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Simple fixes for common mistakes you might be making with your scalloped potatoes.

By Stacey Ballis
February 24, 2021
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Scalloped potatoes, when well made, are one of life's great joys. Ooey gooey cheesy and creamy, savory and satisfying, they are a thing of beauty. They are not difficult to make, easy enough to throw together on a weeknight or make ahead. Comforting and affordable enough for a Tuesday indulgence but still fancy enough to serve at any special occasion. But easy doesn't mean foolproof, and there are some pitfalls to scalloped potatoes that can result in the opposite of joy. Nothing is more disappointing than a comfort food that does not comfort.

So, here are some simple and fixable mistakes you might be making with your scalloped potatoes:

My potatoe are sort of purple or gray

Unless you used purple potatoes, this dreaded lavender tinge is not awesome to look at, but it isn't dangerous to eat. Your potatoes have oxidized, which means you prepped them too far ahead. If you want to peel and slice your potatoes in advance be sure to cover them with cold water so that they are not exposed to air, which will make them discolor.

My sauce is watery

There are several potential culprits here. One, it could be your choice of potato. If you used a pre-prepped potato from the refrigerator section instead of slicing your own, they can have preservatives that make them a bit watery. If you stored your potatoes in water to prevent discoloring, be sure to drain them well and pat them dry before adding to your casserole. Some of the waxier potatoes can release more water than starchier ones, so look for good baking potatoes like russet or Yukon golds.

My sauce is split

The sauce in a scalloped potato dish is really mostly milk and cheese. They emulsify to create that unctuous creamy sauce. So, this is not the place to sub in reduced fat products. Using things like skim milk or reduced fat cheese will result in a sauce that cannot stand up to the cooking time and will split on you. 2% or whole milk, and full fat cheeses are a must!

My scalloped potatoes are bland

Potatoes are, by their nature, little sponges. They are also in need of serious seasoning to ensure deliciousness. Make sure your sauce is well-seasoned, but also, season each layer of potatoes with salt and pepper before adding the sauce, to make sure they are as flavorful as you want them!

My potatoes are crunchy

If your potatoes aren't cooked properly, they will have a slightly crisp or al dente texture. You want to be sure the dish cooks evenly, so rotate the dish in your oven halfway thru cooking and be sure to test for doneness in more than one spot, in case your oven heats unevenly. Your knife should slide in and out with no resistance at all, and if you are concerned, test with a fork instead of a knife, since the tines are not as sharp and will not penetrate an undercooked potato.

My scalloped potatoes are burnt on top but still raw underneath

Because potatoes take a while to cook through, this dish tends to bake for an hour or more. Keeping it covered with foil for 2/3 of the cooking time will ensure that they are well on their way to doneness before exposing the top to the heat element for browning. Be sure to bake in the center rack of your oven, not the top, and if you find that your top is browning too fast but the dish is still not fully cooked, simply lay a sheet of foil over the top to protect it as it finishes.

Check out our collection of Scalloped Potato Recipes.

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