When preparing a meal for guests, there are so many ingredients to chop, proteins to marinate, and sides to prep, you’ll want to make sure all that hard work pays off. The last thing you need is a side dish full of gray potato salad or a muddled brown mash.
Here’s how to keep potatoes from turning brown, so they’ll be worthy of both your finest dinner party and your casual weeknight meals (these mashed potato dishes are perfect for either!).
Starch is the problem
If you’ve ever cubed a potato only to come back to a brownish-gray mess on your cutting board 10 minutes later, you’re not alone. Potatoes brown quickly when exposed to fresh air because they are packed with starch. When these starches are exposed to oxygen, they undergo a process called oxidation, which leaves your potato with a grayish or brownish tint. They’re 100 percent edible, but instantly less appetizing.
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Slow browning with water
The easiest (and most common) method for protecting your precious potatoes from browning is to use cold water. When sliced spuds are placed in water, the oxidation process slow.
Sliced, shredded, cubed, or really any kind of peeled potato can be stored in cold water for about 24 hours before any noticeable change happens to the potato’s structure or texture.
Grated potatoes (like the ones you need for these creamy hash browns) brown even faster than cubed ones, so waste no time getting them into water. Fill a bowl with just enough cool water to cover your potatoes by about an inch. Place your mandoline and grater directly over the bowl and grate straight into the water to keep your potatoes as white as possible.
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Acid stops it altogether
As mentioned above, placing spuds in water will slow the oxidation process, but it will not stop it. If you’re planning to store your potatoes in water for more than six hours, say overnight, adding a bit of acid is a good idea.
Lowering the pH of the potato helps fight off oxidation. Just like you squeeze a lemon on sliced apples, a bit of lemon juice or white vinegar in the bowl with the potatoes will ward of gray hues. Use the ratio of one teaspoon to a half gallon of water to get all the anti-browning impact with no notable flavor changes.
This article originally appeared on Taste of Home.