There are two caveats to putting raw potatoes in the freezer for long term storage (or even in the refrigerator). Both of them are pretty serious!
Can you freeze raw potatoes?
No, you can’t put raw potatoes in the refrigerator or in the freezer for long term storage. You can only blanch or fully prepare them into edible states before planning for such storage.
Anybody telling you to freeze or store raw potatoes under 4°F seriously doesn’t like you, or, doesn’t have a damn clue what they’re talking about.
The primary caveats with storing raw potatoes in the freezer/refrigerator are two, and they’re not something you’ll ever want on your fresh potatoes!
First is the exposure to a highly toxic compound called Acrylamide which scientist think is a probable carcinogen. Yes you heard that right, swearing by the habit of storing raw potatoes in the refrigerator might be the reason why you end up with cancer in your late 40’s. God Forbid, but that’s a clear faced reality!
How is that even possible, i asked, and you’re probably asking, and the disturbing response from scientists is clear: it’s through a process referred to as “cold-inducing sweeting” that happens inside of the potatoes when they are kept in the refrigerator to store. We don’t know for sure when this change begins to occur, but that’s exactly what makes it even more dangerous!
What the above process basically means is that the cold environment of the refrigerator or freezer forces the conversion of starch into reducing sugars in the raw potato.
Anyone consuming the potatoes at this point will attest to how sweet they’ve become (and also how off-textured and colored they’ve turned out especially following months-long stretch of freezing), but they’ll certainly not be aware of how much damage is being caused internally.
The conversion of starch to reducing sugar in such manner means that whenever these potatoes are used for cooking processes that involve high heat and therefore high temperatures, for example, deep frying or roasting, “acrylamide” chemical is formed and not just in any amount, but at significantly high levels.
I really don’t need to be rocket scientist to figure out that some of the raw potatoes you’re planning on freezing or refrigerating will definitely end up on the grill grates or shrunken-wet on a sauté pan!
They’re simply the best ways for making potatoes delicious, but now we know they’re the worst ways to consume frozen raw potatoes!
The second reason why the practice of putting raw potatoes in the refrigerator or especially in the freezer is condemned is because of the serious change in texture that results after such extended storage.
The potatoes become mushy and unusable (a least by an overwhelming majority) because the 76% water content packed within those brown skins expands and forms into crystals which break down the structures of the cell wall in them.
In other words, the potatoes shrink and turn ugly from inside out! That’s the reason why foods with high water content are never advised to be stored in the refrigerator in the first place.
And if by accident they are, then they’re advised to never be defrosted but used from frozen, and also never be used as the main components of any recipe. They’ll disappoint! Imagine a thawed tomato in a gorgeous cream salad – yuck!
Another additional point i can raise to discourage you from storing raw potatoes in the refrigerator (if your head is still rock hard to think that the first two aren’t enough), is that they won’t keep long in the refrigerator, and certainly won’t keep long in the freezer. But your eyes will barely notice that they’ve turned to a frozen mess!
How to properly store potatoes
Okay so, hopefully now i’ve talked you out the idea of using the refrigerator as a medium to store raw potatoes, so it’s only natural that i give you practical tips and advice on how to properly store potatoes for lengthy durations.
Here are the tips.
- Rule: If you live in a country or place where potato is easily accessible, don’t buy more than you need. This will save you the pain of watching your potatoes go bad at large scale!
- If you’re a home gardener, you’re probably leering at me with red eyes after reading the first point, well, here’s an advice that should work for you and make your extra extra harvests last longer. First cure your potatoes by storing them at (45 to 60)F at (85 to 95)% humidity for 7 to 10 days, and then proceed to store them in a cool root cellar, basement, garage or shred which typically register temperatures between (40 to 45)F and humidity close to 90 percent. If you have an area indoors that maintains at that temperature; which is slightly warmer than the refrigerator and obviously hotter than the freezer, keep the potatoes there provided it’s dark and shielded from light. The potatoes will keep freshness, moisture and nutrients for several months which is hopefully enough time to put all of them to tasty use!
- For those that purchase potatoes from markets or stores, skip the curing process because it’s likely done at the producers end or somewhere along the farm to table chain.
- Not everybody is going to have a cellar, basement or other storage areas mentioned above, if you fall easily into that category, don’t worry too much, the room temperature is a manageable alternative, except that you need to take out a third from the total shell life of potatoes stored between (43 to 50)F and use that as a guide to tell when your potatoes will start filling up the air with stench! Typically around one or two months.
- When storing potatoes, make sure each individual potato has enough air flow around it. That’ll prevent the accumulation of moisture which can lead to spoilage; the dark slurry mess that you normally see under potatoes. You can keep potatoes directly on the ground surface, in an open bowl, in a cardboard box, or in a paper bag, but avoid putting them inside sealed containers such as lidded glassware or a zipped plastic bag.
- When storing potatoes, do not wash them. Doing so is a recipe for disaster – one that fungus and bacteria are extremely fond of. You can wash potatoes when you’re ready to use them, and when doing so, use vinegar or salt solution to effectively get rid of pesticides if the potatoes aren’t organic.
- When storing potatoes, make sure to use healthy potatoes, sort out potatoes according to freshness, size and types, and also use promptly or discard those with bruises or injuries on them.
Okay, I’ll do that next time, but how do I save the raw potatoes I have currently?
If you feel it’s already too late and the potatoes will most definitely begin to rot in the next few weeks, then there are two option that can guarantee the potatoes a longer shell life.
