[Full Guide] How Long To Boil Potatoes For Smashed Potatoes

Boiled potatoes are a staple in many households, serving as a versatile ingredient for various dishes. However, when it comes to making smashed potatoes, the boiling process needs to be precise to achieve the perfect texture and flavor. This article will delve into the optimal way to boil potatoes for smashed potatoes, including selecting the right type of potatoes, preparation techniques, and the ideal boiling duration. By following these detailed steps, you can create irresistible smashed potatoes that are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Quick Answer: How Long To Boil Potatoes For Smashed Potatoes

The ideal boiling time for potatoes destined to become smashed potatoes ranges between 15 to 20 minutes. However, the precise duration can vary based on factors such as the size and type of potatoes. It’s crucial to monitor the potatoes closely during boiling to ensure they reach the perfect consistency for smashing.


Selecting the right type of potatoes is crucial for achieving the desired texture and flavor in smashed potatoes. Varieties such as Yukon Gold, Russet, or red potatoes are popular choices due to their creamy texture and ability to hold up well during boiling. It’s essential to choose potatoes that are similar in size to ensure even cooking.


Before boiling the potatoes, proper preparation is essential to maximize their flavor and texture. Start by washing the potatoes thoroughly under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris. Additionally, you can opt to peel the potatoes or leave the skins on, depending on your personal preference. Leaving the skins on can enhance the rustic appeal and nutritional value of the smashed potatoes.

How To Boil Potatoes For Smashed Potatoes

To achieve perfectly boiled potatoes for smashed potatoes, follow these detailed steps:

Step 1: Cutting The Potatoes

If using larger potatoes, consider cutting them into evenly-sized pieces to promote uniform cooking. This step ensures that all the pieces reach the desired tenderness simultaneously. For smaller potatoes, simply washing and leaving them whole is sufficient.

Step 2: Boiling The Potatoes

Place the prepared potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to fully submerge them. Add a generous pinch of salt to the water to enhance the potatoes’ natural flavor. Bring the water to a gentle boil over medium-high heat.

Step 3: Testing For Doneness

After the water reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Allow the potatoes to cook for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. To test for doneness, insert a fork into a potato; it should easily pierce the flesh without causing the potato to fall apart. Be cautious not to overcook the potatoes, as they can become waterlogged and lose their desired texture.

Step 4: Draining The Potatoes

Once the potatoes are tender, carefully drain them in a colander to remove excess water. It’s important to let them sit for a few minutes to allow any remaining moisture to evaporate, ensuring the smashed potatoes will achieve a perfect crispness when baked or fried.

Step 5: Smashing The Potatoes

After draining, transfer the boiled potatoes to a baking sheet or a flat surface. Use a potato masher, fork, or the bottom of a glass to gently smash each potato, taking care not to completely flatten them. This process creates the ideal balance of crispy edges and a creamy interior in the smashed potatoes.

Step 6: Seasoning And Finishing

Once the potatoes are smashed, drizzle them with olive oil or melted butter, and season them with salt, pepper, and any desired herbs or spices. At this stage, you can choose to either roast the smashed potatoes in the oven until golden and crispy, or pan-fry them for a delectable texture.

Mastering the art of boiling potatoes for smashed potatoes is key to creating a crowd-pleasing dish that balances crispiness and creaminess. By carefully selecting the right type of potatoes, preparing them properly, and following a precise boiling process, you can elevate this humble ingredient into a mouthwatering culinary delight. Whether serving as a side dish or a flavorful appetizer, perfectly boiled and smashed potatoes are sure to become a favorite in your culinary repertoire.

Science Behind Boiling

Smashed potatoes, with their creamy texture and delicious flavor, are a versatile and popular side dish. One of the crucial steps in preparing smashed potatoes is boiling them to the perfect consistency. Boiling potatoes correctly is essential to ensure that they cook evenly and have the right texture.

