Sixteen Kinds of Potatoes
Potatoes fall into three basic categories: starchy, waxy, and those in between (which are referred to as all-purpose). The trick is knowing which potato works best in which circumstance. Consider this a user’s guide to the humble spud. We break down which potato is best for baking, boiling, roasting, and more.
How to Pick the Perfect Potato
It’s a good idea to inspect your potatoes before you buy them. A little dirt is fine and perfectly normal, but you want to watch out for and avoid any sprouting from the eyes (the little indents in the potato), soft spots, cuts and gouges, or any potato with a green tint to the skin.
Green coloring means the potato has been exposed to too much light and developed the toxin solanine, which can cause some nasty conditions like cramping, headaches, diarrhea, and fever. Such a potato also will have a bitter flavor.
How to Clean Potatoes
To clean potatoes simply give them a good scrub under some water to remove the dirt and debris and inspect them for any deep eyes that should be cut out. You don’t need to peel potatoes unless you want to, as the skin is edible.
Starchy Potatoes and How to Use Them
Starchy potatoes are great for baking and frying. Because of their starch, they don’t hold together very well when cooked, but they are are fluffy and absorbent — perfect for butter on a baked potato or the oil in a fryer. They are decent mashed, but care must be taken not to overwork them or else you’ll have a gluey mess.
Most people have the russet potato, also commonly referred to as an Idaho potato, fixed in their minds as the classic potato. They are typically quite large with rough brown skin.
Japanese Sweet Potato
This variety has a pink to purple skin with a yellow to white flesh. Its flavor is sweet and nutty. They can be grilled, steamed or baked. Use them in curry, stuff them with meat, or simply season with salt and pepper.
Hannah Sweet Potato
Very much like a Jewel potato, but with lighter skin and flesh. It isn’t quite as sweet as other sweet potato varieties, but it’s just as delicious. It is best used in savory applications, due to its milder sweetness and lighter color.
All About Waxy Potatoes
Rose Finn Apple
This is an heirloom fingerling with a pink, often knobby skin with golden buttery yellow flesh. It has an earthy flavor and is great boiled, grilled, sautéed, deep-fried, and served in salads.
This potato has a pale yellow skin with rich yellow flesh and a firm texture. It is good grilled, sautéed, fried, roasted whole, or steamed for potato salads.
This fingerling with bright-red skin is a favorite among chefs, due to the pink marbling of the flesh. It’s a small, buttery potato that is best boiled or roasted. Use it as a side dish or serve it sliced in a salad.
This heirloom fingerling has smooth, pink skin and yellow flesh. There is usually a little pinkish ring right under the skin. It is a great potato for roasting.
These are little fingerling-shaped potatoes with a silky texture and a nutty flavor. Best roasted or boiled whole. They were discovered in the Swiss Alps by French Farmer named Jean Pierre Clot.
This is an heirloom variety with yellowish, tan smooth skin and very light yellow flesh. It is best in potato salads, but also great boiled, steamed, and roasted.
All-purpose potatoes have a less starch than starchy potatoes, but not so much that they completely fall apart when cooked. They will work for most potato dishes. Consider these your kitchen potato standby.
These are medium-sized tan- and red-skinned potatoes with golden flesh. The texture is smooth and moist and the flavor is sweet and nutty. They are best baked, boiled, roasted, or mashed gently. Try them in this red potato salad.
Oblong potatoes with very dark purple skin and purple moist, firm flesh. It keeps its color when cooked and is high in antioxidants. They are best roasted, baked, added to soups, and mixed into potato salads. Serve them as a side along salmon, as in this recipe.
Red skin and moist, creamy white flesh that holds up well when cooked. The farmer suggested serving them boiled, sliced, and topped with butter and herbs. Can be boiled for potato salads as well as roasted, mashed, and baked. Great boiled for Southern smashed potato salad, or whizzed into a soup.
This potato has a characteristically thin skin, which makes it perfect for serving kids who may have sensory concerns with the skin on other spuds. Its flesh is creamy and yellow and it’s a workhorse in the kitchen. Use it mashed, boiled, fried — you name it.
This is a large potato with tan skin and white flesh. It’s great baked, mashed, fried, or shredded into latkes. It holds together well in boiling water as well.
This potato is truly blue both inside and out. It has a dry texture, but holds its shape well, so it’s best baked and drizzled with butter or olive oil, or boiled/steamed for a potato salad. Steaming and baking will ensure it keeps its color best. If you do boil it, you can keep the cooking water to dye clothes or eggs.