Cooking Tips

Why Overcooking Your Waxy Potatoes Is a Good Thing

Unlike other types of potatoes, waxy ones get creamier the longer they cook.

Published Oct. 21, 2021.

Some foods should be overcooked. No, I'm not talking about chicken breasts or fish or a batch of fudgy brownies, but we've found that overcooking broccoli makes better broccoli soup, and overcooking chicken thighs is the key to tender texture. Here's another one to add to the list: waxy potatoes.

When Cook’s Illustrated editor in chief (and America’s Test Kitchen TV cast member) Dan Souza developed his recipes for braised red potatoes, he found that low-starch, waxy potatoes cooked longer than expected not only stayed intact, but cooked up incredibly creamy and smooth. When he tried the same thing with russets, they broke down and turned crumbly and mushy.

These silky potatoes are made possible by starch. Of the two types found in potatoes (amylose and amylopectin), waxy potatoes contain a higher ratio of amylopectin, which are smaller molecules that stick together when cooked. The starch gets stickier as it takes on more water, allowing waxy potatoes to hold their shape with an improved texture. 

Dan’s method also inverts the standard braising procedure. Instead of browning them first and then cooking them in liquid, the potatoes are covered and simmered first in heavily salted water along with butter and herbs. Once the lid is removed and the water is cooked away, the butter browns the spuds to perfection while adding a richness to the luxurious seasoned paste of herbs and spices. Here are some other keys from his method:

  • Don’t be afraid to salt your water. As it absorbs into the potatoes, it will help season them. No broth or stock needed.
  • Use a skillet with a tight-fitting lid to control evaporation, ensuring your spuds are cooked through before the browning starts. 
  • Remove the solids from the water before it has boiled away completely. Garlic and fresh herbs can burn easily, but in Dan’s recipes, they’re added back to the pan and tossed with the potatoes once they’re fully cooked.

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So the next time you need a simple, stovetop side dish, overcook some red potatoes. The flavor profile can be switched up to suit the needs of your meal. A few of our recommended combinations are miso and scallions, dijon and tarragon, and my personal favorite, garlic and rosemary.

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