Potato Types and Uses
Everybody the world over loves a hearty potato; from the twice cooked fries to the humble boiled potato. Every year tons of potatoes are consumed across America and it seems we just cannot get enough. There are just so many varieties of potatoes that you could be eating a different type every day of the week. What you do need know is some of the differences between different varieties because every type will have its own best cooking technique.
Potato’s generally can be found to exist in three major groups: waxy, starchy and an all-purpose combination potato. Knowing what the exact difference is between the varying categories will have a big impact the end result of your dish.
Potatoes such as the much-loved classic, the Russet, will be clearly much higher in starch than other potatoes and they also are much low in moisture content. This means that when you come to cook them, they will turn out to be all light, fluffy and melt in your mouth. Starchy potatoes are brilliant when you need to bake them as you will get soft pillows of potato which is amazing when all buttery. Because of their low moisture content, starchy potatoes tend not to hold their shape when boiled, so you may want to avoid using them in dishes like stews or casseroles as you will end up with a soggy mess.
This type of potato, such as New Potatoes, are found everywhere in stores and are especially best during the summer months. Waxy potatoes are lower in starch are frequently are found to have a firm skin which helps them to hold together their shape during the cooking process. Waxy potatoes are brilliant when you need simply well-cooked boiled potatoes and they are the mainstay of a potato salad.
If the potatoes you are buying fall somewhere in between being waxy and starchy then they are known as an all-purpose potato. These potatoes are great to use in a wide variety of recipe’s as they really are an all-round potato. A classic all-purpose potato is the Yukon Gold and as you may have discovered for yourself, you can use it in all sorts of dishes as it is a truly versatile potato.
Varieties of Potato
Whichever type of potato you go for largely depends on what you are using it for. There are hundreds of varieties of potato, each with their own special merits.
These are usually very round potatoes which will have a thin golden looking outer surface. When you cut them open you will find that they have a white flesh and the white potato is always waxy in its texture. White potatoes are the all-purpose potatoes as spoke about above so they will have a multitude of uses. You can get them in a couple of popular varieties known as Finnish yellow or White Rose. Yukon Gold is also a much favored type of white potato as it is medium sized making it suitable for lots of recipes and it will have a tender yellow skin once it has been cooked. These white potatoes are valued for their creamy, buttery flavored flesh. It is possible to boil, roast, steamed or bake a white potato so is pretty much the ideal potato when you are just wanting to make a quick meal.
These potatoes will be high in starch but have a low moisture content so will become very soft once cooked. These are the potatoes that you really want to bake as they become really fluffy when they are taken out of a hot oven. Russet potatoes are the perfect choice too if you are looking to get the fluffiest consistency with your mashed potatoes. They are also sometimes known as Idaho potatoes, and they are probably one of the most common potatoes found in stores around the country. They are fairly rough-skinned and dull brown in color. However, you can forgive them for not having the looks as when they are cooked, they will fluff up nicely due to their high starch content. These potatoes are also very absorbent when it comes to using them with other ingredients making them a great choice to use for mash with loads of butter and cheese.
These will have obviously a deep purple color to them that can be really attractive in meals. The tender flesh of these potatoes will be either purple all the way through or you often get a marbled with effect with streaks of white and purple intertwining. They do often taste as earthy as they appear however, and you will most importantly get an almost nutty taste with them. Purple potatoes keep their glowing color best if you bake them or cook them in the microwave if you do decide to boil them, the color of the flesh has a tendency to fade to a grayish color. Purple potatoes have very a dry texture and they are a starchy variety so again they may have the tendency to fall apart. This means that they turn out best when you use them to bake with or for grilling. Although with that being said, they may work in lots of different types of dishes and recipes and the splash of color really works its magic.
Sometimes called the red bliss, you will quickly recognize the red potato as their skin is so striking and different to most other potatoes. Underneath the smooth and soft red external layer, you will discover a waxy, unexpectedly yellowed flesh that looks just like most other potatoes. Red potatoes always maintain their shape well after they have been cooked. They are also a very popular waxy potato which is usually found in most markets and they are well known for being easiest to prepare even if they do look a little scary if you have not used them before. They can turn very crisp when they are cooked as they have skins that are fairly thin. So, depending on what you are making this can mean that you might not even have to peel them before cooking. They are mainly used for their pretty color in potato salads, but you could also try making some colorful fries with them. And because they do not disintegrate you leave their jackets on and they can transform an ordinary looking dish into something special. All you need to do is boil them in water on your stove or bake them slowly in the oven for an unusual meal.
Yukon Gold Potatoes
These are not the fluffiest potatoes like the russet potatoes however they do have a really good flavor when cooked. Yukon Gold potatoes taste extremely buttery even when you have added nothing to them once they have been cooked. They are easily recognized by their even waxy skin, and they are a very typical variety of potato that you can find in almost any local store. They are often a cooks favorite because they contain both starchy and waxy elements. This means that you are able to use them in many more recipes than some of the other potato varieties mentioned. When cooked they are a light color on the inside and they become smooth due to their medium levels of starch. They are perfect to use up in stews and casseroles because they have the ability to maintain their shape, but they are equally delicious once mashed.
Sweet Potatoes and Yams
Sweet potatoes and yams often get confused for being the same thing, but they are actually two separate potato tubers. Interestingly, yams originated from the lily family, whereas the tubers of the sweet potatoes come from the morning glory family. They are both a unique treat wherever they originated from and are easier to cook than most people imagine. The moist flesh of a sweet sweet potatoes gives it its unique sugary sweet taste. All you need to do to cook sweet potatoes and yams well is to cover them in foil and roast them to bring out their sweet flavors. Yams are also wonderful if you steam them and they hold up well if you want to turn them into chips because it is a starchy ingredient. As with most potatoes you can blend sweet potatoes and yams into soups or pop them into your next casserole.
So, as you can see there are literally dozens of types of potato from which to choose from. They all vary in consistency and when cooked the end result can be drastically different between them. When you cook a pan of soup and throw in a handful of potato chunks you might end up with a disintegrated mess unless you appreciate the nature of the potato that you are using. This is due to the levels of starch in the potato and the moisture. But with so many potato types and uses for them, the trick is to try out as many as you can and have fun.