Potatoes are among the most popularly cooked starches in much of the world, to the point where it is the second most frequently consumed foodstuff in the United States. Owing to their impressive versatility, potatoes can be cooked in all sorts of forms, from simply being boiled and mashed to commercially purchased mass-produced and flavored chips1.
However, because of their differing sizes and types, potatoes occasionally may be undercooked, especially in the case of boiling them. This is often unpredictable and due to many factors, but is primarily caused by human error.
Depending on exactly how undercooked your potato is, it may be best to return the starchy vegetable to the pan or pot instead of taking the chance and eating it. When too raw, potatoes contain an alkaloidal compound often found to be uncomfortable or even outright harmful to the human digestive system.2
Are Undercooked Potatoes Poisonous?
While not necessarily a constant, certain species of potatoes can potentially be dangerous if ingested without proper cooking. This is because the process of heating and oxidation helps break down the molecular bonds that are present within the solanine compound, of which is the primary reason why undercooked or raw potatoes can be poisonous.
The exact amount of undercooked potato that is dangerous to consume depends on the particular species in question as well as your body weight and gender. It is advisable to limit or entirely eliminate your consumption of raw or undercooked potato if you are pregnant, as solanine is known to cause birth defects in excessive amounts.
What do Undercooked Potatoes Taste Like?
Eating undercooked potatoes can be unpleasant from a taste standpoint as the complex starches present in the potato will present a bitter and dry taste not unlike that of astringent chemical additives.
Even salted or otherwise flavored, the bitter taste is still quite distinct, and as such it is best to continue cooking your potato in order to improve its quality.
The addition of heat and moisture breaks down the molecules responsible for these particular flavors by the exchange of electrons between atoms, breaking complex molecular bonds that make up the starchy compounds. Often, these starches transform into simpler sugars with far more palatable tastes than their predecessor compounds.
What is the Texture of Undercooked Potatoes?
In much the same way eating undercooked potatoes is unpleasant to the taste, it is also inadvisable to eat them because of their stiff and crunchy texture.
This is even further compounded if the potato was cooked irregularly, causing the texture to be an off-putting mix of soft and stiff, making undercooked potatoes a poor candidate for making mashed potato or similar dishes.
However, the uneven texture of undercooked potatoes is entirely fine if you are pre-boiling them before making French fries, as the secondary cooking process will not only make the potato safe to eat but also remedy the unpalatable texture of the undercooked potato.
What to do if Potatoes are Undercooked
Depending on the exact method of cooking you used for your potatoes as well as your intended end-product for them, there are a multitude of ways you may finish cooking the potatoes or otherwise salvage them in the event that continuing to cook them is not feasible.
If you were previously boiling the potatoes in order to use them for mashed potatoes or other types of food that involve mashing them, simply return the water to boiling temperature and submerge the potatoes once more.
If boiling your potatoes is not possible because of a lack of water or other circumstances, it is also possible to steam them using a bit of aluminum foil placed over the pot and reheating what little water is left within.
It is advisable to coat your potatoes in oil or to otherwise insulate them from directly touching the hot surface of the pot as this may burn them if the water is completely evaporated.
In the case that your potatoes have been baked but still remain undercooked, it is best to lower the temperature of the oven and to utilize all of its directional heat sources so the center of the potato is cooked through without burning the outside. This may also be improved by shielding the potato from direct heat with aluminum foil or other non-flammable barriers.
Keep in mind that if one were blanching their potatoes prior to frying or similar purposes, it is entirely normal for the center of the potato to still be somewhat raw, and it will fully cook through should you proceed properly through the rest of the cooking process.
As a final resort, it is also possible to microwave potatoes with only a minimal loss in quality. Simply set the microwave to medium and place the potatoes in a partially covered container so that any moisture that is agitated into steam by the microwaves will be contained within.
How to Tell if Potatoes are Undercooked
In the event that you have lost track of how long the potatoes have been cooking or if it is otherwise difficult to visually tell whether they are cooked through, a surefire way is to use a wooden barbeque stick or fork.
Simply pierce the potato horizontally with the fork or barbeque stick. If the implement is stopped or at the least meets some resistance near the center of the potato, it is likely still undercooked and should be returned to the pot or pan.
Keep in mind that if your fork tines are sharp or if you are using another tool with a pointy edge, it will slide through the potato regardless and is not an accurate way to tell if the potato is cooked properly.
What is Made from Undercooked Potatoes?
Because of the potentially harmful effects of eating undercooked potatoes, there are very few uses it may have from a culinary standpoint without putting the potatoes through further cooking processes.
The fastest possible way to make these potatoes edible is to roast them in an oven at higher temperatures, though this will cause the outside to burn without the moisture of oil or butter.
You may also salvage undercooked potatoes by bringing a mixture of 1/4th milk or cream and 3/4ths water to a low simmer on the stove in the event that you have botched a batch of fries or other forms of cut potato. The cut tuber will quickly soften and cream in this mixture, making something akin to mashed potato.
1. Unknown Author. (N.D.) “How popular are potatoes?”
2. Friedman, Mendel; McDonald, Gary M.; Filadelfi-Keszi, MaryAnn (22 September 2010). “Potato Glycoalkaloids: Chemistry, Analysis, Safety, and Plant Physiology”. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences.