How Long to Parboil Potatoes

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Potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables around the world and they can be cooked in a variety of ways. Some cooking methods benefit from parboiling the potatoes first, but how much time do you need to parboil potatoes? We've dug up the information for perfect spuds, and here's what you need to know.

You should parboil potatoes until you can pierce them easily with a knife. Starting in cold water, this usually takes 5 to 10 minutes for cut potatoes and around 15 minutes for whole potatoes. 

In this article, we'll break down how to parboil potatoes for a variety of different cooking methods, including roasting and frying. We'll also take a look at pre-cooking potatoes in the microwave, when you should and shouldn't parboil, and more! Read on to learn all about it!

Boiled young potatoes with butter and dill served in the eco coconut bowl, How Long to Parboil Potatoes

How long should you parboil potatoes before roasting?

One of the best times to parboil your potatoes is when you plan on roasting them. This helps your potatoes cook more evenly and can help you get a crispy crust with a fluffy center.

Most recipes for roast potatoes that call for parboiling follow the same advice from before. That is, start the potatoes in cold water, bring the water up to a boil, and then boil the potatoes until tender. This takes around 15 minutes for whole potatoes or 5 to 10 minutes for cut potatoes.

This takes 15 minutes in this recipe using Maris Piper potatoes from Jaime Oliver. He peels his potatoes but leaves them whole, which is why this parboiling process leans to the longer side.

Maris Piper potatoes can be hard to find in the US, but baby potatoes are a good substitute. You can also use russets, but you may want to cut them into halves or quarters for the appropriate size.

In some cases, you can get away with a very short parboil before roasting. That's the case with this recipe from the BBC's Good Food. Peel and cut potatoes into small chunks, put them in cold water, then boil them for just 2 minutes.

Roast potatoes seasoned with salt, garlic and provance herbs on wood

How long should you parboil potatoes before deep-frying?

Frying is, without a doubt, one of the most delicious ways to prepare the humble potato. However, if you've ever tried simply cutting up a potato and frying it, you may have noticed that it can turn out greasy and limp. Parboiling helps prevent that.

When parboiling potatoes for french fries, you'll want to cut them first. Once cut, boil them for 5 to 10 minutes or until tender.

This recipe from Serious Eats recommends parboiling the cut potatoes for 10 minutes before frying them twice. This helps you get perfect fries every time.

Chef John of Food Wishes offers a method that bypasses parboiling in this recipe. Instead of parboiling, you deep fry them twice, as in the recipe from Serious Eats, but in this case, the first fry is at a lower temperature and for a longer time.

You can see Chef John's process in the video below:

How long to parboil potatoes before pan-frying

While french fries are great, they aren't the only way to fry up potatoes. Pan-fried potatoes are a great side and they don't require the huge quantities of oil needed for deep-frying.

Parboil potatoes before pan-frying just as you would in any other case. Boil them until you can pierce them easily with a knife, around 15 minutes for whole potatoes and 5 to 10 minutes for cut potatoes.

">This recipe, from Tesco, calls for parboiling the potatoes whole for 15 minutes. Then, cut the potatoes into slices and fry them up with garlic, chili, oregano, and a bit of red wine vinegar.

This popular recipe on AllRecipes is more similar to the classic home fries you might have at a diner with breakfast. Again, parboil the potato whole for 15 minutes. But next, you'll cut it into cubes and fry them up with a bit of onion, green bell pepper, and paprika.

Should you parboil potatoes before baking?

Baked potatoes with butter and cheese

We've seen that you can parboil potatoes before roasting them for great results, but what about baking?

While both processes take place in the oven, roasting usually involves cut up or small potatoes while baking refers to cooking medium or large potatoes whole.

We generally recommend baking your potatoes without parboiling them. Because baked potatoes are cooked in larger portions, they have a larger volume to surface area ratio. This makes it harder for these potatoes to release steam during cooking.

Because of this, parboiled potatoes may still seem watery instead of fluffy when baked whole. Instead, you can follow a recipe like this one from Gimme Some Oven for baking your potatoes without parboiling them.

