Do Potatoes Go Bad?

It’s easy to forget a bag of potatoes in the recesses of your pantry. Or to buy a large bag, only to realize that you can only eat potatoes so many times in one week. That inevitably brings up the question: do potatoes go bad?

Or maybe you wanted to stock up on potatoes and did a bit of research into possible ways of storing those spuds long term. And undoubtedly you stumbled upon some conflicting info, especially about whether or not you should refrigerate potatoes.

If any of these questions and concerns sound familiar, this article is for you. In it, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of potatoes. If you would like to learn more about these garden veggies, read on.

Grilled potatoes
Image used under Creative Commons from Keith McDuffee

How to Store Potatoes

When you come home with the potatoes, don’t wash them before putting into storage. If they’re too dirty, you can brush them, but don’t use any water. That will only make them go bad sooner.

When it comes to storage, the best temperature for potatoes is approximately 7˚C to 10˚C or 45˚F to 50˚F. That means that the fridge is too cold, and room temperature is too warm. So unless you happen to have an unheated basement or another place that maintains such temperature, you need to choose one of the imperfect options.

Let’s start with storing the spuds at room temperature. As I already mentioned, it’s not ideal, but it’s not bad either. A couple of things to remember here is to make sure they sit out of light and in a well-ventilated place. If you brought them in a plastic bag, cut some holes here and there to let the veggies breath. Otherwise, a mesh bag or a basket with some holes work great too.

If where you store the potatoes is relatively warm (think room temperature), at some point the spuds will start to sprout. That’s okay, and it’s not a sign of the potatoes going bad. Just cut off the sprouts before cooking, and you’re good to go.

Now let’s talk about the alternative to room temperature, and that is the fridge. The issue with storing potatoes in the refrigerator is that cold temperature causes the starch in potato turn into sugar. And that, as you might imagine, causes the potatoes to become somewhat sweet. Because of that, in many places online you can read that you should never store potatoes in the fridge. If you live in a hot climate and the potatoes don’t last too long in the pantry, you can try storing some in the fridge to see how they turn out. Maybe you won’t find them that bad. Please note that refrigerated potatoes tend to change color when cooked. To reduce that effect, you can take them out of the fridge an hour before cooking, so they warm up to room temperature.

No matter if you store potatoes at room temperature or in the fridge, make sure to check on them once or twice a week and remove the bad ones.

All in all, storing raw potatoes in the pantry is the way to go. Avoid refrigerating them unless you have to.

When it comes to cooked potatoes, they go into the fridge, in an airtight container.

How Long Do Potatoes Last

Potatoes, like garlic and onions, have a quite long shelf life. If you store them in ideal conditions, they should easily last for over a month, if not more. At room temperature, they last about 2 weeks, and a week or two more in the fridge.

When it comes to cooked potatoes, they usually retain relatively good quality for 3 to 5 days in the fridge. That’s true, of course, if the container is closed tightly and any harmful bacteria didn’t get there before you put the container into storage.

PantryFridge
Potatoes (raw)1 – 2 weeks3 – 4 weeks
Potatoes (cooked)3 – 5 days

Please remember that while storage time in the fridge is longer than in the pantry, it has its downside. Also, the periods above are estimates only.

How To Tell If Potatoes Are Bad

A sure sign that a potato has started to spoil is that the spud begins to dry out and shrink, or becomes mushy, depending on the humidity of the storage environment. A strong sour or musty smell may also accompany soft potatoes, and certainly indicates spoilage. As soon as they begin to either shrivel or soften, you should discard them. Mold spots also indicate spoilage, but like with all other veggies, if the spots are small, you can just cut them off with some excess and use the rest.

Exposure to sunlight can cause green spots to form on potatoes. These spots do not indicate spoilage, and you can simply remove them before cooking. The same procedure applies to dark spots or bruises that may occur on the skin of a potato.

As I already mention, potatoes sprout little growths after a while. And while that’s not a sign of spoilage, they do indicate that the quality is beginning to decline. So it’s best to use those potatoes as soon as possible before the quality declines even further and you have to throw them out.