Follow these expert tips to make sure your spuds are clean.
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Woman washing potatoes in sink
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Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before consumption to make sure they are safe to eat (think: free of dirt and chemicals), and that goes for a versatile, all-around favorite: the potato. "Potatoes are firmly in the buried-in-soil category, so they'll need a thorough wash before cooking," says Catt Fields White, a former chef and the founder of San Diego Markets and The Farmers Market Pros. "In addition to good and bad bacterias, pesticides can linger in the soil and those need to go."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a minimum, potatoes should be rinsed with water before cutting for cooking. Since potatoes are firm, use a clean brush to scrub them. Do not use soap, bleach, disinfectants, or chemicals to clean produce. The CDC notes that using such non food-safe substances could cause foodborne illness. Fields White recommends soaking the potatoes in cold water first before cleaning them, to break up the dirt. "This is like soaking a dish that has dried food on it—it just loosens things up so you don't have to scrub," she says.

How to Wash Potatoes

  1. Soak the potatoes in cool water until the dirt on the vegetables is loose. Fields-White says this makes cleaning easier, especially with a thicker-skinned potato, like a Russet potato, or one grown in clay-based soil.
  2. Once the dirt is loose, take the potatoes out of the water and gently scrub them one by one using a brush or new soft scouring pad used only for cleaning vegetables. Note: Skin can tear or bruise on waxier potatoes, says Fields-White. When washing waxier potatoes, such as baby potatoes or French fingerlings, use your hands rather than a brush to clean them.
  3. Rinse the potatoes individually to rid them of any lingering dirt.
  4. Pro tip: If the potatoes are going to be peeled, Fields-White says to clean them with this same process listed above before the knife or peeler comes in contact. "After peeling, put them in water with a little lemon juice if you're not going to cook right away, or they'll discolor," she says.

How to Store Washed Potatoes

Potatoes should be cooked soon after they are washed since bacteria can gather on wet potatoes when stored for extended periods of time. "It's best to wash just before you cook, but they're probably fine to wash up to 24 hours before cooking," says Fields-White. (Think Thanksgiving mashed potatoes for a crowd, where you need to start prep early; Fields-White says it's OK to wash in advance and then refrigerate.)

Potatoes (and sweet potatoes) should not be placed in the refrigerator for long-term storage, however. They should be stored in a cool, dark, airy space, not on the countertop, and loosely stacked in a bowl or bins to keep moisture accumulation at bay and avoid mold and deterioration.

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