There are myriad ways to save time when preparing the big meal this Thanksgiving, and lots of people who would like to tell you how to do it. But, according to the experts, following one surprisingly widespread life hack might result in an early morning call to an appliance repairman ... or worse.
A hack circulating around the web claims that folks can clean the dirt off of a mountain of potatoes in the time that it takes to rinse your dishes — in a literal sense — by putting them in the dishwasher.
”You’re making potatoes for a crowd — don’t hand wash all these potatoes. Do you put your dishwasher to use," says Barbara Costello, better known as @brunchwithbabs, in her TikTok, which has garnered nearly 6 million views and over 566,000 likes. "Just load up your dishwasher with those potatoes and put it on a quick rinse cycle — obviously no soap."
“Potatoes in the dishwasher?? Do it! It’ll save you SO much time when it comes to Thanksgiving Day prep,” reads the caption on a recent Instagram from HGTV.
While many of the time-saving cooking hacks found on the internet are indeed mind-blowingly convenient, those in the comments section seem to feel otherwise about this one. Social media users are disputing the feasibility of putting your spuds in the suds, so to speak.
“It’s thanksgiving not april fools day,” one Instagram user commented on HGTV's post.
“After seeing everyone’s videos of cleaning their dishwasher filter there is zero possibility I would wash food in the dishwasher,” a TikTok user wrote on Babs' video.
“This why you can’t eat at everybody house,” commented another person on Instagram.
“If you’re too lazy to rinse a potato, you shouldn’t be cooking Thanksgiving dinner,” somebody else wrote on Instagram.
While many of the commenters disagreed or pointed out the potential faults of this tip with jokes, many folks pointed out the potential for soapy or gritty residue in the dishwasher to make its way into your potatoes.
“DO NOT WASH POTATOES IN THE DISHWASHER!!!!” exclaimed one TikTok commenter. “IT CAN FILL THE POTATOS [sic] WITH SOAP RESIDUE FROM PREVIOUS CYCLES!!”
“Don’t do this! It is not food safe and the potatoes are porous,” another person commented on Instagram. “Even without adding soap, there are soap remnants and bacteria still in there.”
Should you wash potatoes in the dishwasher?
To find out if the dissent in the comment section was onto something, we decided to tap an expert in food safety to know for sure. Our expert tells TODAY Food in no uncertain terms that unless you want a side of Palmolive with your mashed potatoes, you probably should stick to the standard brush and sink when doing the potato prep.
“Even though you aren’t using dishwasher detergent, it’s possible there is still detergent residue or even food bits from previous washes that could circulate," says Meredith Carothers, a Public Affairs Specialist at the Food Safety and Inspection Service. “Potatoes are porous which means residue or bacteria can be absorbed into the potatoes, which could cause an issue food-safety-wise.”
Carothers emphasizes that detergents are not meant to be consumed (her emphasis, not ours!). When properly cycled through the dishwashing cycle, these soaps are safe to use on plates, utensils and other nonporous items. But friends: Potatoes are very porous, as is your esophagus and stomach lining.
Further, the National Capital Poison Center states that the same ingredients that make automatic dishwashing detergent so effective against the fats, proteins and other types of food grime also make them dangerous if they are swallowed, inhaled or come into contact with the eyes or skin. They can cause chemical burns or, at the very least, skin irritation. Which means, obviously, you don't want any of that on your potatoes.
“In the olden days (when I worked in a kitchen) you could put the potatoes in a flat tray for silverware and run just the rinse cycle in a commercial dishwasher,” reads an entry on The Idaho Potato Commission’s series “Ask Dr. Potato.”
“This is no longer recommended, as there may be residual soap in the system and often the machines now have tubes automatically dispensing liquid soaps and rinse agents," the post continues. "For parties at home for large crowds I have still done this, just ran the dishwasher without any rinse solution or soap. But it’s not the way to do it correctly now.”
Even if all of this is not enough to deter you from placing your potatoes where last night’s casserole once sat, there’s another practical reason to forgo this not-so-hot tip.
“There is also the chance for bit of potato to break off, which could contribute to clogs or other dishwasher problems,” Carothers says.
If you really don’t want to hand-wash your potatoes on Thanksgiving, just do what cooks have been doing throughout history: Outsource the task to one of your guests. See if they're really being genuine when they ask, "Can I help with anything?"