Simple Ways to Cook Potatoes

Boiled | Mashed | Sautéed | Roast Potatoes | Baked

Need some simple ways to cook potatoes? Wherever you are in the world you are sure to find potato recipes. It hasn't always been this way. Their original home was South America and they were introduced to other countries by intrepid explorers.

Their use goes far beyond just being the main accompanying vegetable for your meal. They are, in fact, extremely versatile, as you will see.

Types of potatoes

With hundreds of potato varieties to choose from let's start by looking at the two basic types of potatoes before we delve deeper into the ways to cook them.

Floury potatoes

These have a dry, fluffy texture and are great for mashing, chips (or french fries), roasting and soups.

Some names to look out for in your local greengrocers are King Edward, Maris Piper, Desirée (a red skinned potato) and even the unusual Purple Majesty, which are purple throughout as shown in the picture.

Waxy potatoes

The waxy varieties on the other hand, keep their shape well and are often used for salads, currys or frying.

Some examples are Charlotte (illustrated) and Maris Peer.

Potato Storage

New potatoes are best eaten soon after buying them, as they will lose their flavour quickly.

Main crop or "old" potatoes, on the other hand, can be stored in a cool, dark place (to prevent them sprouting or turning green). You should not eat them if they have turned green, as they will not taste good, and may give you stomach ache!

If you buy your potatoes in a polythene bag, then you will need to remove them from it as soon as you get them home. They need air circulating around them if you are hoping to store them for a while. Ideally you would purchase them, unwashed, from a good greengrocer or market stall as they will keep better.

Ways to cook potatoes

We will move on to some tasty potato recipes later, but first let us look at the basic ways to cook potatoes.

Boiled potatoes

Suitable varieties:

Jersey Royals or King Edwards

To ensure that they are cooked at the same time it is important to ensure that they are all roughly the same size. If necessary cut them into pieces, if they are large, but the best boiled spuds are fresh new potatoes.

Rub off the skins with your fingers, or use a Potato Peeler to peel them if they are older. 

Then drop them into boiling salted water. Bring the water back to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer gently until they are tender. You don't actually want to boil them or they may go soft and mushy.

Served with a pat of butter and maybe some freshly chopped parsley or chives sprinkled on the top, they will grace any table.

Mashed or creamed

Peel, cut into small chunks, and cook as above, but after draining off the water, stand the pan back on a low ring for a while, to dry off the potatoes.

Remove the pan from the heat and either mash with a fork or a potato masher, adding a little butter and/or milk if desired.

You can also use a gadget known as a potato ricer, which can look a bit like a large garlic press, with holes through which the cooked potatoes are pushed. Mash made this way is ideal for topping a Cottage Pie.

It is best not to try mashing them in a food processor, as they can end up very sticky and not at all pleasant.

There are many ways to use up leftover mashed potatoes so don't worry if you get the quantities wrong and cook too much.


Start with basic boiled potatoes, but stop cooking just before they are ready.

Drain well, and pat dry with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper.

Cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and fry in a little oil until they are golden brown and crispy.

These simple ways to cook potatoes to accompany your meals, will soon become basic recipes that you use time and time again.