Features 2 minutes 02 November 2017

6 Varieties of Potatoes and How to Use Them

From Yukon golds to fingerlings, learn what these different potatoes are best used for.

If you've ever had a potato salad meltdown at your office potluck, or your fries turn hollow when you take them out of the oil, this guide is for you. They're delicious when mashed and buttered, deep-fried to a golden crisp, or baked and topped with copious amounts of sour cream and chives, but not all potatoes are created equal. Some fry better than others, some integrate better with cream and butter, and some should simply never be puréed into a soup.

Spuds come in three broad categories: starchy, waxy and an all-star combination of both. Here are six commonly found types and how to prepare them.

Yukon gold, or yellow potatoes, are the all-rounder winners of the spud race.
Yukon gold, or yellow potatoes, are the all-rounder winners of the spud race.

1. Yukon Gold
Easily identified by its smooth, slightly waxy skin, the Yukon gold is one of the most commonly found spud varieties. It's a pantry staple for its combination of starchy and waxy properties, which allows it to be well suited for most recipes. It is a light, buttery color on the inside. When cooked, it flakes easily thanks to its medium starch content.

How to cook them: In stews and soups for its ability to hold its shape well, as well as mashes and roasts.

2. Sweet Potatoes
As the name suggests, sweet potatoes are considerably sweeter than other varieties. They're also larger, heavier, and starchier. There numerous types of the sweet variant, but common supermarket types include the slender-looking Japanese, Garnet, Jewel and the pudgier Covington. The colors of the flesh differ from type to type, ranging from purple to yellow, orange to beige.

How to cook them: Roast them whole, covered in foil over hot coals to bring out the sweetness. (This is a popular East Asian street snack during cold winter months.) They are also delicious steamed, fried into chips, blended into soups, stuffed into casseroles and blitzed up into purées.

Potatoes with a high starch content fry and roast well, resulting in our favorite bar snack.
Potatoes with a high starch content fry and roast well, resulting in our favorite bar snack.

3. Russet Potatoes
Also know as Idaho potatoes, Russets largely represent potatoes as we know them: rough-skinned, brown and dimpled. When cooked, it fluffs up beautifully thanks to the high content of starch in its flesh. They're also tremendously absorbent, making them the perfect spud to use for a mash with lots of butter, cream and a heavy-handed seasoning of salt.

How to cook them: They lend well to being fried (à la frites), roasted (wedges) and blended into a deliciously creamy potato and leek soup. They're also beautiful when cooked as fondant potatoes, which sees them cut into cylinders, browned in a pan and then continuously basted in butter, garlic, herbs and stock. (Just remember to peel them.)

4. Fingerling Potatoes
These stubby spuds are often confused with new potatoes, but fingerlings are their own fully grown variety. And just as their name suggests, fingerlings somewhat resemble fingers. Knobby, slim, firm, and short, fingerlings are distinctively earthy and nutty in flavor. The Russian Banana and French are two of the more common types available, and a quick chop will reveal a waxy yellow flesh; the French, however, can sometimes show a streak of red.

How to cook them: Considered waxy potatoes like Yukon golds, fingerlings are great for roasting and boiling. Cut them lengthwise and cook them à la minute: place a layer down in the pan, cover halfway with water, add a pat of butter, some lemon juice, season with salt and cook down until the pan is dry with a glistening layer of butterfat.

5. Red Potatoes
Also know as the Red Bliss, red potatoes are easily identified by, well, their red jackets. Beneath its smooth, red exterior is a waxy, yellow flesh that holds its shape well when cooked. They're one of the more common waxy spud variants found in the supermarket as well as one of the easiest to prepare. Their thin, crisp skins—like fingerlings—mean that they don't have to be peeled beforehand.

How to cook them: These reign supreme for classic potato salads, as the spuds won't disintegrate into a hot, soupy mess, and their little red jackets add a nice pop of color to the otherwise simple-looking dish. Quickly boil them in water, cut up into chunks and when they've cooled down, douse them in some Dijon mustard and mayonnaise. Then toss the potatoes with celery seeds and chopped flat leaf parsley, season to taste and serve.

The Adirondack Blue is a tuber variety with blue flesh and skin.
The Adirondack Blue is a tuber variety with blue flesh and skin.

6. Adirondack Blue
Purple potatoes are au naturel, with vibrant purple flesh and skin color ranging from lavender to dark blue or nearly black. Some varieties of purple potato include All Blue, Purple Peruvian, Purple Majesty and the Adirondack Blue.

How to cook them: The dense texture of these spuds mean they mash well and lend well to getting roasted, but the sky's really the limit with these brilliant blues. Pair with a bright green Romesco sauce and some cauliflower or broccoli—an everyday meal becomes a psychedelic culinary experience.

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