Potatoes are a staple in many cultures and have been enjoyed for over 10,000 years.
In addition to being rich in potassium, they’re a great source of carbs and fiber.
These tasty tubers can be prepared in many ways, but they are typically baked, boiled, roasted, fried, or dehydrated.
Proper storage can extend their shelf life and prevent unnecessary waste.
This article reviews the best storage techniques and includes tips for selecting the freshest potatoes.
Store raw potatoes in a cool place
Storage temperature has a significant impact on how long potatoes will last.
When stored between 43–50°F (6–10°C), raw potatoes will keep for many months without spoiling.
This temperature range is slightly warmer than refrigeration and can be found in cool cellars, basements, garages, or sheds.
Storing potatoes in these conditions can help delay the formation of sprouts on the skin, one of the first signs of spoilage.
One study found that storing potatoes in cool temperatures more than quadrupled their shelf life, compared to storing them at room temperature.
Storing at lower temperatures also helps preserve their vitamin C content.
Research showed that potatoes stored in cool temperatures maintained up to 90% of their vitamin C content for four months, while those stored in warmer room temperatures lost almost 20% of their vitamin C after one month.
Storing at temperatures slightly above refrigeration is a great way to extend shelf life and maintain vitamin C content.
Summary: Storing potatoes in a cool place helps slow their rate of sprouting and maintains their vitamin C content.
Keep potatoes away from light
Sunlight or fluorescent light can cause potato skins to produce chlorophyll and turn an undesirable green color.
While the chlorophyll that turns skins green is harmless, sun exposure can produce large amounts of a toxic chemical called solanine.
Many people discard green potatoes due to their higher solanine levels.
Solanine creates a bitter taste and causes a burning sensation in the mouths or throats of people who are sensitive to it.
Solanine is also toxic to humans when consumed in very high quantities and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. A few cases of death have even been reported.
However, many countries have mandatory guidelines that limit the amount of solanine in commercial potatoes to under 91 mg per pound (200 mg/kg), so this is not a common concern.
Solanine is almost exclusively located in the peel and first 1/8th inch (3.2 mm) of the flesh. Paring the skin and underlying green flesh can remove most of it.
Summary: Storing potatoes in the dark prevents them from turning green and developing a high solanine content, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea when consumed in high quantities.
Don’t store raw potatoes in the fridge or freezer
While cool temperatures are ideal for potato storage, refrigeration and freezing are not.
Very low temperatures can cause “cold-induced sweetening.” This happens when some of the starch is converted to reducing sugars.
Reducing sugars can form carcinogenic substances, known as acrylamides, when fried or exposed to very high cooking temperatures, so it’s best to keep levels low.
Uncooked potatoes should also never be stored in the freezer.
When exposed to freezing temperatures, the water inside potatoes expands and forms crystals that break down the cell wall structures. This makes them mushy and unusable when defrosted.
Raw potatoes can also turn brown when exposed to air in the freezer.
This is because the enzymes that cause browning are still active in the potato, even under freezing temperatures.
It’s okay to freeze them once they are fully or partially cooked, as the cooking process deactivates the browning enzymes and prevents them from discoloring.
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Summary: Raw potatoes shouldn’t be kept in the refrigerator, as cold temperatures increase the amounts of reducing sugars and make them more carcinogenic when fried or roasted. They should also not be frozen, as they will become mushy and brown after defrosting.
Place potatoes in an open bowl or paper bag
Potatoes need airflow to prevent the accumulation of moisture, which can lead to spoilage.
The best way to allow free circulation of air is to store them in an open bowl or paper bag.
Do not store them in a sealed container without ventilation, such as a zipped plastic bag or lidded glassware.
Without air circulation, the moisture released from the potatoes will collect inside the container and promote the growth of mold and bacteria.
Summary: To help your potatoes last longer, keep them in an open bowl, paper bag, or another container with holes for ventilation. This helps prevent moisture accumulation, which leads to spoiling.
Don’t wash the potatoes before storing
Since potatoes are grown underground, they often have dirt on their skins.
While it may be tempting to rinse off the dirt before storing, they will last longer if you keep them dry.
This is because washing adds moisture, which promotes the growth of fungus and bacteria.
Wait until you are ready to use them, then rinse and scrub them with a vegetable brush to remove any remaining dirt.
If pesticides are a concern, rinsing with a 10% vinegar or salt solution can remove more than twice as much residue as water alone.
Summary: Potatoes will last much longer if they remain dry during storage and are not washed until they’re ready to be used. Washing with a salt or vinegar solution can help remove more pesticide residue than water alone.
Keep potatoes away from other produce
Many fruits and vegetables release ethylene gas as they ripen, which helps soften the fruit and increase its sugar content.
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If stored nearby, ripening produce can make raw potatoes sprout and soften more quickly.
Therefore, don’t store potatoes near ripening fruits and vegetables, especially bananas, apples, onions, and tomatoes, as they release relatively large amounts of ethylene.
While no studies have looked at how far potatoes should be kept from ripening fruits or vegetables, storing at opposite ends of a cool, dark, well-ventilated pantry is likely effective.
