How to know when a potato is rotten

Updated March 23, 2017

Potatoes are a staple in households worldwide. They are easy to grow, easy to store, and easy to prepare, with hundreds of uses. While potatoes will keep for a long time, eventually they will rot. Learn how to recognise when a potato goes rotton.

Smell. The one true test for potato viability is to use your nose. Rotten potatoes put off a stench that can't even be described. If you detect a foul odour coming from somewhere in your kitchen, check your potato supply. It only takes one rotten potato to stink up the whole drawer.

Look. Having detected no noticeable scents of rot, give your potatoes a glance. Fresh potatoes will look solid, with no wrinkles, no sprouts (eyes), and no discolourations. Potatoes will begin to age, much like humans, and develop wrinkly, saggy skin the longer they sit. The colour will change from a rich brown/tan colour to a darker, dingier greyish-brown shade. In addition, they will start to go "to seed" and begin sprouting. At this point, while still usable, it's best to make dishes that require peeling and cutting, so that you can inspect the flesh for rotten spots that can't be seen from the outside. Clearly, you will know your potato is rotten if it has completely caved in, and is now overgrown with a plethora of sprouts.

Touch. If potatoes aren't giving off any foul aromas and you can't determine whether they are rotten by looking, then it's time for the touch test. Fresh potatoes are fairly solid and won't dent or push in when you poke them. If you squeeze or poke the potato and there's still a fair amount of firmness, you can still salvage the tuber for some tasty non-baked potato dishes. However, a potato has clearly passed its prime when you poke it and your finger comes out the other side.

Taste. If your potato has passed the previous three tests, you'll want to give it a final taste inspection before going to the trouble of cooking it. Cut off a sliver of raw potato give it a chew. If it tastes mildewy or musty or just plain funky, it's time to retire the potato to its final resting place in the compost pile or the garbage can.


Use potatoes that are passing their prime for mashed potatoes, potato salad, hash browns and other dishes where you don't need a perfect-looking potato.
Store potatoes in a dark, cool place, such as a drawer, potato bin or a dry cellar. Use ageing potatoes for crafts such as painting. They're fun for kids to use and eliminate the need for expensive brushes.


Keep an eye on your potato supply. They can scare the living daylights out of you if left unattended and they start to sprout. If you go to reach blindly into the potato drawer and encounter a forest of foot-long sprouts, you know you've left the potatoes unattended for too long.

Things You'll Need

  • Potatoes (any variety)
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About the Author

Based in Ohio, Deborah Waltenburg has been writing online since 2004, focusing on personal finance, personal and commercial insurance, travel and tourism, home improvement and gardening. Her work has appeared on numerous blogs, industry websites and media websites, including "USA Today."