Boiling is a cooking method that involves heating a liquid until it reaches its boiling point. When it comes to boiling potatoes, the liquid used is water. The heat causes the water molecules to gain energy and become more lively. As the temperature rises, these molecules begin to move faster and eventually reach a point where they transition from a liquid state to a gaseous state, known as boiling. This boiling process is what cooks the potatoes and softens their texture.

Potatoes contain starch, which is composed of long chains of glucose molecules. When potatoes are heated, the starch granules in them absorb water and swell, causing the potatoes to become soft and tender. The heating also causes the starch to gelatinize, which gives boiled potatoes their creamy texture.

Optimal Boiling Times

Determining the optimal boiling time for potatoes is crucial to achieving the desired texture for smashed potatoes. Undercooking the potatoes can result in a firm and unappetizing texture, while overcooking can lead to mushy potatoes. The boiling time depends on the size and type of potatoes being used. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Small potatoes (e.g., baby potatoes): These can be boiled for about 15-20 minutes. They cook relatively quickly due to their small size, and their thin skins can easily be smashed, resulting in a creamy texture.

  2. Medium-sized potatoes: These typically take around 20-25 minutes to cook. Ensure that the potatoes are cut into evenly-sized pieces to ensure uniform cooking.

  3. Large potatoes: These may require 25-30 minutes of boiling. It is important to cut them into smaller pieces to ensure even cooking and prevent them from becoming too soft on the outside while remaining undercooked on the inside.

It is important to note that these times are rough estimates and may vary depending on the specific variety of potatoes and their freshness. The best way to determine the readiness of boiled potatoes is by conducting a doneness test.

Doneness Test

To ensure that the potatoes are cooked to perfection, it is advisable to perform a doneness test. This test involves inserting a knife or fork into the potatoes to check for tenderness. When the potatoes are fully cooked, the knife or fork should easily slide through the potato without any resistance. However, if there is still some resistance, indicating the potatoes are not quite done, continue boiling them for a few more minutes and test again.

The doneness test is especially crucial when dealing with larger or unevenly sized potato pieces. It helps to ensure that all the pieces are cooked uniformly, preventing a mix of overcooked and undercooked potatoes in your dish.

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Factors Affecting Boiling Potatoes

Several factors can affect the outcome of boiled potatoes for smashed potatoes:

  1. Potato variety: Different potato varieties have varying starch content and textures. Some varieties, like Yukon Gold potatoes, are known for their creamy texture, while others, like russet potatoes, are starchy and ideal for mashing. The choice of potato variety can influence the boiling time and ultimate texture of the smashed potatoes.

  2. Freshness: Fresh potatoes tend to have a higher moisture content, which affects their cooking time. Freshly harvested potatoes may require slightly shorter boiling times compared to older potatoes.

  3. Potato size and shape: The size and shape of the potato pieces determine how quickly they cook. Cutting potatoes into smaller, evenly-sized pieces ensures uniform cooking and prevents some pieces from being overcooked and others undercooked.

  4. Altitude: Altitude can affect the boiling point of water. At higher altitudes, where air pressure is lower, the boiling point of water is lower as well. This means that you may need to slightly increase the boiling time when cooking potatoes at high altitudes to compensate for the lower boiling point.

  5. Salt: Adding salt to the water when boiling potatoes can enhance the flavor of the potatoes. Additionally, salt can help to season the potatoes from the inside as they absorb the salted water. However, adding salt to cold water may cause the potatoes to cook unevenly, so it is best to add salt once the water is boiling.

  6. Boiling technique: It is important to bring the water to a vigorous boil before adding the potatoes. This ensures that the potatoes cook evenly and prevents them from becoming too soft on the outside. Additionally, avoid overcrowding the pot, as this can result in uneven cooking. Give the potatoes enough space to move freely in the boiling water.

