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Why is it important to put salt in cold water for cooking potatoes?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I was reading a Robuchon cookbook. He's explaining how to cook potatoes in boiling water, and he explains that the salt should be put in the cold water along with the potatoes, before turning the heat on. A little later in the text, he insists: "and remember, there's a reason why you should put the salt at the very beginning of the cooking". 

 

Anyone knows what that reason is? 

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 15

It gives the potatoes time to absorb the salt somewhat. So it's about flavor.

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Great, thanks Phatch. 

post #4 of 15

I think it may be a bit more important when using the potatoes for potato salad. I don't think it really matters if your making mashed potatoes, your going to season anyway...........6 of one half a dozen of another....ChefbillyB

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefBillyB View Post

I think it may be a bit more important when using the potatoes for potato salad. I don't think it really matters if your making mashed potatoes, your going to season anyway...........6 of one half a dozen of another....ChefbillyB



Thanks ChefBillyB, however in this case, this was for Robuchon's famous mashed potatoes recipe (Robuchon became quite famous for his fabulous mashed potatoes in France), and apparently, from the way he wrote the recipe, the salting of the cold water was a very important step, I just wish he'd explained why. 

post #6 of 15

Anything will taste good with a 2:1 ratio of potato to butter!

post #7 of 15

I've tried boiling potatoes with and without salt. They don't seem to get as soft without the salt in the water. I don't know why. I've noticed the same thing with noodles. The outside gets tender, but the inside is still hard (potatoes and noodles)

post #8 of 15

I thought it wasn't good to put salt in a stainless steel pot unless the water was already boiling.  Doesn't it ruin the cookware?

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #9 of 15

My grandmother did this back in the days before Messr Robuchon and his wonderful cookbook.  She insisted it was essential.  And she was Irish and lived in Maine... so she knows about potatos!

 

The reason she told me was because it is too easy to forget to salt the water if you don't work in an organized and methodical way.  I think she's right.

 

My wife does nto subscribe to this philosophy so I often have a burn on one of my fingers since I'll dip a finger in the boiling pot to check for salt in the water.  It is better to get it in "too late" than not at all.

 

The only danger I know of from adding salt to boiling water is that it causes the water to "explode" when the salt is added.  That never happens if salt is added to cold water.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by French Fries View Post

Anyone knows what that reason is? 

 

post #10 of 15

I think that's how those rust spots get on the bottom of stainless steel pots.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Koukouvagia View Post

I thought it wasn't good to put salt in a stainless steel pot unless the water was already boiling.  Doesn't it ruin the cookware?



 

post #11 of 15

It won't damage your cookware  in the time it's concentrated before it dissolves. If you're worried about it, stir it as you add it to speed up the dissolving .

post #12 of 15

The important part here is that you put the salt in cold water, its that you put the salt in before the potatoes.  The idea is to season the potatoes from the inside.  The purpose for starting both the potatoes and salt in cold water is that the gradual temperature increase will help the potatoes cook more evenly as opposed to dropping quartered potatoes in already boiling water where the edges/outside will be overcooked by the time the center is done.

post #13 of 15

      Question why add salt at the beginning of the cooking process and not at the end.   I actually do both the salt added at the beginning changes the chemical makeup of the water and the density. Allowing it to come to a boil quicker. I also have started the water under heat and just before it boils add the salt usually the water immediately boils.

 

 

    I adjust the salt after the cooking process by adding salt to taste, but I'm a believer in salt and pepper are personal choices and not everyone has the same reception or even the same amount of receptors.

 

 

                                                WB

post #14 of 15


Some people think salt makes water a lot hotter. It actually raises the  temp. about 2 degrees only. Don't believe me test it with a thermometer. Only thing I can say is that its' habit.. As  Chef Bubba says'' butter in particular amount he uses in his potatoes would have to taste   good''

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by wldbeast View Post

 Allowing it to come to a boil quicker. I also have started the water under heat and just before it boils add the salt usually the water immediately boils.

 

It won't boil quicker. It raises the boiling point fractionally, but so little it doesn't matter. You have to add a large quantity of salt to appreciably raise the boiling point. Chefeds claim of 2 degrees is interesting, but I suspect an error of some sort to see that large of a jump in temp as that would take a fair amount of salt. 

 

The reaction you see when you add salt  to nearly boiling water is about nucleation sites. You'll see the same thing happen along a scratch in the pan, or around the tines on a fork you hold against the bottom of a pot. 

 

http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/gen01/gen01021.htm

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