Should you parboil potatoes for potato chips?

Potato chips may well be the perfect snack. It's hard to stop eating these crisp and salty treats once you get started.

While most just buy their chips at the store, homemade potato chips are a special treat all on their own. However, this is one occasion when you won't want to parboil your potatoes first.

Potato chips need to be sliced very finely, leaving them very delicate before frying. Because of this, parboiling is simply too rough and the slices will be likely to fall apart before frying them.

Instead, it's more common to soak the sliced potatoes in cold water before frying. This doesn't accomplish the same thing as parboiling, but it does remove some excess starch from the potatoes. Besides, these thin slices cook up so fast, that there wouldn't really be any advantage to parboiling even if you could.

This recipe from Taste of Home uses this soaking and frying method for their homemade chips.

Should you use salt when parboiling potatoes?

Parboiling potatoes comes with a lot of advantages. You'll speed up the cooking time and create a nice crust on your potatoes. But one of the greatest advantages is the opportunity to season your potatoes throughout.

This is why it's a great idea to salt your parboiling water. The salt can penetrate through the potato instead of simply sticking to the outside. This means that you will get more even seasoning in every bite.

Simply add a few pinches of salt to the water. The water should taste slightly salty, but don't go overboard. Despite what you may have heard, you don't want your parboiling water to taste like a mouth full of seawater.

You can also add some other seasonings at this time. Some bay leaves, peppercorns, or herbs can be added to the parboiling water. Because of the relatively short time the potatoes spend boiling, these flavors won't be overly pronounced, but they can add a subtle aroma to your potatoes.

If you're feeling extra decadent, you can even parboil your potatoes with a low sodium broth. This will add richness and savoriness to your potatoes but can be overpowering too.

Can you parboil potatoes in the microwave?

pan of baked potatoes into microwave oven

Parboiling is a great way to pre-cook your potatoes, but it's not the only way. You can achieve similar results with a microwave in a fraction of the time.

This recipe for roasted potatoes, from Foodal, calls for microwaving cut potatoes for 12 to 15 minutes before roasting them in the oven.

Microwave pre-cooking does have its limitations, though. If you attempt to pre-cook french fries in the microwave, they are more likely to come out uneven or break apart.

Microwave pre-cooking works best for skillet or oven potatoes, but it's still not as good as parboiling. When you parboil potatoes, a starchy surface develops that is great for crisping up and browning. This doesn't happen when microwaving, though, so you may find your potatoes don't get the same crunch or golden-brown hue.

Also, remember that microwaving can't season your potatoes the way that parboiling can. Because of this, you may need to add more salt to your recipe.

Can you freeze parboiled potatoes?

Pan with cooked potatoes

Potatoes do not freeze well when they are raw. This can lead to a lot of food waste if you have extra potatoes that you can't use before they go bad. Here is another case where parboiling can save the day.

Parboiled potatoes freeze well and can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

The best method for this is to cut up the potatoes first. Then parboil them by the usual method. Place the potato pieces in cold water with salt, bring to a boil for 5 to 10 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife, then drain and cool the potatoes.

Now your potatoes are ready to be frozen. The best way to freeze them is on a tray, spread out enough that they don't stick together. Once they are frozen, throw them in a freezer bag and keep them for up to 3 months.

One of the great things about frozen, parboiled potatoes is that you don't even need to thaw them to use them. This recipe, from Sainsbury Magazine, roasts parboiled potatoes straight from the freezer.

Final Thoughts

Boiled young potatoes with butter and dill served in the eco coconut bowl

Parboiling potatoes is a great way to speed up your cooking time and even improve your results for some classic (and delicious) dishes.

Now you know more about parboiling potatoes for a variety of applications. We've even seen some cases when it's best not to parboil your potatoes and how to achieve similar results with a microwave.

If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out these great posts:

20 Types of Potatoes Every Cook Should Know

What Potatoes are Best for Baking?

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