This Is How to Keep Potatoes from Turning Brown

Need your cut potatoes to look fresh? Learn how to keep potatoes from turning brown with these two tricks.

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 recipes are perfect for either!)

Why Do Potatoes Turn Brown?

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 jam-packed with starch. When this starch is exposed to oxygen, they undergo a process called oxidation, which leaves your potato with a grayish or brownish tint. They’re 100% edible, but instantly less appetizing.

How Do You Keep Potatoes from Turning Brown?

Use cold water

Raw, peeled potatoes under cold running water in chrome bowl in the sinkMarinaZg/Getty Images

The easiest (and most common) method for protecting your precious potatoes from browning is to use cold water. When sliced potatoes are placed in water, the oxidation process slows way down.

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 cut straight into the water to keep your potatoes as white as possible.

Editor’s Tip: 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.

Ready to start cooking? Check out our handy guide that breaks down the best cooking methods for each type of potato.

Add lemon juice or vinegar

Placing spuds in water will slow the oxidation process, but it will not stop it. To keep keep potatoes from turning brown for more than six hours, say overnight, then add a bit of acid.

Lowering the pH of the potato helps fight off oxidation. Just like you might use a squirt of lime juice to keep guacamole from browning, a bit of lemon juice or white vinegar in the bowl with the potatoes will ward off gray hues. Use one teaspoon to a half gallon of water to get all the anti-browning impact with no noticeable flavor changes.

Now that you’re ready to party with the most beautiful potatoes possible, try out our favorite scalloped potato recipes.

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Mandy Naglich
Mandy is a food and beverage writer with bylines at WNYC, Munchies, Mic and October. She's a Certified Cicerone and award-winning homebrewer living, writing and cooking in New York City.