What Does Soaking Potatoes In Salt Water Do?

Crunchy, golden-brown French fries are the hallmark of any burger joint or fast food restaurant. But have you ever wondered what it takes to achieve that perfectly crisp yet fluffy interior texture? The secret lies in soaking the potato fries in salt water before frying them. This simple technique can elevate your homemade fries from soggy and limp to restaurant-quality crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly soaking potatoes in salt water does and how you can use this method to make killer fries and baked potatoes at home.

The Popularity of Crispy Fries

French fries are hands down one of the most beloved side dishes globally. Their universal appeal lies in the irresistible combination of a crisp, golden exterior that gives way to a soft, fluffy interior. Who doesn’t love that contrast of textures in each bite? Fries are the perfect accompaniment to burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips, and a variety of other savory dishes.

Achieving the ideal balance of crispness on the outside while keeping the inside tender and fluffy is no easy feat. Restaurants have perfected the art of making fries through careful prep work that starts with soaking the potato fries in salt water before frying. This extra step is the key to extracting excess starch from the potatoes, ensuring they fry up light and crispy, not soggy and greasy.

What Does Soaking Potatoes in Salt Water Do?

If you have tried making fries or baked potatoes at home with less than stellar results, it’s likely because you skipped this important salt water soaking step. So what exactly does soaking potatoes in salt water do? Let’s break it down.

Soaking Potatoes in Salt Water

Purpose: Draws Out Water and Removes Excess Starch

The main purpose of soaking cut potatoes in salt water is to draw out some of the excess water and starch from the potato’s cells through a process called osmosis. Raw potatoes contain a high amount of starch, which can cause them to break down and turn to mush when cooked at high heat.

By soaking potatoes in salted water ahead of cooking, the salt helps draw out the potato’s natural sugars and starches through osmosis. This results in potatoes that will fry or bake up light and crispy instead of soggy.

Result: Crisper and Firmer Potatoes When Cooked

The result of salt water soaking is that the potatoes will turn out much crisper and firmer when cooked. The salt water bath removes just enough starch and moisture to improve the texture, while retaining enough moisture for a fluffy interior. The soaking process helps reinforce the cell structure of the potato so it stays intact when fried or baked.

Soaking Time for Peeled, Chopped Potatoes for Fries: 15 Minutes to 24 Hours

For cut French fries, you’ll want to soak the potatoes after peeling and chopping them into sticks. The soaking time can range from as little as 15 minutes to as long as 24 hours in cold salt water. In general, the longer potatoes soak, the more moisture and starch is removed, resulting in firmer fries.

Soaking Time for Unpeeled, Whole Potatoes for Baking: 2 to 8 Hours

For whole baked potatoes, you’ll want to soak them unpeeled. Allow them to soak for anywhere between 2 to 8 hours before baking. The skin will help the potato retain its shape and moisture while soaking. Longer soaking yields a crisper skin when baked.

Instances When You Should Soak Potatoes in Salt Water

Making French Fries

There’s no better recipe to use the salt water soaking technique than when making crispy fries at home. Here are the steps:

  1. Aim: Achieve a crispy, golden-brown exterior and a fluffy, soft interior.
  2. Soaking Time: Soak peeled and chopped potatoes in salt water for 4 to 24 hours in the fridge.
  3. Process: Drain soaked potatoes, pat dry, fry in oil at 325°F until golden brown.

The longer fries soak, the more starch is removed, resulting in a crisper exterior. For food safety, only soak fries for a max of 24 hours.

Making Baked Potatoes

For baked potatoes with an ultra-crispy skin and pillowy interior, salt water soaking is a must:

  1. Aim: Perfect baked potatoes with crisp “jackets” and pillowy insides.
  2. Soaking Time: Soak scrubbed, unpeeled potatoes in salt water for 2 to 8 hours.
  3. Process: Drain, dry, rub with oil, and bake at 425°F until fork tender.

The longer the soak, the crispier the skin. For food safety, do not exceed 8 hours soaking time.

