TYPES OF POTATOES AND WHEN TO USE THEM
When I first started cooking, there were times when I wondered why certain recipes did not come out the same way every time, especially my potato salad. I never measured ingredients for the potato salad, but thought I had a good handle on amounts, especially when eye-balling the dressing ingredients. But sometimes the potato salad seemed mushier and the dressing wasn’t silky smooth. I finally figured out that the problem was not in the amount or type of dressing ingredients but in the type of potato I used.
Potatoes fall into three categories that can impact the outcome of your dish: starchy, waxy, and all-purpose potatoes.
Starchy potatoes have low moisture and low sugar levels, and, of course, a high starch content. They have a flaky flesh and drier inside that breaks down easily. Starchy potatoes are also absorbent, so they will soak up complements like butter and dairy products for mashed potatoes, fluffy baked potatoes, and twice-baked potatoes. The skins are thicker and have a chewier texture than other potatoes. Couple the skin qualities with a dry inside and you have great candidates for dishes with crispy outsides and soft insides like roasted potatoes, baked potatoes or French fries. Soaking peeled potatoes in water ahead of cooking removes excess starch and helps achieve maximum crispiness when roasting or frying.
Waxy Potatoes are the opposite of starchy potatoes. They have high moisture content but low starch levels. They are good to use in salads or casseroles because they hold their shape well when cooking. Waxy potatoes have a creamier, firm flesh (somewhat shiny) and thinner skin than starchy ones, and hold their shape well after cooking. That’s why they are not so good for mashed potatoes, but are good for casseroles, gratins, salads, and boiling. I also like waxy potatoes for “smashed” recipes when I want some chunks, but not completely smooth, mashed potatoes. Some waxy potatoes are new potatoes, French fingerling, Red Bliss, baby potatoes, creamers.
All-Purpose Potatoes are the versatile, medium starch and medium moisture potatoes s that allow you to break the rules when you need a quick substitute for starchy or waxy potatoes. But you still have to be careful about overcooking when boiling them for a potato salad. I do think they are good when roasted. Probably the most well-known variety is Yukon Gold, and these are my go-to potatoes for mashed potatoes. When I started using Yukon Gold potatoes for Thanskgiving mashed potatoes, I became a hero to my family and friends. I used to get a 5-pound bag of potatoes, but we never had leftovers to go with hot turkey sandwiches the next day. Now I buy 10 pounds. Other all purpose potatoes include white potatoes, Peruvian Blue, Norland Red, Kenebec, Red Gold.