  7. Pre-boiling techniques: Some chefs recommend pre-boiling the potatoes with their skins on and then peeling them once cooked. This method can help to retain the flavor and nutrients of the potatoes while preventing excessive water absorption. However, it may lengthen the overall cooking time slightly.

Boiling potatoes for smashed potatoes requires precision to achieve the perfect texture and taste. Understanding the science behind boiling and considering factors such as potato variety, freshness, size, altitude, and boiling technique can significantly impact the outcome of your smashed potatoes. Additionally, conducting a doneness test using a knife or fork ensures that the potatoes are uniformly cooked throughout. By following these guidelines and experimenting with different variables, you can master the art of boiling potatoes for delicious smashed potatoes that will impress your family and guests alike.

Texture After Boiling

Potatoes are a versatile and beloved ingredient in countless recipes around the world. One of the most popular ways to prepare potatoes is by boiling them. Boiling potatoes for smashed potatoes is a technique that results in a creamy and delicious side dish. The process of boiling potatoes not only affects their texture but also alters their taste and smell.

The texture of the potatoes is undoubtedly an essential factor when it comes to smashed potatoes. Boiling the potatoes creates a soft and tender texture, making it easier to mash them into the desired consistency. However, achieving the perfect texture requires a keen understanding of the boiling process.

When boiling potatoes for smashed potatoes, it is crucial to start with the right variety of potatoes. Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes are considered the best choices due to their high starch content. These varieties have a mealy texture that breaks down easily when boiled, resulting in creamy smashed potatoes.

To begin the process, wash the potatoes thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris. It is recommended to leave the skin on during boiling to prevent the potatoes from absorbing too much water, resulting in a watery consistency. Cut the potatoes into similar-sized pieces to ensure even cooking. This step is essential as different sizes of potato pieces may cook at different rates, leading to an inconsistent texture.

After cutting the potatoes, place them in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Ensure that there is enough water to fully submerge the potatoes. Adding salt to the water is optional but can enhance flavor.

Once the potatoes are in the pot, bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. It is crucial to simmer the potatoes gently rather than subjecting them to a vigorous boil. This gentle simmering helps the potatoes cook evenly and prevents them from falling apart.

The cooking time for boiled potatoes depends on their size. On average, it takes about 15-20 minutes for small to medium-sized potatoes to become tender. Larger potatoes may take longer, approximately 25-30 minutes. To check for doneness, insert a fork into a potato piece. If it easily pierces through, the potatoes are ready. Be careful not to overcook the potatoes as they can become mushy and lose their shape, resulting in a lumpy texture for the smashed potatoes.

Once the potatoes have reached the desired tenderness, carefully drain them using a colander. Avoid using a strainer with too large of holes as the potatoes may fall through. Allow the potatoes to cool for a few minutes before proceeding with smashing them. This cooling period helps the potatoes retain their shape and prevents them from becoming overly mushy.

Taste After Boiling

The taste of boiled potatoes for smashed potatoes can be influenced by various factors, including the potato variety, cooking time, and the addition of salt during boiling.

When it comes to taste, the choice of potato variety plays a significant role. Russet and Yukon Gold potatoes, as mentioned earlier, are preferred for their high starch content. These varieties have a mild and slightly sweet taste that pairs well with a wide range of flavors and seasonings.

The length of time the potatoes are boiled can also impact their taste. Boiling the potatoes until they are just fork-tender helps to maintain their natural flavor. Overcooking them can result in a bland taste and a dull texture.

Adding salt to the water when boiling the potatoes is an optional step that can enhance their taste. Salt helps to season the potatoes from within, resulting in a more flavorful end product. However, it is vital not to oversalt the water, as this can make the potatoes overly salty.

To gauge the desired level of saltiness, start by adding a teaspoon of salt to the boiling water for every four cups of water used. Adjust the amount based on personal preference, keeping in mind that some additional seasoning may be added after the potatoes are smashed.

