You have bought a sack full of great-priced potatoes, thinking— all the while— of a promising, warm stew. But, in your enthusiasm, you got way too many! How to store them to keep them safe and sound? And how long do potatoes last?
Potatoes are an essential staple in almost every household in the Western world. And with good reason: they’re full of amazing nutrients, are super filling, and just plain delicious! It’s almost always a surprise to discover that they only reached mainstream European style cuisine from the South American continent after 1550.
However, we have given it lots of uses. French fries, pies, even flour— this family of tasty tubers is super versatile! But there can be too much of a good thing: what happens when you miscalculate and buy or cook too many potatoes? Where do you keep them and for how long?
From a cook who chronically mistakes quantities and amounts, here you have an experience-based guide to storing potatoes and to finding out the answer to the question “when are potatoes bad?”.
How to tell a potato’s expiration date
Unfortunately, no one stamps a raw potato fresh out of the earth with a clear expiration date. That would make our potato-loving lives a lot easier! So what do you do when you are looking for the expiration date of the potatoes you are planning to buy?
The best option is to visit a farmers’ market if you are lucky enough to live close enough to one. When you buy your vegetables— and anything else, really— straight from the people who produced them, you can be a lot more sure of how and when they were sourced. Search the Internet for places near you where you can buy fresh potatoes! They are not only easier to shop for— they are better for your body as well!
If you are buying your potatoes at a grocery store, you can either ask the staff when a particular load of potatoes was brought in or, otherwise, opt for buying a pre-packaged sack of potatoes. These, though they do have a clear date on their plastic packaging, are a lower-quality alternative to buying fresh produce.
What’s more: the packaging will probably not have an expiration date but a sell-by date. This means you have to estimate how long the potatoes will last at home yourself. Do not worry, though: I have your back!
Different types of potatoes— different tastes and shelf lives
There are many different types of potatoes that you can feast on. Some of them are sweet potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes, white or russet potatoes, red or new potatoes, and fingerlings. All these add an element of surprise to your cooking and they all taste great!
However, each type lasts in good and safe condition for a different amount of time. This might sound like a headache, but— if you know your types— it is really not that complicated.
- Fingerlings are the on the shorter-lived side of potato varieties: they last 2 to 3 weeks on the pantry shelf, and 2 to 3 months in the fridge.
- Yukon Gold potatoes also last 2 to 3 weeks on the pantry shelf, and 2 to 3 months in the fridge.
- How long do red potatoes last? Red or new potatoes are just the same: they keep well 2 to 3 weeks on the pantry shelf, and 2 to 3 months in the fridge.
- Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, have a bit of a longer shelf life. This type lasts 3 to 5 weeks on the pantry shelf, and 2 to 3 months in the fridge (just like the previous varieties).
- The white or russet potato is the longest-lived of all: it will keep for 3 to 5 weeks on the pantry shelf, and 3 to 4 months in the refrigerator. Quite a lot for such tiny little things!
How to choose and prepare potatoes for storage
When you are at the grocery store or— with any luck— the farmers’ market, you have to pick the best potatoes to take home. How to do this?
Smell them! If you sense any trace of mold or staleness, avoid those potatoes like the plague. If you manage to get some that smell like fresh dirt instead, go for it! This means they are as fresh as they come.
Pick the potatoes with the least spots and blemishes. Mind you, they will always have a lot of them. Just choose the ones that look the clearer.
If you see wrinkles, bruises, or cuts on the skin of the potato, do not take it home. It has been, most likely, stored in poor conditions. In any case, you are better off not eating it. If you find a green tinge, it means that potato is bitter because of excess chlorophyll. Buy at your own risk!
If the potato you want to buy has already sprouted, it is not a real problem. Yes, it should have been eaten by now already, but it is still edible. That said, only buy a sprouting potato if you plan on cooking it immediately and, before you do so, cut the sprouts off.
Storage methods for raw potatoes
Now that you have your beautiful, highly nutritious vegetables at home with you, you need to figure out where to store them. You will need either a pantry or shelf space in a cool, dark, and dry space or a refrigerator.
If you follow these instructions, you are greatly reducing the risk of your
- On the shelf: You can keep your potatoes on the shelf for the amounts of time specified above. However, you can’t use just any shelf: cool, dry, and dark are the words of the day. Pick a spot in your pantry if you have one. Otherwise, choose a spacious shelf far from any sunlight or sources of heat or humidity (such as sinks, leaking pipes, and stoves). The temperature at which the potatoes are stored should be around 50 degrees F.Put the potatoes in a well-aired basket, in a brown paper bag, or spread them out on a large, flat surface. The key is to allow for the air to flow freely. Friends and false friends: Avoid keeping your potatoes close to onions, as these vegetables give off a gas that reacts with the chemistry of the potato and ruins both of them for good. Do, however, keep a trusty old apple around: the gases of the apple prevent potato sprouts from growing, thus keeping your vegetable edible for a longer period of time. Do not store cooked potatoes out of the fridge: this can make them go bad and dangerous to eat.
- In the refrigerator: White potatoes, sweet potatoes, and every other kind can be stored in the fridge if you really want them to last longer— but at a cost. First of all, never put the potatoes in the crisper drawer! There is too much humidity for them in there. Rather, wrap them in newspaper or place them inside a brown paper bag with good airflow. Put the whole package on the top shelf, where the environment is a lot drier. Keep in mind, though: the cold temperature inside your fridge will affect the taste and texture of your vegetables. Potatoes tend to go harder and sweeter when they are refrigerated. You might not like this, so it is always preferable to store uncooked potatoes in the pantry. How long do potatoes last in the fridge? To find out, read the section above (“Different types of potatoes— different tastes and shelf lives”)! Maybe you are planning on storing cooked potatoes in the fridge and want to know how long do baked potatoes last or how long do mashed potatoes last. The rule of thumb is: in a closed, airtight container, mashed potatoes will keep for 4 to 6 days and baked potatoes for 5 to 7 days.
- In the freezer: How long are potatoes good for in the freezer? This is not the best method for storing raw potatoes, but you can still try it. When stored in the freezer, cooked potatoes will last up to 8 months. Uncooked potatoes will keep indefinitely, but— to keep them tasty and preserve their original texture— it is better to get them out at the 8th-month mark as well.
How to tell if potatoes are bad?
Do potatoes go bad? Yes! And you can easily tell:
- Texture: a potato that is going bad will feel soft and withered, and its skin might develop wrinkles or growths that you can notice by touching it.
- Looks: if the potato develops white areas, green spots, or discolorations that were not there before, bin it. It is probably bad.
- Smell: potatoes that went bad or were not stored correctly will get (and smell) definitely moldy. Best avoid!
Serve and enjoy the most delicious and hearty potato dishes
Now that you know how to buy and properly store potatoes, you can make sure that they don’t go bad on your watch. You are also able to tell if the potatoes you have are bad and answer the question “how long do potatoes last?” all by yourself. This way, you can keep your health in its best condition and, at the same time, enjoy the tastiest potato dishes in the whole wide world.