do potatoes absorb excess salt in food?

I was speaking to an old wife, and she told me an old wives tale. Well actually it was my little sister, but she is engaged, so thats almost the same.

Anyway she claims that if, while cooking, u have over salted (say a stew), the best solution to remove/reduce the salt is to u add raw potatoes to the cooking food and it will absorb salt very effectively?

Please do tell, any feedback welcome

I have read about and tried adding sugar, but u do end up with a subtle sweet n sour thing going on, and besides theres still too much salt in your food. Bad for your health.
However if u do take the sugar route the infamous “they” say to use brown sugar

I did also read this on another site, my favourite post:
Recapping: The trouble with adding water to the stew to make it less salty is that the stew will become watery; The trouble with adding potatoes or silica gel to absorb salt, and then removing the potatoes or silica gel, is that they will remove ingredients other than water and salt, thus altering the flavour of the stew.

   	The solution then, to counter the effect of the salt, must be to add additional quantities of *all* of the other ingredients. This will neutralise the salt, but have the side effect of producing much more stew than originally required, which in turn, can be solved by inviting me round to dinner.

The final solution is the only one I know will work – add more of everything else.

Silica gel? In your food? Yechh.

Potatoes do not absorb enough salt to make a difference when something has been oversalted. This is indeed an old wives tale that has been disproven, by Cook’s Illustrated at least if not others.

The only way to really fix something that has been oversalted (or that is too spicy) is to make another batch without the overdone ingredient and combine the two.

Sorry I don’t have a cite, or even the name of the person quoted, but I recently read an article about an innovative and accomplished chef who said the one thing that was impossible to rectify was too much salt.

So yeah, double the rest of the ingredients and have someone over for dinner. :smiley:

As for doubling the ingredients and mixing them in, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to know when to throw out what you have and start over. Cut your loses. Potatoes won’t remove the salt.

They would “do it”.

The question is HOW much would they do it?

I suspect something just a little oversalted that had 50 percent by volume potatoes put in it would be fixed. Something way over salted, a few potatoes put in? probably not gonna work well.

If you had an expensive and time critical dish, you could probably throw a bunch of potatoes in there and save the day, removing the potatoes for use elsewhere later…everyday problems…not so much.

My long-term solution is to use kosher salt in the first place. It’s a lot harder to oversalt with it. I think when you use ordinary table salt, what you end up tasting too much of is the iodine in it.

The old wives tale about adding more potatoes is just a version of “make more stew” except that someone along the way got confused and thought they could remove the potatoes.

Dried pasta is a slightly better option than potatoes - pasta absorbs water and salt. You can then add some extra water to replace what was absorbed without getting a watery stew. But here the trick is that the pasta is removing water that happens to have salt, not that it’s selectively removing salt.

For proof that neither pasta nor potatoes are really removing much salt from a cooking liquid, just try cooking them in salted water and taste the water afterward. Yep, still salty.

There’s no way this could work. Osmosis would cause water to enter or leave the potato cells, but the salt ions stay in the soup. Either the cells have a higher solute concentration than the soup, and water goes into the potato cells, or the potatoes have a lower solute concentration than the soup and water comes out into the soup. Ions just don’t diffuse across cell membranes on their own.

The potatoes might soak up water as a sponge, but the salt will go along with the water and not change anything either.

Yeah, my mother told me about potatoes removing salt, and also told me to eat bread while cutting onions. In spite of this, she was an excellent cook.

I was thinking the osmosis process would work, of course I was thinking salt ions going into the potato cells to equalize the concentration, which WOULD help.

But, now that you mention it, yeah, most very likely its going to be the water doing all the moving around to equalize the concentration, and that aint gonna help at all :smack:

water coming out of the taters would help dilute the concentration of the salt, though it would be very small amount. the best source of the volume of water to dilute the salt would be the tap. closer to the question of adding a food item to help then cucumber or watermelon would add more water than taters.

That’s an interesting solution for slight over salting. Perhaps rice would be even better (Im guessing its more (salt)water absorbant)? Since either would allow you to add more unsalted water to the stew.
However I am guessing other flavours would also be leached. Leading you to have to add more of other herbs and spices. Go easy on the salt mind you.

The rice/pasta could be put in a gauze bag so that you could fish it out after… What say you dope oracle?

Cook’s debunked the potato idea:

Popular kitchen lore holds that a few chunks or slices of raw potato will absorb excess salt from an overseasoned soup or stew. Is this true? To find out, we oversalted several pots of chicken stock to varying degrees, removed samples, then added raw potatoes and simmered until they were tender. After discarding the potatoes, we held a blind taste test to see if we could discern any difference in the salt levels. We could not. To be sure, we tested the stocks with a sodium probe and found little difference. Common sense supports these results: A potato may soak up a small quantity of the salty liquid, but it is powerless to reduce the overall concentration of salt in the liquid.
The do offer the following:
Too salty? Add an acid or sweetener, such as vinegar; lemon or lime juice; canned, unsalted tomatoes; sugar, honey, or maple syrup.

For more, check out Recipe Rescue

Posted: 5/10/2009 8:18 PM #284403



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Last Post:8/14/2009
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Welcome to the forum.
Sorry, regardless of which old wives tale you read, there is NOTHING you can do to eliminate the radio of salt in a solution EXCEPT to dilute it. The “potato trick” claims to remove salt, but all it does is absorb some of the salty liquid which puts you in a position to add more liquid. You can accomplish the same thing by simply pouring off some of your liquid and replacing it with more - hence; it’s diluted.
One way to handle the problem you describe is to repeat the recipe without adding any salt and combining it with the initial recipe - that’s will cut the salt solution per volume by half.
If the amount of salt you added is far and away too great (more than twice the recipe amount) and you can’t double the recipe to bring it back into line, AND if the liquid sauce for the beans (or whatever) isn’t crucial to the dish, just pour off the liquid and replace it with fresh unsalted liquid and cook the dish a bit longer to dilute the salt that the food has absorbed into the solution as a whole.
Once salt, or any water soluble ingredient, has broken down into solution it can ONLY be removed by dilution.

Overseasoning of any kind can often be assisted by taking a portion of the dish and rinsing breifly in water then returning the stuff to the pot and mixing it back in.

I’d suggest that ‘removing salt’ isn’t quite the right phrase. ‘Removing the taste of the salt’ would be better and I’ve seen this done. Just a week ago, my mother was cooking a soup and asked me to taste it. She’d over-salted it. I said so (politely), so she put in an already-cooked potato and the soup turned out delicious.

I guess it depends on how you cook. If you cook using only oil and no water, and you over-salt your food just a little, then throwing in a potato and adding some water WILL remove the excess salt. This is assuming that you taste your food early in the cooking process (well before the food is fully cooked).

Obviously, if you put one potato into a hundred quarts of water with ten kilos of salt in it, the potato will make no difference to the saltiness.

Simple solution: don’t add salt when cooking.

Potatos may not work, but what about dialysis tubing. It’ll filter out small molecules like salts while leaving the larger proteins and starches behind. Just add more water to dilute the remainder. Might work for a stew.

That’s what my cookbook says, to throw in some raw potatoes.