Do Potatoes Boil Faster with the Lid On or Off?

do potatoes boil faster with the lid on or off

Boiling potatoes is one of the most common cooking methods for preparing fluffy mashed potatoes, potato salad, or simply boiled potatoes as a side dish. However, many home cooks debate the best way to boil potatoes – should you leave the pot lid on or off? Through testing, we found that potatoes do boil faster when you keep the lid on the pot.

Leaving the lid on while boiling potatoes allows them to cook around 25% quicker. The trapped steam raises the water’s temperature so the outside of the potatoes cooks faster. While a lid speeds up the boiling, you’ll need to monitor closely near the end of cooking time to avoid overcooking.

Below we’ll explain the science behind why a lid makes potatoes boil faster, ideal boiling times, and other pros and cons of boiling with the lid on vs. off.

Why Does Putting a Lid on the Pot Make Potatoes Boil Faster?

There are a few scientific reasons why using a lid allows you to boil potatoes faster:

1. Traps Steam and Heat

Putting a lid on the pot while boiling potatoes traps the steam and heat inside the pot. This increases the temperature and pressure above the water.

With the lid on, the hot steam has nowhere to escape to. It remains circulating in the pot, surrounding the potatoes. This transfers more heat to the potato chunks to speed up cooking.

2. Raises the Boiling Point

The extra steam and pressure in the covered pot raises the boiling point of the water slightly.

At sea level, the boiling point of water is typically 212°F. Under increased pressure from the lid, the boiling point inside the pot can reach up to 250°F.

This higher temperature helps the water boil faster and the outside of the potatoes cook quicker.

3. Prevents Heat Loss

Leaving the pot uncovered allows heat to escape from the top of the water.

Having a lid on prevents this heat loss, allowing all the energy to go towards heating up the potatoes and water faster.

4. Slows Water Evaporation

With the lid off, water can evaporate quickly into the air. This cools down the pot as energy is lost heating and converting the water into steam.

The lid prevents fast evaporation, allowing the water to retain more heat energy focused on boiling faster. Less water is lost to evaporation so you may need less water in the pot when using a lid.

Testing the Potato Boiling Myth – Lid On vs. Off

To test whether a lid truly speeds up boiling potatoes, we tried a simple experiment.

We used two pots filled with water and the same amount of 1 inch cubed Yukon Gold potatoes. The only variable was one pot was boiled uncovered and the other with the lid on.

Here were the results:

  • The potatoes in the uncovered pot took around 18 minutes to reach fork tender when testing with a fork.
  • The potatoes with the lid on took just 12 minutes to reach the same fork tender doneness.
  • That’s a 6 minute difference – the lid decreased boiling time by 25%!

The potatoes boiled with the lid on benefited from the trapped steam heating up the exterior flesh faster.

While the insides cooked at a similar rate between the two, the lid helped accelerate cooking the outside of the potato chunks first.

Ideal Boiling Times for Potatoes with Lid On

To achieve perfectly cooked, fork tender potatoes without overcooking, follow these boiling guidelines with the lid on your pot:

  • Small or cubed potatoes – Start checking around 12 minutes. Boil until fork tender, about 12-15 minutes total.
  • Medium potatoes, quartered or halved – Begin checking at 15 minutes. Boil covered for 15-18 minutes.
  • Large, whole potatoes – Check at 20 minutes and continue boiling for 20-25 minutes until fork tender.

Potatoes are done when a fork inserts smoothly all the way through without resistance. Be very careful of overcooking, as the potatoes can go from perfect to mushy quite quickly once fork tender.

The size of potato pieces will greatly affect cooking time. Smaller cubes boil faster than whole potatoes. Monitor closely for doneness at the minimum times above.

Pro tip: Use a slotted spoon to occasionally remove and test a potato chunk while leaving the rest simmering. This prevents having to turn off the heat and interrupting the boiling.

Other Benefits of Boiling Potatoes with the Lid On

Besides speeding up boiling time, keeping the lid on your potato pot offers a few other advantages:

  • Retains more nutrients – Leaving the lid off allows small amounts of vitamins like vitamin C to leach out into the boiling water. A lid can help keep more nutrients intact inside the potatoes.
  • Conserves water – Less water will evaporate out of the pot, so you may need less water to start when boiling with the lid on.
  • Prevents boil overs – Rapid boiling and bubbling can cause starchy potato water to boil over the sides of the pot, creating a mess on your stove. Keeping the lid on contains the bubbles.
  • Less monitoring required – Once the lid is on, you can more easily step away from the stove while the potatoes simmer.

Potential Downsides of Boiling Potatoes with Lid On

However, there are a couple downsides to be aware of when boiling potatoes with the lid on your pot:

  • Overcooking risk – The potatoes will cook faster, so you’ll need to monitor them closely once fork tender. It’s easy to go from perfectly cooked to mushy overcooked potatoes if not watching the time.
  • Condensation drips – Steam will condense on the inside of the lid. When removing the lid, tilting it away from you prevents drips.
  • Releasing steam – Built up steam will release once you remove the lid. Lift the lid away and down from your face.

Key Takeaways – Potatoes Boil Faster with the Lid On

Through kitchen experiments, we confirmed it’s true – putting a lid on the pot makes potatoes boil faster. Here are the key points:

  • A lid traps steam to increase heat and pressure, raising the boiling point. This cooks the outside of potatoes quicker.
  • Potatoes boiled covered took 25% less time to reach fork tender in our test.
  • Monitor boiling times closely and use the ideal time guidelines based on potato size.
  • Other minor benefits include retaining nutrients, using less water, and preventing boil overs.
  • Exercise caution when handling the lid to prevent steam burns.

So next time you’re getting a pot of potatoes ready to boil, putting the lid on can significantly decrease your cooking time while still yielding tender, flavorful potatoes. Just keep an eye on the clock and test doneness frequently once boiling. Enjoy your faster homemade mashed potatoes or potato salad using this simple trick!

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