Summary: Store potatoes away from ripening produce, especially bananas, tomatoes, and onions, since the ethylene gas they release can make the potatoes sprout more quickly.
Cure homegrown potatoes before storing
Most people purchase potatoes from their local market, but if you grow your own, “curing” before storing will extend their shelf life.
Curing involves storing at moderately high temperatures, typically around 65°F ( 18°C), and 85–95% humidity levels for two weeks.
You can use a small dark closet or empty stand-up shower with a space heater and bowl of water, or an empty oven left slightly ajar, lit with a 40-watt light bulb for heat and a bowl of water for humidity.
These conditions allow the skins to thicken and help heal any minor injuries that may have occurred during harvesting, reducing the chances of decay during storage.
Cured potatoes can be kept in a cool, dark place with good ventilation for long-term storage.
Summary: Freshly picked potatoes should be “cured” in warmer temperatures and high humidity for a few weeks to allow the skin to thicken and blemishes to heal. This helps extend their storage life.
Store raw slices of potatoes in water for up to one day
Once peeled and sliced, raw potatoes quickly discolor when exposed to air.
This is because they contain an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, which reacts with oxygen and turns the flesh a grey or brownish color.
You can prevent discoloration by covering peeled and cut slices with an inch or two of water and refrigerating them until you’re ready to use them.
The water protects them from the air and prevents enzymatic browning.
However, if left in water for more than 24 hours, they can absorb too much water and become soggy and tasteless. Only use this technique for potatoes that will be cooked the same day.
For longer storage, consider vacuum packing, a technique in which all the air is removed from a package and it’s tightly sealed.
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Vacuum-packed potatoes will last up to one week in the refrigerator.
Summary: Raw potatoes turn brown or grey when exposed to air, so they should be cooked quickly or stored in water until ready to use. If keeping them longer than one day after prepping, remove them from the water, vacuum pack them, and store them in the fridge.
Store cooked leftovers in the refrigerator for three or four days
Cooked potatoes will last for several days in the refrigerator.
However, leftovers may become watery or gummy, since potato starches change shape and release water as they cool.
Cooking and cooling also increase the formation of resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that humans cannot digest and absorb.
This can be a good thing for those with blood sugar issues since it reduces the glycemic index by about 25% and causes a much smaller spike in blood sugar after eating.
Resistant starch also promotes gut health, since gut bacteria ferment it and produce short-chain fatty acids, which help keep the lining of your large intestine healthy and strong.
While cooked and cooled potatoes have some health benefits, they should be eaten within three or four days to avoid spoilage and food poisoning.
Summary: Cooked potatoes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. The cooling process increases the formation of resistant starch, which has a smaller impact on blood sugar levels and promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Store cooked leftovers in the freezer for up to one year
If you don’t plan on eating cooked potatoes within a few days, it’s best to store them in the freezer.
Cooked leftovers can be stored in the freezer without browning since cooking destroys the enzymes responsible for discoloration.
Like all frozen products, leftover potatoes will last the longest if they are protected from the air while in the freezer.
Use a plastic bag or storage container and press all the air out of it before sealing.
Research shows that frozen, cooked potato products can last up to one year without any significant changes in quality.
When you’re ready to eat them, let them defrost in the refrigerator overnight before heating and serving. This results in a better texture than defrosting in a microwave.
Summary: Leftover cooked potatoes can be stored in the freezer for up to one year. Store in airtight containers to preserve quality and defrost overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Tips for selecting the best potatoes
Potatoes will last the longest if they are fresh and healthy when purchased.
When selecting, look for the following characteristics:
- Firm to the touch: Soft potatoes have already begun to degrade, so look for firm, bright qualities.
- Smooth skin: Potatoes that have been damaged by cold temperatures may develop pitted skin and brown centers, so look for smooth textures.
- Free of bruises or injuries: Sometimes potatoes can be damaged during harvest or transport. Avoid those with visible injuries, as they will spoil more quickly.
- No sprouting: Sprouts are one of the first indicators of spoilage, so avoid purchasing any that have already sprouted.
You may also consider trying some of the more exotic potato varieties, such as those with blue or purple flesh.
Studies show that vibrantly colored varieties contain much larger amounts of antioxidants than traditional white potatoes.
Summary: Fresh and healthy potatoes last the longest, so look for firm smooth ones without any blemishes or sprouts. Consider trying blue or purple varieties, as they contain high antioxidants levels.
Knowing the best ways to store potatoes can extend their shelf life and reduce food waste.
Store uncooked potatoes in a cool, dark place with plenty of air circulation — not in the refrigerator.
Prevent cut and peeled slices from browning by covering them with water or vacuum sealing.
Cooked potatoes can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days, or in an airtight container in the freezer for up to one year.
In regards to homegrown potatoes, cure them briefly at warmer temperatures and high humidity before long-term storage.
Regardless of storage method, potatoes will last longer if they are fresh and healthy when purchased, so look for firm, smooth, blemish-free tubers with no signs of sprouting.
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