Smell After Boiling

The smell of boiled potatoes can evoke both nostalgia and anticipation. Boiling potatoes emit a comforting and appetizing aroma that permeates the kitchen, giving a sense of home-cooked goodness.

As the potatoes simmer in the pot, their natural starches are released, resulting in a distinct scent. This aroma is particularly prominent when using varieties like Russet and Yukon Gold, known for their higher starch content. The smell of boiling potatoes is often described as earthy and starchy, reminiscent of freshly baked bread or comforting mashed potatoes.

The smell of boiled potatoes can be further enhanced by adding herbs or spices to the boiling water. Infusing the potatoes with aromatics like garlic, rosemary, or bay leaves can impart a delightful fragrance that will elevate the overall experience of making and consuming smashed potatoes.

Boiling Techniques For Different Culinary Preferences

Boiling potatoes may seem straightforward, but slight variations in technique can result in different culinary outcomes. Let’s explore a few boiling techniques that cater to varying preferences:

  1. Classic Boiling: This technique involves following the traditional method described earlier. It produces tender and creamy potatoes that are well-suited for smashing. Classic boiling is favored by those who appreciate the simplicity and natural flavors of the potatoes.

  2. Steaming before Boiling: Steaming the potatoes before boiling them is a technique that can help retain their shape and prevent them from becoming too waterlogged. To steam the potatoes, place them on a steamer basket or rack in a large pot over boiling water. Cover the pot and steam the potatoes for about 12-15 minutes until they are partially cooked. Then, transfer the potatoes to slightly salted boiling water to finish cooking. This technique lends itself to a more firm and textured smashed potato.

  3. Simmering with Flavor: For those who want to infuse the potatoes with additional flavors, simmering them in flavored liquid is an excellent technique. Instead of using plain water, replace a portion of the water with broth, milk, or a combination of both. This technique adds depth and richness to the potatoes, resulting in a more complex taste. It is important to note that simmering with dairy can slightly alter the texture, making it creamier and smoother.

Boiling potatoes for smashed potatoes is a fundamental cooking technique that requires attention to detail. Achieving the perfect texture, taste, and smell is crucial to creating a delectable side dish. By selecting the right potato variety, carefully monitoring the cooking time, and considering optional additions like salt and aromatics, you can elevate the humble boiled potatoes into a comforting and flavorful smashed potato dish. Whether you prefer creamy and tender potatoes or those with more texture and flavor, experimenting with different boiling techniques can help you achieve the desired results while satisfying your culinary preferences. So the next time you prepare smashed potatoes, take the time to boil the potatoes to perfection, and you will be rewarded with a truly satisfying dish.

Retaining Nutrition

Potatoes are a staple in most households, and boiling them is one of the most common ways to cook them. Boiled potatoes are an excellent source of nutrients and can be used in various dishes, including mashed potatoes.

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Boiled potatoes are known to lose some of their nutrients through the cooking process, but there are ways to minimize this loss and retain as much nutrition as possible.

Avoid Overcooking

One of the most crucial factors that contribute to nutrient loss is overcooking. Boiling potatoes for too long can cause them to become mushy and lose their texture. Overcooked potatoes also lose their nutrients, especially vitamin C, which is heat-sensitive and can break down quickly. Therefore, it is essential to boil potatoes for the appropriate time to retain their texture and nutrient content.

Do Not Peel Before Boiling

Potatoes’ skin contains most of the nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Peeling potatoes before boiling them can cause a significant reduction in their nutrient content. Leave the skin on, and once they are boiled, peel them when they have cooled enough to handle.

Cook In Minimal Water

Boiling potatoes in a small amount of water can help retain their nutrients. Most of the vitamins present in potatoes are water-soluble, and boiling them in a large amount of water can cause these vitamins to leach out and be lost. The water used to boil potatoes can be used to make soups or stews, where the nutrients can be consumed.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

When boiling potatoes, there are several common mistakes that can be made, leading to undesirable results. Here are some things to avoid:

Using The Wrong Pot

Using the right pot is essential when boiling potatoes. A pot that is too small can cause overcrowding, resulting in uneven cooking, while a pot that is too large can cause the potatoes to move around too much, leading to breakage.

