Choosing the Right Potato for the Job
Potatoes are a known staple of most home cooked meals. What is a true Sunday dinner without spuds in some form? After years of eating potatoes, have you ever wondered which potatoes should be used for boiling, baking or frying. I am pretty sure you have eaten just about every type of potato in every fashion, but honestly some just taste better baked than fried, why? By understanding the moisture and starch content of different varieties of potatoes, we will conclude which potatoes are right for the job.
Also known as baking potatoes or Idaho potatoes, russet potatoes are characterized by their rough brown skin, elliptical shape and white flesh. The potatoes moisture and high starch content makes for a mealy cooked product which is great for baking, mashing and frying. The culmination of these characteristics results in an all-purpose potato that can be used for just about any cooking task. Other potatoes with similar characteristic are the Long White and Fingerlings, (which are a petite version of the Long White).
Round Potatoes, typically known as white or red potatoes, are distinguished by their round shape and brown spotting. The red varieties have a thinner skin compared to a russet which can be easily peeled off before or after cooking. These potatoes are high in sugar and moisture yet low in starch. These potatoes are classified as boiling potatoes because they are great for making mashed potatoes or other potato preparations that require the potato to keep its shape; like potato salad. Also, red potatoes are also great for roasting as the waxy texture of the flesh can withstand high temperatures of dry heat. Round white potatoes share the same characteristics of the red potato. This potato has a freckled brown skin and is cultivated from the northeastern states where it is commonly known as the Katahdin potato.
All Blue, Purple, Red-Fleshed and New Potatoes
The more exotic varieties of potatoes are popping up in grocery stores as specialty items. There is no better way to scare children than presenting blue, purple or red mashed potatoes during dinner. After the shock wears off and they taste them, they will see these potatoes taste just like the classic white or russet they have come to love. The term “all blue” potato is actually right on. These potatoes actually have blue skin and flesh which is sometimes used to make dyes. You will also find purple potatoes to have the same pigmentation yet you may note some white or beige streaking in the flesh. Red-flesh or huckleberry potatoes have reddish to pink flesh which is great for boiling as well.
New potatoes are commonly labeled baby red potatoes which is partially true. All young potatoes of any variety are considered new potatoes. Since these spuds have not properly matured, they are higher in sugar content than a fully developed potato. Consequently these potatoes have a crisp, waxy texture followed by an undeveloped wispy skin which is easily rubbed off during cleaning. These potatoes are small enough to be cooked whole or can be cut in wedges and are excellent for both boiling and roasting. New potatoes are available from spring through early summer, yet regionally you will always find new varieties of potatoes in bloom year round.
Learning to enjoy different preparation and styles of potatoes can be great fun for both you and your family. Do be afraid to try new varieties, you just might find a new favorite.