Why Alton Brown Cuts Potatoes Into Triangles Before Boiling

Boiling potatoes correctly seems pretty straight forward — that is until celebrity chef Alton Brown makes you feel like maybe it isn't. What could be easier than throwing a few potatoes in a pot of water and bringing them to a boil? Well, if that's your method, you may want to reconsider. Why boil potatoes in the first place? This is the first step in forming mashed potatoes, per Southern Living. And if you have plans on making a delicious potato salad, boiled potatoes are also an essential ingredient. This is largely because boiling potatoes softens up these totally tubular vegetables for this purpose.

AllRecipes goes on to explain the standard operating procedure for boiling potatoes begins with the prep. After cleaning your potatoes, to peel or not to peel is a real question. There is one school of thought that theorizes leaving the peel on ensures the potato doesn't fall apart, while Kitchn suggests leaving those peels on provides a barrier so the potato doesn't soak-up too much water. 

Meanwhile, Brown's preferred way to boil potatoes removes the peel and cuts them into triangles for a rather interesting reason. But why?

Triangles equal a consistent cook

If you are boiling potatoes to make your favorite mashed potatoes, Alton Brown says to cut them into triangles in order to achieve the "perfect range of doneness and starch-gelatinization" when you boil them. In a Youtube video, Brown starts with potatoes that have been peeled. Furthermore, he states that he has done "copious" testing and discovered the perfect dimensions of the perfect shape to cut up potatoes in before you boil them is indeed a triangle. 

Per Life Hacker, the celebrity chef with a penchant for food chemistry revealed that cutting potatoes into a pie shape is optimal. Brown recommends cutting the potatoes into "half inch slices" and explains you want to stack these slices, about three at a time, and cut in half, turn, and cut in half again. 

In the video, Brown states that cutting potatoes into triangles before boiling them may be "a small detail perhaps, but sometimes the culinary gods are the details." He says you should plan for between 15 and 20 minutes for the potatoes to boil, but once they are cooked, according to Food Network, Brown says you should be able to take a pair of tongs and crush them.