Dear Barbara: I’ve always heard that if you are making something and it is too salty, that you can fix it by adding a potato. Does this really work? — Dorothy from Lodi
Dear Dorothy: I’ve also heard that a potato will take out the extra salt, but I didn’t know for a fact. So back in my lab (that would be my kitchen!), I tried an experiment. I opened a can of diced tomatoes and put exactly half into two identical saucepans, adding equal amounts of water to each pan. To one pan, I added 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. This would be a normal amount to season the amount of liquid in the tomatoes. To the other pan, I added 1⁄4 teaspoon of salt, which is too much. I peeled a potato and cut it into cubes, adding half to each of the pans. After simmering the mixture for about 15 minutes, or until the potato was done, I very carefully removed the potatoes to two different plates. I could definitely taste the salt in the potato of the over-salted version. This tells me that the potato did absorb a certain amount of salt, but not enough to make an appreciable difference. The tomatoes in the second pan were still overly salty.