Every time I make a stew or curry, either on the hob or in a slow cooker, the time needed for the potatoes is much shorter than the overall time for the stew.

Adding potatoes part-way through is not a satisfying solution, so I need a method by which I can leave the slow cooker all day without hovering over it to decide when to add potatoes.

In summer I can use 'new' crop, waxy potatoes; though these have a slightly different flavour, that would be acceptable.

How to ensure that potatoes disintegrate in stews or casseroles
When does parboiling "begin"?
Why do potatoes in soup/stew taste stale the next day?


1 Answer 1


There's a 'cheat' I learned many years ago - by accident.

If you parboil potatoes, the starches change in such a way as to make the outside fluffy, yet the inside not collapse - for if you're making roast potatoes, or twice-cooked chips [fries].

With some experimentation on parboiling, I arrived at a method by which you don't let them even parboil, you pull the heat early, then let them cool naturally, still in the same water & pan.

I use a glass-lidded heavy saucepan for this, so I can watch for the 'turn'.

Start with regular 'winter crop' [starchy] potatoes; peeled & cut into your final sizes.
In a heavy saucepan, starting with cold water, bring the pot up to the boil… but don't let it quite reach a full boil.
At one point you will see the potatoes go 'glassy', slightly translucent. As soon as this seems to be through the entire pot, switch it off & allow to cool naturally.
This precise point may need some experimentation - too soon & you get potato-shaped bullets which will never soften, too late & you needn't have bothered, they will continue to cook like 'regular potatoes' & turn to mush in your stew. If you are fearful you stopped late, take the lid off, if you feel you stopped early, leave it on. The difference in heat retention can just make the difference.

One thing - don't force-cool them by putting the pan or the potatoes in cold water… you will get black-edged potatoes.

There is a chemical transformation that happens here that will then mean the potatoes will never go fully soft. You can then re-cook them for hour on hour in a slow cooker, low on a hob, or in the oven & they will never turn to mush.

This all has a firm scientific basis - not one bit of which do I understand. I prefer to think of it as 'voodoo magic' - do it this way and it works;)

  • 2
    I am gobsmacked and incredulous and now I need an excuse to long-cook some potatoes.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 19:23
  • I was doing some in a sag alloo for dinner & it just occurred to me people might not be aware… hence Q and A. ;) They stood nearly 2 hours at a stove-top low simmer to be just right for dinner. Fluffy on the outside, yet firm enough not to collapse.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 19:41
  • It’s likely starch retrogradation. (The same thing that makes cooked rice go hard and bread go stale). You can also add acid to your cooking liquid to keep the potatoes from softening too much
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 20:07

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