This Simple Trick Cooks Potatoes In Half The Time

We love any technique that helps get food in our bellies faster, whether it's for dinner after a hectic day of work and school, or getting a decent breakfast in. In this case, it's a trick for cooking potatoes so much faster, and we bet it'll surprise you. 

Boiling spuds to use in a dinner recipe or as a side dish is often not the most appealing option because of the time it adds to meal prep. The Spruce Eats lays out this commitment, listing the time for scrubbing, peeling, and slicing two-and-a-half pounds of potatoes as 10 minutes (which feels like a conservative estimate!) — and noting a cooking time of as much as 30 minutes for larger spuds. And of course, there's also the time to bring the pan of cold water with potatoes to a boil on top of all that. 

While this doesn't seem bad at first glance, once you add in the prep, cooking steps, and timing for the rest of your meal, it could begin to feel cumbersome. And Food52 points out there is always the added risk — after devoting all that effort — of winding up with improperly cooked potatoes that are mushy or crunchy. So naturally, our heads turned when we read about a method for boiling potatoes that takes only five minutes. Yes, five! This tip comes from British cookbook author and chef Anna Jones, who trained with Jamie Oliver and has caught the eye of famous foodies like Nigella Lawson and Martha Stewart (via Anna Jones).

Here's how this potato trick works

According to Epicurious, Anna Jones' approach — from her 2018 cookbook "A Modern Way To Cook" — begins with an electric tea kettle. While the water heats up in the kettle, Jones slices raw potatoes into small cubes and then puts the diced potatoes in a saucepan on the stovetop. Once the water in the kettle comes to a boil, she pours it over the diced potatoes in the pan and adjusts the heat underneath to keep the potatoes at a simmer. And in just five minutes, the potatoes are ready — tender enough to toss to make a hash or add to a simmering pot of soup. They can be fried up into home fries, or added to a pan of roasting meats or veggies. Epicurious notes these potatoes can be added into savory frittata recipes, too.  

With this technique, what really saves time is heating up the water while the potatoes are being prepped. Electric tea kettles, a far more common appliance in European kitchens (via Insider), are great for this as they bring water to a boil in mere minutes. If you don't have one, just use your regular kettle or a saucepan. Cutting the potatoes into small cubes is also crucial for this quick trick to work. As Tablespoon points out, potatoes that are sliced into smaller — and uniformly-sized pieces — will finish cooking more quickly. Epicurious also shares that small, whole potatoes, like fingerlings and baby potatoes, can be cooked faster than usual using this technique.

Potatoes aren't usually cooked this way but they should be

One thing that might seem unusual with this technique from chef Anna Jones is starting raw potatoes with boiling water. Most recipes advise to start potatoes in cold water because they cook more evenly if they are able to heat up in tandem with the water. Dropping sliced or whole potatoes into an already boiling pot can sometimes cook the outside of the spuds faster than the middle. The potatoes end up with a gluey or mushy texture. 

The reason Jones' technique works, according to Epicurious, is that it only partially cooks the diced potatoes. So, this method isn't intended for potatoes to be mashed or eaten plain — rather, use it for recipes where they'll be fried, boiled, or roasted to a perfect finish. Another tip with these potatoes, and with any potatoes you're planning to cook in water, is to avoid a full, rolling boil. Cooking Light advises to instead keep the water at a simmer so that the potatoes cook evenly and gently. 

One way Jones uses this potato-cooking trick is with Jersey Royals, a British variety of new potatoes that are small enough to cook quickly, to which she adds homemade aioli (via The Guardian.) Epicurious says this technique is also fantastic for tough veggies like celeriac, beets, or turnip. Just cut them into a small dice as you would for the potatoes, pour boiling water over, and then give them a brief simmer until tender.