them thoroughly on paper towels.

Heat your oil in your deep fryer to 375-degrees, add your potatoes, and cook them for five to six minutes until they’re golden brown.

Why You Should Soak Potatoes in Water Before Frying Them

Soaking your potatoes in water before you cook them will help you get a crisp texture because it pulls the starch out to make them more rigid.

The cook will fry them twice to blanch them until they’re slightly limp in 325-degree oil before frying them a second time until they get brown and crisp in 375-degree oil.

If you don’t soak the potatoes before you fry them, you won’t remove the excess sugars or starch, and this will cause them to stick when you fry them.

You’ll still get fried potatoes, but they won’t be the very crispy ones on the outside with a done, soft inside.

How to Pick a Potato Variety for Frying

Potato processors and breeders have done a lot of research and work to create the best potato for frying. Potatoes have to pass different criteria to determine whether or not they’ll be a good contender for frying.

  • High Starch Content and Dry Matter – Potatoes that work well for frying should have larger amounts of starch and dry matter between 14% and 18%.
  • Low Sugar Content – Too much sugar in your chosen potato can cause them to turn too brown during the frying process, so they look burnt.
  • Color – What color you want your fried potato to be will likely depend on your location and what you’re used to eating. People in the United States usually like a lightly fried potato while people in Europe like more yellow-tinted fried potatoes.

Common Potato Varieties That are Good for Frying

There are several common potato varieties that fry up nice each time you try them as long as you soak them first. They include:

  • Agria
  • Bannock Russet
  • Bintje
  • Fontane
  • Innovator
  • Kennebec
  • Maris Piper
  • Marlen
  • Russet Burbank
  • Santana
  • Victoria

How to Pick a Suitable Oil

You need potatoes and oil to fry them, and you usually fry them twice to get the best results. You want to make sure you pick out a high-quality oil that won’t burn or get too dark when you fry your potatoes, and this will help keep your potatoes light and crisp.

Oil Stability

Your oil should be stable at 355-degrees to 390-degrees Fahrenheit because this is the level that you’ll fry your potatoes at. An oil’s smoke point will determine whether or not it’s stable, and the oil will literally start to smoke at this point.

The smoke appears when triglycerides in the oil’s fat start to break down, and you can look at your oil’s general information to find the smoke point to decide if it’s a good pick or not.

Oil Flavor

You should also take the oil’s flavor into account when you shop because some oil, like sesame oil, can be stable but have a very strong flavor profile.

If you don’t want your fried potatoes to taste like the oil you used to fry them, it’s best to avoid these strong-flavored oils.

You should also keep in mind that the type of oil you use can impact the taste right at the start, but it can also impact the final flavor of your food.

Keeping these two factors at the forefront of your mind, a few examples of oils that you can use to fry your potatoes without a problem include sunflower, peanut, and soybean oil.

You want to avoid margarine, butter, and virgin olive oil due to the flavor and stability issues.

Avocado and sesame oil are also less desired for this process because they have stronger flavors attached to them that can leach into your food.

Bottom Line

You soak your potatoes in water before you fry them to help pull out starch, so they dry out slightly and crisp up better.

We also outlined soaking in salt water and what to look for when you start picking out the perfect oil to fry your potatoes in.

You can take this information, pick out the best type of potato, and fry them to create a nice side dish for your next meal.

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