Potatoes turn brown or pink when exposed to air, just as peaches, bananas or apples do. While aesthetically unpleasant -- and even downright creepy -- oxidization isn't harmful and doesn't change the taste or texture of the potatoes. Take steps to avoid oxidation, such as cooking the potatoes as soon as possible after peeling and slicing to destroy the enzymes that cause darkening. For already oxidized potatoes, follow a few kitchen techniques to restore them to their usual pale hue.
Things You'll Need
- Paring knife
- Cream of tartar
Cut the oxidized portions out of the potatoes if the browning bothers you.
Cook the potatoes to remove the effects of oxidation, because in most cases, this will eliminate brown or pink spots. For maximum whitening, simmer the potatoes in a bit of milk or add lemon juice to the cooking liquid. Hide any discoloration that remains with a sauce, or use the potatoes in salads or soups.
Add a pinch of cream of tartar to mashed potatoes to help keep them looking white. The cream of tartar helps prevent iron in the potatoes from oxidizing and turning the potatoes dark.
Tips & Warnings
- To prevent oxidation, use the sharpest knife you can find to peel and slice the potatoes. A sharp knife seems to cause less oxidation, probably because the knife doesn't crush or bruise the potatoes as much as a dull one would.
- After slicing, immediately slide the prepared potatoes into a bowl of cold water until you're ready to cook them. Cold water helps reduce exposure to oxygen so the potatoes don't darken. For even better results, add a spoonful of citric acid to the water. This white, granular powder is sold in natural food stores and with canning supplies. It is often used to prevent darkening in fruit, but it works on potatoes, too. A bit of lemon juice or vinegar serves the same purpose.
- Act quickly when preparing shredded or thinly sliced potatoes, which tend to darken faster than larger slices and chunks. This is simply because more surface area is exposed to oxygen.
- Avoid cooking potatoes in iron or aluminum pots, which may exacerbate browning.
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