Boiling potatoes involves slightly more than simply throwing the potatoes into a pot of boiling water and cooking them until they reach your desired doneness. Using the wrong type of potatoes for the dish you are making may result in a final product that is too crumbly or too lumpy, even if you complete the boiling process perfectly. Worse still, putting your potatoes into a pot of boiling water may cause them to cook unevenly, leaving you to decide between nearly raw centers or overcooked, mealy outsides. Boil your potatoes properly to ensure they cook evenly and work well in your final dish.
Use potatoes that have a consistency that will suit your final dish. Starchy potatoes such as Russets work best for mashed potatoes because they will be light and fluffy. On the other hand, waxy, low-starch potatoes work best in cases where you wish the final boiled potatoes (or chunks) to hold their shape.
Scrub the potatoes under cool, running water. Peel them if you wish. This is more important for old potatoes with thicker, tougher skins than it is for new potatoes with thin, delicate skins. Cut the potatoes into chunks, if you wish. All of the potatoes or potato pieces you wish to boil should be fairly close to the same size.
Put the potatoes or potato pieces into a pot large enough to easily hold all of them with several inches to spare. Add enough cold water to the pot to completely cover all of the potatoes by at least an inch. Salt the water if you wish.
Put the pot of potatoes on the stove and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to bring the water to a gentle, steady simmer. Simmer the potatoes until they are done to your liking. You can test their doneness by stabbing gently with a fork or knife every five minutes; when the utensil pierces through the potato easily, your potatoes are done.