Spud-Lovers Guide to Preparing Potatoes Perfectly Every Time

There are a lot of different methods of cooking potatoes — each tastier than the next. Our beginner's guide will help you get started.

Updated December 20, 2023
plate of roasted potatoes

If I knew today would be my last day on Earth, I'm pretty sure I'd want to eat a potato at some point. With so many different methods of cooking potatoes, they're the perfect partner for all kinds of foods. At the risk of sounding like Bubba Blue waxing poetic about shrimp, you've got potato croquettes, mashed potatoes, potato dumplings, baked potatoes, french fried potatoes, scalloped potatoes... I could go on, but you get the idea. 

The humble potato is nature's perfect side dish. From the crunchy tater tot (I've never gotten over that childhood love) to an impressive Hasselback potato, there's a lot of variety when preparing potatoes. And we've got some of the most common potato preparation methods to get you started. 

Preparing Potatoes 101 — The Basics

Wait! Don't cook those potatoes just yet. You need to do a few things before you turn them into some of the most glorious foods on the planet. 

  1. Wash potatoes thoroughly with water (or in a solution of water mixed with 2 to 3 tablespoons of white vinegar to help get the dirt off them).
  2. Scrub the remaining dirt off with a vegetable scrubbing brush.
  3. Rinse the potatoes with water.
  4. Peel them if desired or slice potatoes if your recipe calls for it.

How to Bake Potatoes

baked potato with chili and cheese

When I was a little kid, I refused to eat baked potatoes (no reason... just didn't like the idea of them, apparently). Until one day, my mom asked me to try. Thus began the love affair. The humble baked potato is delicious by itself or topped with any number of incredible toppings.

  • Use our easy instructions for baking a potato.
  • Before baking, pierce washed potatoes with a fork, coat the skin with olive oil or butter, sprinkle with salt, place on a baking sheet, and cook at 425°F for about 65 minutes.
  • Air-fry your baked potato. Pierce with a fork, rub the skin with oil or butter (or bacon grease if you're feeling daring) and pop them in the air fryer at 400°F (preheat it for five minutes) for 30-40 minutes.
  • Try our yummy recipe for creamy scalloped potatoes. It's the perfect potato preparation method for special occasions.
  • Try our yummy homemade chili cheese fries. Now, that's a great way to bake a potato. 

How to Roast Potatoes

roast potatoes

Roasted potatoes get those crispy brown bits on the skin along with deep, caramelized flavors. Try our herb-roasted potatoes recipe, or use these simple instructions.

  1. Preheat your oven to 450°F.
  2. Quarter 2 pounds of potatoes during the final step of preparation.
  3. Toss with 2 tablespoons of oil and put them in a roasting pan. 
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste (I like to use truffle salt).
  5. Spread out potatoes in a single layer in the pan.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes (stirring or flipping them occasionally).

How to Microwave Potatoes

potatoes in the microwave

When you need a potato and you need it now (we understand how these tater-based emergencies can arise from time to time), might we suggest the microwave? While it's not the tastiest way of cooking potatoes, it's certainly the fastest (and it tastes just fine, thank you very much). So when life demands POTATOES NOW (!!!), turn to your friendly kitchen zapper. 

  1. Wash and scrub your potatoes to prepare them for being cooked.
  2. Prick each potato several times with a fork.
  3. Rub a little oil on the outside of each potato skin.
  4. Place the potato on a microwave-safe plate.
  5. Cook each potato on full power for 8-12 minutes, depending on the size. Check it with a fork starting at 8 minutes to make sure your potato is soft.
  6. Cut the potato lengthwise, and add your favorite fixings.
Need to Know

Once, a guy at the gym made potato juice that he brought in for everyone to try. That is, he juiced potatoes. Do not try this. Ever. It's the only way I've found so far that I do not like potatoes.

How to Boil Potatoes

boiled potatoes

Whether you're making potato salad (classic!), mashed potatoes (comforting!), or potato croquettes (fancy!), at some point, you're going to need to boil potatoes. Here's how.

  1. Scrub and rinse potatoes to prepare them for boiling.
  2. Use small whole potatoes or cut larger potatoes into smaller cubes (peel if desired).
  3. Place potatoes in a large pot and fill with water (enough to cover the tops of the potatoes).
  4. Add about 1 teaspoon of salt to the water.
  5. Bring the water to a boil using high heat.
  6. Reduce heat to low or medium-low.
  7. Cover the pot with a lid; water should be gently boiling.
  8. Simmer (gently boil) potatoes for about 15 to 25 minutes or until soft.
  9. Drain the potatoes in a colander, cool them, and add seasonings.
Helpful Hack

Here's my secret for perfect light mashed potatoes. Boil the potatoes without skin and then pass them through a potato ricer. Add melted butter, a little milk, and salt and stir to mix. 

How to Fry Potatoes

fried potato wedges

If you've ever had a French fry or a homemade potato chip, then nothing I can say will sell you even more on fried potatoes than you already are. Here's how to do it:

  1. Wash and cut potatoes into wedges, strips, or chips (peel them first if you want — although I've gotta say... I like a little peel on my fries).
  2. Either shallow fry in a large pot or deep-fry in a deep fryer using the oil of your choice. Keep the oil at between 325°F and 350°F. Fry for 5 to 6 minutes, until crispy.
  3. Drain the potatoes on a paper towel and season with salt to taste.

How to Steam Potatoes


Steaming potatoes is a great way to cook them for potato salad or mashed potatoes without waterlogging them. 

  1. Use small potatoes — peeled or unpeeled (yellow potatoes work well).
  2. Boil 1 cup of water (add a pinch of salt) in a saucepan with a steamer basket inside it.
  3. Add potatoes to the basket and steam for about 20 minutes (or until tender and the water has evaporated).
  4. Transfer potatoes to a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of butter and ¼ teaspoon of salt; toss to coat.

Spuds, Glorious Spuds

Friends, this is just the starter course for potato-cooking methods, but it's a great place to begin. Potatoes are easy to work with, delicious, and one of the most versatile ingredients in your pantry. 

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Spud-Lovers Guide to Preparing Potatoes Perfectly Every Time