Adding Salt Early

Adding salt to the water before boiling potatoes can cause them to become too soft and mushy. Always add salt once the water has started boiling.

Failing To Check Doneness

Boiling potatoes for an extended period without checking them for doneness can lead to overcooking. Check the potatoes regularly by poking them with a fork or knife. If they are tender, they are ready.

Tips To Boil Potatoes

Now that we have discussed how to retain nutrients and common mistakes to avoid when boiling potatoes for smashed potatoes, let’s look at some tips to make the process more efficient and effective.

Start With Cold Water

Starting with cold water is essential when boiling potatoes. When placed in boiling water, potatoes cook unevenly, leading to uneven texture and doneness. Start with cold water and bring it to a boil.

Cut To Even Sizes

Cutting potatoes to even sizes ensures that they cook uniformly. Unevenly cut potatoes can cook unevenly, resulting in some potatoes being undercooked and others overcooked.

Dry Thoroughly Before Mashing

Once the potatoes are boiled, it is crucial to dry them thoroughly before mashing them. Moisture in the potatoes can result in a gummy texture or cause them to thin out too much.

Add Butter Or Cream

Adding butter or cream while mashing boiled potatoes can help to make them creamy and rich in texture. Knowing when to add fat and how much to add is vital in achieving the desired consistency.

What To Do With Boiled Potatoes

Boiled potatoes can be used in various dishes, including salads, soups, and stews. Here are some easy recipes to try using boiled potatoes:

Potato Salad


  • 4 medium sized boiled potatoes
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut the boiled potatoes into small, even-sized pieces.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and apple cider vinegar.
  3. Mix the potatoes, chopped celery, and sliced onion together in a medium-sized bowl.
  4. Pour the mayo mixture over the potato mixture and toss gently.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Potato Soup


  • 4 medium sized boiled potatoes
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut the boiled potatoes into small, even-sized pieces.
  2. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat.
  3. Add the flour and stir to make a roux.
  4. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and milk.
  5. Add the potatoes and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Stir in the sour cream and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  8. Garnish with crumbled bacon, salt, and pepper to taste.


Boiling potatoes for smashed potatoes is a simple and easy task with few steps involved. However, knowing the right technique and tips to boil them can help retain their nutrients, avoid common mistakes, and make the most out of your boiled potatoes. Experiment with different recipes to find your favorite way to use boiled potatoes and enjoy!


What Type Of Potatoes Are Best For Making Smashed Potatoes?

Waxy potatoes, such as red potatoes or Yukon Gold, are best for smashed potatoes because they hold their shape better when boiled and smashed compared to starchy potatoes.

Should I Peel The Potatoes Before Boiling Them For Smashed Potatoes?

It is a personal preference. Some people prefer to leave the skin on for added texture and flavor, while others prefer the smooth texture of peeled potatoes. If using waxy potatoes, the skin is thin and tender and can be left on without issue.

How Long Should I Boil The Potatoes For Smashed Potatoes?

It typically takes about 20 minutes to boil potatoes to the point where they are soft enough to be smashed. However, the exact time may vary depending on the size and type of potatoes.

Can I Make Smashed Potatoes Ahead Of Time?

You can boil the potatoes ahead of time and store them in the fridge, but it is recommended to smash and season them just before serving to prevent them from becoming too dry and losing their texture.

Can I Add Herbs Or Seasonings To The Water When Boiling Potatoes For Smashed Potatoes?

Yes, adding herbs or seasonings to the boiling water can enhance the flavor of the potatoes. However, be careful not to add too much salt as this can make the potatoes overly salty when smashed. It is best to season the smashed potatoes after they have been smashed and seasoned.