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I've heard that adding potato to an overly salty dish can reduce the saltiness.

I prepared 500g of rabbit meat in a pressure cooker. Realized that I had added one teaspoon worth of salt more than what was necessary. Since the meat seemed to need a bit more cooking anyway, I peeled and sliced a medium sized potato and dunked it into the pressure cooker which still had the rabbit curry in it, and re-cooked it on medium flame until steam formation. I assume this is the right way to add potato. Not sure if the potato can be boiled separately and then added to a curry to reduce saltiness.

Two hours later I opened it and I'm not quite sure if the saltiness reduced...though it seemed like it did a bit.

So in this kind of a situation, for the proportions I mentioned, how much potato (in grams or size) would be required to reduce excess saltiness? Perhaps the saltiness could be quantified as excess by the number of teaspoons added beyond "just right".

I know different people like different proportions of salt. Please dont focus on the salt. The question is about how much of potato to add to 500g of any dish to have a noticeable reduction in saltiness.

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    Was there much veg in the curry already, or just meat, salt, liquid (what?) & spices (also separate spices or a mix/prepared sauce that includes more salt)? How much salt did you add in total? (For me, just the 1tsp you mention would be at least 0.75tsp too much in a home made curry, but I use very little indeed; for others that might be only 20% too much)
    – Chris H
    Jan 20 at 14:20
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    I am not sure you will be able to arrive at the precise answer you are looking for. The salt is not going anywhere. You are just attempting to dilute the concentration with (in this case) potato, but any salt-free additions will reduce the concentration. As you point out, personal preference (and individual taste perception) is also at play here. I'm not sure you can be more precise than add and taste.
    – moscafj
    Jan 20 at 14:46
  • @moscafj I agree about the lack of precision, but there's still room for considering how long to cook, how much to add, and whether to remove the potato afterwards (wasteful but I've seen it recommended)
    – Chris H
    Jan 20 at 14:54
  • I assumed the potato would absorb some salt. I had marinated the meat with curd (to which I added 3/4th teaspoon salt). The curry was made with onion, ginger, garlic, garam masala, a medium size tomato, (I think) one and a half teaspoons of salt and quarter cup water.
    – Nav
    Jan 20 at 14:57
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    When it’s really over salted, I’d almost be inclined to serve the curry without the gravy/sauce part, and then cooking quite a few potatoes in it to make a whole new dish. (Although, there’s also a point where you sometimes have to just toss it entirely). I personally don’t use any salt in my curries, but I occasionally use canned tomato products which have salt in them)
    – Joe
    Jan 20 at 16:04

1 Answer 1

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Let's talk potatoes

Potatoes are kind of bland & starchy on their own. If you boil potatoes & eat them with no salt, they just taste like nothing. Most "plain" potato preparations will use salt & a bit of fat to make the potato taste more like potato. On the other end of the spectrum, you can put a lot of salt onto potatoes without them tasting "too salty." Fast food french fries can have quite a bit of salt on the outside, and the starchy, bland inside will offset all that salt.

Potatoes to fix salty food

That last bit of the above paragraph basically explains why adding potatoes to a salty dish can work. Potatoes "take" a lot of salt themselves, so if you've put too much salt in a soup or curry, adding unsalted potato will equalize that as the potatoes "take on" and "absorb" some of that saltiness from the liquid they are in. Other bland, starchy foods work well as a "salt sponge" too--rice or pasta or even bread or flour tortillas. Potatoes have an advantage that they can either be broken up & kind of turned into a thickener for the sauce/soup/whatever, or they can be left in big enough chunks that you can fish them out easily and not include them in the final product--where rice, pasta, bread, and tortillas are more difficult to make disappear.

How much potato you need will vary, and in my experience there is no "1 potato per x quarts of liquid" formula, because there are just too many factors (including personal preference). The easiest way for me to estimate how much potato to add is to think in terms of "how much extra salt did I add?"

You mention that you probably added 1 teaspoon too much salt, so per my advice, you'd think backwards to "how much potato do I need to cook to directly add 1 teaspoon of salt to season it?" and go from there. You might be able to add less or need more than that guess--but that's essentially what you're doing.

If you were cooking 1 potato by itself, how much salt would you use on it? If you would use 1 teaspoon of salt on 1 potato, then you need 1 potato to try to "fix" your "1 teaspoon too salty" curry. If you would use 1/2 teaspoon of salt on 1 potato, then you need 2 potatoes to fix your curry. Practically speaking, you probably need several potatoes (or many potatoes if they are small) to offset 1 teaspoon of salt by themselves.

But it doesn't always work

There's always an exception. If everything in the dish has absorbed too much salt, potatoes might not be enough to fix it. Potatoes do really well at taking on the salt from the sauce or liquid that they are cooking in. However, if there are meat & veggies & other things that have already absorbed "too much" salt, potatoes might not do the trick.

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    On the other hand, even if it doesn't work, you still have yummy potatoes!
    – Tony Ennis
    Jan 21 at 1:50
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    I generally like your answer. However, I am not sure about the meaning of "amount of salt needed to cook 1 potato". I think the amount of salt rather depends on the amount of water I cook the potatoes in. The potatoes do not absorb all the salt from the surrounding water, but rather what matters is the salinity gradient (between water and potato). Actually I cook potatoes exclusively in a pressure pot with 0.15 litre of water and apart from saving energy and time I can also use significantly less salt compared to the classic cooking with all the potatoes fully submerged in water. Jan 21 at 10:23
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    " If you would use 1 teaspoon of salt on 1 potato, then you need 1 potato to try to "fix" your "1 teaspoon too salty" curry." Just to add some sane numbers, a teaspoon of salt is enough to salt a 5lb bag of potatoes.
    – J...
    Jan 21 at 13:26
  • @J... Good point. I was focusing on the mathiness of it all, and left off a mention of realistic range for that ratio. I made an edit to clarify.
    – AMtwo
    Jan 21 at 15:14
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    +1 for mentioning that potatoes are not all that special - basically anything that doesn't already contain salt and "goes with" the food being cooked would work. All you're doing is diluting the salt: if that much salt is too much for that much food, add more food until the salt isn't too much. You could technically add more meat instead, but (1) meat is more expensive, and (2) half-cooked meat + raw meat + more cooking = unevenly-cooked meat.
    – Marti
    Jan 21 at 23:42

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