Preparing Potatoes Ahead of Time

If you are prepping potatoes in advance before cooking:

  1. Aim: Prevent cut potatoes from oxidizing and turning gray when exposed to air.
  2. Solution: Submerge cut potatoes fully in cold water until ready to use.
  3. Soaking Time: Up to 24 hours, replacing water as needed.

No need for salt in this case – regular cold water will keep potatoes fresh until cooking time.

Benefits of Soaking Potatoes in Salt Water

Benefits of Soaking Potatoes in Salt Water

Beyond achieving restaurant-worthy fries and baked potatoes, there are other advantages to salt water soaking:

Removes Excess Starch

Salt water is highly effective at drawing out excess starch from potatoes through osmosis. This prevents potatoes from breaking down and becoming gummy during high heat cooking.

Helps Potatoes Brown and Crisp Better

Less moisture and starch means the potatoes will brown and crisp up beautifully in the oven or fryer. The salt water soaking reinforces the cell structure so potatoes fry up crisper.

Helps Potatoes Hold Their Shape

With excess moisture removed, potatoes will hold their shape better during cooking instead of falling apart. Great for getting picture-perfect fries.

Removes Potentially Harmful Acrylamide

Soaking potatoes in salt water can significantly reduce acrylamide formation when frying or baking. Acrylamide is a potentially cancer-causing chemical that forms in some foods at high temperatures.

How to Soak Potatoes in Salt Water

Ready to treat your spuds to a salt water bath? Here are the simple steps:

Fill a Bowl with Cold Water and Salt

In a large bowl, mix cold water and 1-2 tbsp of salt until dissolved. Use a ratio of 4 cups water to 1 tbsp salt.

Prep Potatoes

For fries: Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick sticks.
For baking: Clean potatoes well, leave skin on.

Soak Potatoes

Submerge potatoes in salt water and let soak in the fridge for 4 to 24 hours. Occasionally turn fries or rotate baking potatoes.

Drain, Dry, and Cook

When ready to cook, drain potatoes well in a colander and pat dry with paper towels. Proceed with desired cooking method.

Additional Tips for Soaking Potatoes in Salt Water

To take your salt water soaking method even further for perfect fries and baked potatoes every time, keep these tips in mind:

Double Soak French Fries

For ultra crispy fries, double soak in the following stages:

  1. Peel and soak whole potatoes in salt water for 8 hours.
  2. Cut potatoes into fry sticks, then soak again in salt water for 8 more hours.

This extended soak time extracts even more starch for superior crispness.

Soaking Time Can Vary

Ideal soaking time is anywhere from 4 to 24 hours for fries and 2 to 8 hours for baking potatoes. However, even a quick 15 minute soak is better than no soak at all.

No Need to Salt Soak Plain Water

When soaking cut potatoes in plain water to prevent oxidation, you don’t need to add salt as you are not trying to draw out starch.

Optional: Add Vinegar

For extra flavor, add a tablespoon or two of vinegar to your salt water soak. Cider vinegar is ideal for enhanced taste.


As you can see, taking the time to soak potatoes in salt water before roasting or frying can lead to incredible results. The salt water bath removes excess starch from the potato’s cells through osmosis, resulting in a firm, reinforced structure that fries or bakes up beautifully crispy.

Restaurant-quality fries and baked potatoes are easily achievable at home with this simple preparation step. When making fries or roasted potatoes, a good rule of thumb is to soak for at least 2 to 24 hours, and up to 8 hours for whole baking potatoes. For safety, do not exceed these maximum soak times.

While the classic salt and water soak is effective, feel free to experiment with adding spices, vinegar or other flavorings to the water bath. After soaking and draining, pat potatoes completely dry before proceeding to cook. The result will be the crispiest, crunchiest potatoes you’ve ever enjoyed at home.

So the next time a recipe calls for frying or roasting potatoes, don’t skip the salt water soak. Taking this extra step will ensure tender interiors and crispy, golden exteriors worthy of your favorite restaurant.

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