Humble as it is, potatoes are the true chameleon of the kitchen. From mashed, roasted, fried, and baked to countless other methods, you're never short of ways to turn this root vegetable into something spectacular. Of course, before cooking it, it's always crucial to properly cut it into shapes that fit the dishes best. With this article, we will give you a detailed guide on how to cut potatoes as well as the tools and techniques for achieving perfect results every time.
How to Clean Potatoes
Potato skin is actually edible and pretty nutritious, plus it adds a subtle chewiness that many find to be quite delightful. Very often it needs nothing but a quick rinse in salted water, although sometimes you may need to scrub off the dirt and impurities.
If so, use a hard-bristle brush and rub it against the skin, until all the dirt has come off. Rinse them under the faucet, then soak them for another 5 minutes in salted water to kill residual bacteria, like so:
But if you decide to peel the skin, you can skip this part and move straight to peeling.
How to Peel
Although a knife is also a viable option for peeling vegetables, we believe the vegetable peeler is much more efficient and convenient. With this handy kitchen tool, all you have to do is glide it crosswise along the potato’s body and the skin should come right off.
Tips for the Cutting
Place a kitchen towel on a flat surface (your kitchen countertop) and place the cutting board on top. The towel helps to stabilize the cutting board and keep things from slipping around, making the cutting process safer and easier.
As you finish one cut and are about to move the knife to the next spot, move the potato-holding hand as well. Your knuckles should always be touching the side of the knife, so you can always intrinsically locate where things are, minimizing the risk of self-cutting.
Hold the knife with your dominant hand, index finger aligned along the back of the knife. Don’t lift the knife up too high. Ideally, you want the blade just about 1/2” above whatever you’re cutting, never higher than the knuckles. Positioning the blade above the knuckles may put you at risk.
Take things slow if you’re new to this. To move two hands in harmony is like riding a bike: tricky at first, but achievable with careful first attempts.
Once you're done, submerge the cut potato pieces in a water bath to prevent them from going brown as well as removing all the excess starch.
How to Cut Potatoes
1. Cut Into Fries
For the classic French fries, you need to work with peeled potatoes.
Cut out a small slice along its length to create a flat, wide surface. Treat this surface as the base to hold the potato in place, and start cutting, with the technique we’ve shown above. We prefer the cuts to be 1/2” apart.
Then, stack two slices together and cut them into fingers. When you’re used to it, stack three and repeat the same technique.
Cooking tips: Rinse these fingers very well to remove excess starch, then boil them for 8 minutes. Spread them out on a tray, pat them dry with a paper towel, then deep-fry them, twice (the first on medium heat, 5 minutes; the second on high heat, 5 minutes,) for a crunchy snack. For a healthier alternative, opt for air-frying.
2. Cut Into Wedges
Potato wedges look better with the skin on, so it’s crucial that you clean them very well as we’ve shown.
Begin by cutting the potato in half, lengthwise. Then, lay each half flat-side down on the cutting board, and cut them in half.
Flip a quarter so that the sharp edge faces upward. Carefully aim the knife so that it's right in the middle of the quarter, and then cut it in half, like so. Repeat with the rest:
Cooking tips: Potato wedges are the perfect choice for those who love French fries but would like a much thicker to bite for a more satisfying eating experience. Treat them like you would treat the fries after cutting. They are quite large, however, so we usually coat them in cornstarch before putting them away to make them crispier after frying.
3. Cut Into Cubes
Start with a peeled potato. Cut it in half if you want large cubes, or in a third if you want medium cubes. Then, cut those portions into fingers. Proceed to slice the fingers crosswise into cubes.
Cooking tips: Cubes are quite possibly one of the most favorable potato shapes because they are so easy to cut yet incredibly versatile. With just a few simple steps, you can transform the root vegetable into a suitable ingredient for roasted dishes (like this Lemon Dill Salmon), soups, salads, or even skewers.
4. How to Slice Potatoes (With a Knife)
Start with a peeled potato. Cut out a thin slice on the side of the potato to act as a base. Hold the potato firmly on its side and cut it crosswise into thin slices. Each slice should be around 1/4” thick.
Cooking tips: These medium-thin slices are perfect for scalloped potatoes or any other baked dishes where they'll be submerged in a whole lot of melted cheese and sauces.
5. How to Slice Potatoes (With a Mandoline)
A lot of people like to use skin-on potatoes so their chips have this decorative brown edge. Skin-on or skin-off, they’ll surely become super crispy once shaved very thinly.
Cut your potatoes in half, width-wise. Hold the mandoline in place with one hand and apply pressure to keep the whole structure from moving as you work. Hold the potato in the other hand, and run it against the blade:
Cooking tips: This cut is perfect for homemade potato chips. Remember to pat the slices dry before cooking to ensure they turn out as crispy as possible. Scoop them out, lay them on a paper towel-lined baking tray, and pat them dry of excess moisture. If this sounds like too much work, you can coat them in cornstarch instead.
Luna Regina is an accomplished writer and author who dedicates her career to empowering home cooks and making cooking effortless for everyone. She is the founder of HealthyKitchen101.com and HealthyRecipes101.com, where she works with her team to develop easy, nutritious recipes and help aspiring cooks choose the right kitchen appliances.