One is to blanch and store them in the freezer, and second is to fully cook and store in them in the freezer! Of course you can pop them in the refrigerator when you’re expecting to use them in less than four day’s time. Don’t go any longer though!
Blanching potatoes simply means to scald them in boiling water or in steam for a brief timed interval and then cooling immediately in iced water or nitrogen. There are many benefits to this process. Here are the most significant.
- Blanching help to inactivate enzymes present within the potatoes which freezing only slows down. This means that texture, taste, color and nutritional value of the potatoes are preserved for longer duration than if they were simply popped into the freezer raw. In other words, potatoes keep longer and well and they don’t brown or blacken during storage and after cooked.
- Blanching helps to remove pesticide residue in potatoes not grown organically. Now, you can additionally remove this before cooking using this guide here. (You’ll have to scroll down under the section “how to bake the perfect potatoes” to see the tip).
- Blanching helps to clean the surface of potatoes to rid them off dirt and organisms such as bacteria.
How to blanch potatoes for freezing
When blanching potatoes (and all other vegetables), it is very crucial that you don’t under-blanch, which will fail to inactivate enzymes and worse, cause the release of more enzymes which will speed up enzymatic activities and cause hastened spoilage, and over-blanch, which will lead to excessive loss of nutrients and softening of the potato.
You want to stick with the 4 to 10 minutes guideline depending on the size of the potato. This will make sure that they’re completely heated through and prevent the interior from turning dark when using it after storage.
A good rule of thumb is to blanch for 4 to 6 minutes if the potatoes are smaller 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter, and for 8 to 10 minutes if they are larger.
I also recommend blanching with salt water to prevent nutrient leakage and additionally, boost flavor.
Step 1: Bring enough water to a boil in a large pot and add fresh, washed and gently scrubbed potatoes cut as desired or left whole including peels. Use high heat setting and make sure potatoes are completely submerged inside the water.
Step 2: Cover the pot to hasten boiling.
Step 3: Wait until the water begins to boil before starting the timer.
Step 4: Boil for 4 to 10 minutes depending on the potato size.
Step 5: Bring the pot down and quickly transfer potatoes into a bowl containing 3 to 4 gallons of iced water. Use only cold water if you don’t have any ice to put inside the water.
Step 6: Keep the potatoes for as long as the blanching time or more, or until properly cooled.
Step 7: Drain, and you’re now ready to package fro freezing.
Key thing to note:
- Blanching works great for potatoes meant to be boiled and roasted.
- It also works great for potatoes meant to be made into french fries. In this case you want to make sure that you’re using mature potatoes that have been under storage for at least 30 days, and you cut them into that fancy strips that fries are signature for. You also want to make sure that you wash the potatoes with cold water and properly drain before blanching to remove the starch present at the surface, and that you blanch for 2 minutes and then toss their completely dried surfaces in one table spoon per 1 pounds of vegetable oil to make them crisp on the outside after cooking. An alternative method you can use is to deep fry the strips in a fat at 360 F until tender but not brown –about 5 minutes.
- Blanch small batch of potatoes first, then see whether or not you like the texture when baked or fried after freezing. If you don’t, you better stick with storing them outside the refrigerator.
- If you’re not blanching potatoes whole, you want make sure they they are just crisp when you take them off the heat. They should take lesser time than whole potatoes.
How to freeze blanched potatoes
After potatoes are blanched, it’s time to freeze, and this time, just like the blanching process, there’s a warning you can’t ignore!
You want to freeze in a good storage container like a quality freezer labeled plastic bag having all the air pressed out before sealing or plastic containers specifically labelled for freezer storage.
This will prevent moisture loss and potatoes from coming in contact with air which will cause them to develop freezer burn (drying of the fibers). Properly frozen potatoes can last up to 12 months without a significant change in their quality according to this research.
Freezing blanched potatoes
Allow blanched potatoes to cool completely, then stuff them in a storage container and pop in the refrigerator until it’s time to use.
- Don’t use wax paper, parchment paper, cartons, or container with poorly fitting lids.
- Allow at least ½ inch head space but make sure you such out the air in there.
- Properly label packages in a way that you understand what it is, how to use it, when to use it etc. You should know this if you’re actually searching to freeze raw potatoes!
- Properly spread food to give space for quick freezing.
How to use frozen potatoes
Do not thaw unless the recipe say’s so, in which case, defrost in the refrigerator and never use a microwave.
Note: Cooking potatoes directly from frozen state will increase the cooking time by upto 50%.
- For boiling: Add to boiling water, cover and cook until fork tender about 15 minutes for small potatoes.
- For baking: Bake according to recipe or basically in a 450F oven until brown and tender. Turn potatoes halfway during cooking time and make sure to salt and season.
- For frying: Fry as per recipe instructions.
- For roasting: Roast as per recipe instructions.
Cooking potatoes fully before storing in the freezer
For this second method, prepare the potatoes into what ever recipe you want, i.e. mashed potatoes, twice baked (stuffed potatoes) etc., — it’s best to not let the potatoes cook through fully so you have something to cook when its time to use, let cool, stuff in a freezer labelled container and freeze for as long as two months.
I don’t usually recommend preparing potatoes ahead of time like this because no matter how much cheese or sour cream or plastic wrap you cover them with, they still wouldn’t preserve as well and taste like the fresh deal. But that’s me, and the decision is totally up to you!