Spuds for Thanksgiving


If potatoes are on your Thanksgiving menus, cook the spuds with their skin on.

If potatoes are on your Thanksgiving menus, cook the spuds whole to maximize their nutritional punch. (Photo courtesy of USDA.)

Thanksgiving may be a couple weeks away, but if you’re cooking the feast, you’re probably deep into planning the feast. No doubt, spuds of some type–russets in a mash, perhaps, or sweet potatoes in a casserole–will be part of the menu.

As you prepare your potatoes, keep some news from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in mind: How you cook the spuds affects their nutritional value. ARS researchers found that cubed and boiled potatoes may cook faster, but they also lose up to 75% of their mineral content. To preserve the spuds’ nutritional value, the ARS folks suggest boiling them whole with their skin on.

Clearly, our friends at the ARS don’t cook, because boiling whole potatoes would take forever. A better strategy would be to bake (about 45 to 60 minutes in a 400 degree oven) or microwave (about 10 minutes on HIGH; turn ’em halfway through) the spuds. (Don’t forget to pierce their skin with a fork so they don’t explode in the oven.) The baked potatoes will have a drier texture, so you may need to add a bit more liquid to the mash. 

It’s worth cooking tubers with care. Potatoes may have gotten a bad rap from the anti-carb crowd in recent years, but they are an excellent source of the mineral potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and kidney function, and may prevent strokes. The recommended daily allowance for potassium is 3,500 milligrams. A medium baked russet potato has 610 milligrams; a baked sweet potato has even more, at 694.

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