Perhaps the most versatile veggie, potatoes can be prepared to accompany any meal, any time of day, no matter the season or the reason. From elegant evening hors d'oeuvres to cozy breakfast hash, there are endless ways to transform these delicious root vegetables. Learn all about the different types of potatoes and their culinary applications in this comprehensive guide.
Potato Varieties and Their Uses
Potatoes come in various shapes, sizes and colors, with textures ranging from waxy and creamy to starchy and fluffy. While each variety is versatile, certain types lend themselves to specific cooking styles. Here are a few popular varieties and their uses:
These large, brown potatoes have a rough skin and starchy white flesh. They’re known for their fluffy texture, making them excellent for baking, mashing and frying. They’re classic, versatile and perfect for dishes like baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, fries and crispy latkes.
Red potatoes have a thin red or pink skin and a naturally creamy flesh. Their waxy flesh retains its shape after cooking, making them particularly well-suited for potato salads, roasted dishes and potato recipes that call for boiling or steaming, like these delicious smashed potatoes.
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Like their name suggests, these spuds have a distinct golden skin and a yellow, buttery flesh. They’re creamy with a slightly nutty flavor and hold their shape well even after cooking, making them a great choice for scalloped potatoes. Yukon Gold potatoes are also delicious mashed, roasted or boiled.
Other Yellow Potatoes
Yellow potatoes, like Yukon Golds, have a golden or yellow skin and flesh, and a texture that falls somewhere between waxy and starchy. They’re an excellent choice for roasting, mashing and boiling, and their rich color adds visual appeal to dishes.
White potatoes have a light tan to white skin and a slightly waxy texture. Their mild flavor works well with many seasonings, and their texture makes them great in a variety of dishes whether they’re boiled, roasted or mashed.
Fingerlings are small, elongated potatoes with a thin skin. They come in a variety of colors and have a creamy texture similar to yellow varieties, making them perfect for roasting and boiling. Their unique appearance adds visual interest that’s perfect for gourmet dishes.
Baby New Potatoes
These young, freshly harvested potatoes have a thin skin and waxy flesh. They're often smaller in size with a delicate, slightly sweet flavor when cooked.
While not technically potatoes, sweet potatoes are a deliciously versatile option that deserves a mention. These veggies are orange, purple or white depending on the variety, with a mild, earthy flavor that lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes. They’re delicious baked, roasted or fried.
How to Cook Potatoes
Cooking potatoes to perfection requires a basic understanding of each variety’s textures and flavors. Here are some common ways to cook your favorites:
Boiling is a great way to prepare potatoes for mashing or for use in soups and salads. While some varieties, like red potatoes, are commonly boiled whole with skins intact, most potatoes should be peeled and chopped before boiling. Choose waxy varieties like red, Yukon Gold and yellow for the best results.
Once prepped, place potatoes in a pot of cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender and drain. If you’re looking to add a little extra flavor, consider boiling your potatoes in chicken, beef or vegetable stock.
Russets are best for baking due to their thick skin and starchy interior. To make delicious baked potatoes, simply scrub your spuds before placing them on a baking sheet, then poke holes in each potato to allow steam to escape. Brush with oil or butter and place in a preheated oven until tender and fluffy.
Roasting your potatoes is a great way to create a delicious dish with little effort. To roast potatoes, simply cut them into bite-sized pieces, toss them in oil and season with your favorite herbs and spices before putting them in the oven. Potatoes with a higher starch content and thicker skin are generally best for roasting, since they’ll get nice and crispy while maintaining a creamy, fluffy interior.
High-starch potatoes like russets or sweet potatoes are best for frying due to their lower moisture content and fluffy texture. These potatoes will absorb less oil than waxy varieties, resulting in light and crispy fries. After cutting your potatoes, be sure to rinse and dry them to remove any excess starch. Fry twice for best results, first at a lower temperature to cook the interior, then at a higher temperature to achieve crispiness.
Whether you're looking for an easy side dish, a comfort food fix or a gourmet appetizer, potatoes have you covered. With their diverse range of flavors and textures, these tasty spuds invite culinary creativity.