Some of the most popular types of the many varieties of potatoes are described below.
This is the most popular potato in the United States. It is also known as the Idaho or baking potato. Most are grown in the Northwest, and they are available year-round. These potatoes are high in starch and are characterized by netted brown skin and white flesh. Russets are light and fluffy when cooked, making them ideal for baking and mashing. They are good for frying and roasting, too.
Round whites are grown and used most often in the eastern United States. They are available year-round. Round whites are medium in starch level and have smooth, light tan skin with white flesh. These potatoes are creamy in texture and hold their shape well after cooking. Regarded as an all-purpose potato, round whites are very versatile and work well in just about every potato preparation.
Long white, or white rose
These are grown primarily in California and are most readily available spring through summer. Long whites are oval-shaped, medium in starch level, and have thin, light tan skin. They have a firm, creamy, almost waxy texture when cooked, and hold their shape well. These all-purpose potatoes are very versatile, and work well in just about every potato preparation.
These potatoes are available mostly in late summer and early fall. They are easy to recognize with their red skin and white flesh. Red potatoes have a firm, smooth, and moist texture, making them well suited for salads, roasting, boiling and steaming. They are often referred to as “new potatoes”; however, technically, “new” refers to any variety of potato that is harvested when its skin is reddish, before reaching maturity.
These potatoes are very popular in Europe and increasingly popular in the United States, although they are still not grown in large quantities. Yukon gold is a variety of yellow-flesh potato available in late summer and early fall. These potatoes have a dense, creamy texture. With their golden color, you can be fooled into thinking that they are already buttered. They are a good choice for mashed potatoes.
Blue and purple
These potatoes originated in South America and are not widely cultivated in the United States. Blue and purple potatoes are most commonly available in the fall. In the United States, they are often seen on the snack shelves of natural foods and grocery stores as chips. These relatively uncommon potatoes have a subtle nutty flavor and flesh that ranges in hue from dark blue or lavender to white. Microwaving preserves the color the best, but steaming and baking also work well.
Potatoes are sold fresh, dehydrated, canned, frozen (mostly as French fries or hash browns), and, of course, there’s the familiar potato chip. Potato flour, also known as potato starch, is also available, and can be used as a binder in meat or vegetable patties.
Dehydrated potato flakes and granules are used most often to make mashed potatoes. Some products require the addition of water, milk, and butter; others only require the addition of water. Dehydrated shredded, sliced, and diced potatoes are also available. These can be found in packaged convenience potato products, such as potatoes au gratin mixes.
Preparation, Uses, & Tips
There are many ways to enjoy potatoes. Just about every preparation, including mashed, works well with the potato skin intact; keeping the skin on also retains nutrients. Here are some tips on some of the most popular preparation techniques.
Heat oven to 425°F (220°C). Pierce potato in several places so the steam can escape. Place potato on oven rack or baking sheet. Bake 40 to 55 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.
Pierce each potato several times so the steam can escape. Place in microwave oven and microwave on high until tender, turning potato over halfway. For medium-sized potatoes (about 5 ounces or 140g), microwave 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 minutes. For larger potatoes, (about 9 ounces or 255g), microwave 5 to 9 minutes.
In a large saucepan, add cut-up potatoes to 2 inches (about 5cm) of boiling water, or just enough to cover them. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, covered, about 12 minutes or until tender; drain. (If cooking whole potatoes, allow 30 to 40 minutes.) Using an electric hand-mixer or potato masher, mash potatoes. Mix in warmed milk, butter (if desired), salt, and pepper.
In a microwave-safe dish, combine 1 1/2 pounds (about 680g) quartered potatoes and 3 Tbsp (45mL) water. Cover and microwave on high 12 to 14 minutes or until tender. Mash potatoes as described above and stir in warmed milk, butter (if desired), salt, and pepper.
To reduce the fat and calorie content of mashed potatoes, try replacing the milk and butter with chicken or vegetable broth and buttermilk.
Heat oven to 425°F (220°C). Toss cut-up potatoes with enough olive oil to coat lightly. Season with salt and pepper (or any seasoned salt). Arrange in an even layer on a lightly oiled shallow baking pan. Roast 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, moving them around occasionally.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat butter (or olive oil) over medium heat. Add coarsely shredded potatoes; cover, and cook until bottom is golden brown, adjusting heat as necessary. Turn potatoes over carefully to brown opposite side. Season with salt and pepper. Note: Turn only once for crisper potatoes.
Prolonged storage in light can cause uncooked potatoes to turn green. Green potatoes may contain a substance called solanine, which can have a bitter flavor and can be toxic. If you’ve purchased potatoes that have turned green, be sure to trim off the green areas before using. To prevent potatoes from greening, they should be stored in a dark, cool place that is well ventilated. Such storage will prevent potatoes from “sprouting,” too, but avoid storing potatoes with onions. Always trim sprouts before cooking potatoes. Once cut, uncooked potatoes can take on bluish or dark tints. Potatoes that become discolored in this way are safe to eat, and the color usually disappears when the potato is cooked. To prevent cut potatoes from discoloring, immerse them in cold water until ready to use, for up to two hours. However, extended storage in cold water is not recommended as it can result in loss of some of the potatoes’ water-soluble nutrients. Cooked potatoes are subject to discoloration, too. Sometimes, a gray-blue or blackish area develops as the cooked potato cools. This is harmless, and any discolored area can simply be cut away.