You Say Potato, I Say Potato (the right potato for the job)

Feb 26, 2018 | Cooking Tips

As I sit here and think about it, I’m sure that on a recent trip to the grocery store there were at least seven different types of potato in the produce area, probably more. That’s a lot a’potato! The thing is, every potato has a job for which it is best suited. Some potatoes are mealy in texture, some are waxy. There are potatoes that have a very high moisture content and some that are very dry. There are some with thick skins, and some with thin skins. Some are big, some are small. Some have white flesh, some yellow, some blue or purple. You see what I’m getting at here? So, how do you know which potato is the right potato for you?

I am going to preface this by saying that most of the time it doesn’t matter that much what potato you use. I am not about to tell you that you can’t do whatever you want. I’m not about to tell you anything absolute at all. What I am about to tell you is just a general guide to common potatoes, and which potato is best for the job. Just because something is the better option, does not mean it is the only option or, the option that you have to go with. Does that make sense? Essentially, don’t worry too much about what I am about to tell.

So, you’re at the grocery store staring down ten or more varieties of potato. Their eyes looking hopefully back at you. How do you decide which potato is the right one for your needs? Well, what potato needs do you have? What are you making? What is your intention with said potato? Do you plan on roasting it? Do you plan on boiling it? Do you plan on mashing it? Are you making potato salad? Scalloped potatoes? What do you want to do with the potato?

Let’s look at mashed potatoes first as that is probably one of the most common uses. When making mashed you generally want a potato that is low in moisture content and high in starch. Potatoes like russet, or Idaho (bakers or baking potatoes) fit the bill nicely. In fact, if you only ever want to buy one potato, these both make good general all purpose potatoes. They are also great for frying or baking.

Next you have potatoes that are good for things like whole boiling, potato salad, soups and stews, or roasting. These hold their shape well when cooked due to a moderate starch and moisture content. Potatoes like yellow waxy varieties, yukon golds, US #1, Chef’s, red skinned, and fingerling.  The yukon golds, US #1, and Chef’s Potatoes are also best for things like scalloped potatoes.

Finally you have new potatoes and most small varieties. These have a low starch content and a high moisture content. This makes them ideal for simple things like roasting, steaming or boiling whole. They are not great in soups or stews ase they have too high a moisture content and can more easily get water logged leaving you with soggy potatoes. Potatoes in this variety generally don’t need to be peeled due to the skin being younger and softer than other types. Also, the peel holds the potato together when cooked as it might otherwise fall apart again due to the high moisture content.

So, that’s a lot of information about the common potato. Like I said just keep doing what you’re doing. Just keep all of this in the back of your mind somewhere so the next time your taking a potato salad, or scalloped potatoes to a potluck and you want to blow Sherri Johnson’s mind (or whatever your perfectly annoying neighbour, coworker, or friends name is) you know exactly what potato to use.



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