Types Of Potatoes - Which Ones To Use and When?
Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes! Chef or not, we all love them, don’t we? They’re a staple vegetable for most countries and cultures across the world. For centuries, they’ve been a friend of the poor as well as the Kings & Queens. Still today, the possibilities that potatoes present us are endless.
Best of all, potatoes can be healthy – yes, really! Potatoes have a great amount of carbs and fibre, as well as vitamins, potassium and manganese. Many people often associate potatoes as being unhealthy but that’s not the fault of the potato, it’s the way they’re cooked; if you put potatoes in a deep fat fryer then unfortunately they’re not that good for you.
So, we’ve established our great relationship and love of potatoes but the big question many people ask is, what type of potato do you use and when? Keep reading and digest my guide to the most popular types of potatoes and you’ll know everything there is to know about this vegetable in no time at all.
Three Categories of Potatoes
When you’re looking around at your local supermarket, you will see so many different names for potatoes. However, all you need to really remember is that potatoes fall into three basic categories: starchy, waxy, and those in-betweens which are often referred to as ‘all-purpose’ potatoes. Here’s how they differ…
You’ll probably have guessed it but starchy potatoes are high in starch. They’re also low in moisture, have quite a floury texture and often they have a creamy white flesh. Their texture makes them great for baking, mashing and deep frying – think crispy potatoes or hash browns. Because of their high starch content, they don’t hold together very well when cooked so please don’t use them in dishes that require boiling, roasting or slicing.
Everything I just told you about starchy potatoes, well… waxy potatoes are pretty much the exact opposite. Waxy potatoes stand up to boiling, slicing and roasting where starchy potatoes may fall apart. Across the western world, waxy potatoes are mostly commonly seen in the potato salad.
If you are the sort of person that uses potatoes in most dishes (I wouldn’t blame you) then grabbing a large bag of all-purpose potatoes is the answer for you. An all-purpose potato falls right in-between starch and waxy potatoes, they’re light and creamy when you bake them or light and fluffy when you mash them. Often hidden in a coarse skin, they are the perfect blend of the previous two potato categories.
Varieties of Potatoes
So now you the know the categories, let us move onto the varieties. There’s probably hundreds of varieties of potatoes, but I have listed the most popular ones that you are likely to find in your local food market or supermarket. Each variety of potato has a unique taste, smell and colour and I’m about to take you on an interesting tour of all of them…
Russet is a wonderful name for a potato, but this type of potato is better known as the ‘baking potato’. Russets are mostly long and large with a thick and rough skin. They’re high in starch with a white and dry fleshy inside. These are the quintessential baking potato which are great for staples such as chips or eating by themselves with a filling but they won’t shine when boiled, trust me!
Rose Finn Apple
These are often one of the ‘prettiest’ variety of potatoes, they are mostly long with a slightly purple-yellow hugh which could add some great colour to a dish. As they’re waxy potatoes with a great creaminess, they’re perfect for salads.
Their name does not explain what this potato is, so don’t worry – you’re still on the right article. Russian Banana potatoes are banana shapes that taste delicious and are ideal for roasting, boiling or baking. A typical creamy-yellow, they also have a subtle taste of nuttiness.
This is a ‘new’ type of potato that has been developed within the past few decades. It is one of a kind as not only is its skin red but its flesh is too! It’s a favourite among chefs because it stands out in all dishes. If you want to show off then a small amount of red thumb in a dish will go a long way.
These are small, stubby, long waxy potatoes, which are often mixed up with ‘new potatoes’. Due to their size and slight rarity, these potatoes are more expensive than other potato varieties and are commonly either halved and roasted in a side dish or used for salads.
LaRette potatoes are sometimes called Rette – they’re creamy, earthy and rich with a hint of nut flavour. They’re a cousin of the ‘russet’ potato but these have a delicate skin means this potato doesn’t store as well as its russet cousins, but what you lose in storability, you make up for in taste. Great for roasting, sautéing, boiling, and braising!
This interesting potato is also known as ‘Kipfel’, the German name for croissant. While I’m not sure why, I can tell you this variety is a medium maturing yellow potato. It is grown for specialty markets and is great for salads or roasting.
Red Gold is a potato with pink-red skin and a bright yellow flesh. They’re firm, moist and earthy and their alluring mild savour taste work best when boiled, steamed or baked.
This is another potato I love to use in the restaurant because it gets people talking at the dinner table! They are oval, blue-skinned potatoes which are deep violet purple inside, and they retain their colour well. With a slightly floury texture and a delicious flavour, they brighten up any salad.
These have a beautiful red skin. An attractive, medium long potato with shallow eyes and delicious white flesh. Norland Red is a simple potato that is good all-rounder for both boiling and baking.
You can easily identify a Yukon Gold by its smooth, slightly waxy skin, the Yukon gold is one of the most commonly found spud varieties. So much so, your local supermarket will probably just label this as ‘waxy potato’ – it’s great for everything that a waxy potato is known for.
Kennebec potatoes are long and oval with rounded ends. Rich and earth, they are especially great for frying when accompanied with meat – or for making has browns!
This is a relatively new potato that is also called the ‘Adirondack Blue’, recently bred it’s a potato variety with blue flesh (yes, blue not purple) and a slightly purple tint. Great for salads or show off fries. They’ll taste similar to a standard al-purpose potato, but they are slightly more moist.
It grows in the ground and it’s called a potato but really, it’s not. In terms of flavour, sweet potatoes taste more like carrots but maybe even sweeter, as the name suggests. They’re versatile, easy to find, and many varieties of potatoes are ‘sweet potatoes’ with subtle differences in flavour, sweetness, and moisture. There is the standard ‘sweet potato’ and then there are some different types which I have referenced below…
Sweeter than a traditional sweet potato! It is still orange fleshed, reddish-brownish-orangish but the taste is distinctive, and it contains a bit more water – perfect for making desserts with.
The jewel sweet potato is traditionally used for baking dishes and within casseroles. It is orange on the outside and orange on the inside, it is sweet but not too sweet – some say it’s the perfect version of the sweet potato!
This sweet tasting potato has a reddish skin and it is usually thicker and rounder than sweet potatoes many of us are used to, it’s shorter and thicker than the jewel potato I just described.
Hannah is a type of sweet potato with a lightly coloured tan skin and inside it has a creamy white-coloured flesh. In many ways this is more like a traditional texture all-purpose potato, but it is definitely sweeter.
Satsuma-imo is one type of potato for us in the West but really, it’s used to describe many different varieties of sweet potatoes that come from Japan. It has a nutty flavor that’s dryer and starchier than most, it’s great for desserts.
Blue and sweet, like a smurf. This is a sweet and starchy root vegetable. Vibrant and versatile, these potatoes are great for sweet dishes or as a contrast to something savoury.
Now you’re here, you can truly call yourself a potato expert. According to stats, potatoes are the world’s fourth-most important crop and the first among non-grains, but I know many people would call them the most important.
Potatoes are simply irresistible, they are tasty, filling and have great nutritional value when it’s cooked correctly. In my eyes potato equals perfection. Hopefully you now feel the same too!