Need help choosing the right potato for a recipe? Which potato works best for which recipes is a question I often get at workshops or via email. At the same time, I also get a lot of comments about whether it really matters which potato you use.
Yes, you can use any kind of potato for any potato recipe. In fact, that’s what we did as I was growing up – we used whatever potato was in the root cellar. However, you will not get the best results possible. For example, you could use a russet potato for potato salad – but the potatoes will end up crumbly and mushy instead of remaining as distinct potato cubes. You could use red potatoes for baked potatoes, but they won’t have the same crispy skin and soft interior as a russet. Sometimes it pays to know the difference and to choose your spud carefully.
It all comes down to starch content. Starchy potatoes like russets are dry, fluffy and absorbent with a skin that crisps up nicely when fried or baked. They’re also great for mashed potatoes. Waxy potatoes like red potatoes have a smooth texture that hold their shape quite well when cooked. They’re best for dishes like scalloped or au gratin potatoes, potato salad, soups or stews.
To help you make the most of your potato dishes, here’s a chart for choosing the right potato.
Are Potatoes Healthy?
Contrary to what you might have heard, potatoes can be part of a healthy diet. One medium-sized potato with the skin intact contains 110 calories, has more potassium than a banana, provides almost half our daily value of vitamin C and is a good source of vitamin B6 and fiber. As for the starch content, did you know, one baked potato has about the same amount of carbs as a cup of cooked quinoa or pasta? So, there’s no need to shun potatoes.
Just be conscientious about how many you’re eating at one time and how you’re preparing them. Hint, go for baked or roasted versus deep fried or covered in gravy.
Oh and when you can – eat the skin. The potato skin has more nutrients than the interior, particularly fiber.
Choose clean, dry, firm potatoes with no bruises or green spots. If you do happen to get any green patches, sprouts or black patches, remove them before cooking. The rest of the potato is fine to eat.
Handle potatoes gently. They may look tough, but potatoes bruise easily and those bruises turn to dark patches.
Keep potatoes in a dark, well ventilated, cool (7-10°C/40°-50°F) area.
Too warm and your potatoes will sprout, shrivel and loose nutrients.
Too cold and you’ll get darkening and a slightly sweet off-flavor as the starch turns to sugar.
Also, keep onions and potatoes separate or they’ll both deteriorate more quickly.
A Word About Darkening After Cooking
Have you had beautiful potatoes turn dark after cooking? It may be because potatoes were stored too cool. Or, it may be due to acid and mineral imbalances within the potato due to growing and soil conditions. These imbalances cause cooked potatoes to turn bluish/black when exposed to air. It happens in homes and commercial settings across the globe and is called After-Cooking Darkening. Yup, it’s an official thing!
While food processing companies use sodium acid pyrophosphate to control darkening, for home cooks the solution is unclear. The best option is to work quickly to minimize exposure of cooked potatoes to air. Keep covered or coat them quickly with spices, broth, butter or acid. See, butter makes everything better!
Potato Recipes to Try
Do you have any questions about selecting, storing or using potatoes? I love getting reader’s questions and the opportunity to uncover and share tips and info. Leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram @getgettys and Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist.