There are rich, creamy ones, super starchy kinds, or multi-purpose varieties—all of which are best suited for different types of recipes. And although it won’t necessarily ruin your dish altogether, choosing the best type of potato for the appropriate cooking technique can level up your culinary skills with zero effort added. We’ve gathered a few tips and tricks for deciphering which spuds to pick up at the store for whatever's on the menu. Ahead: The best potatoes for roasting in your oven (or air fryer), which type to reach for when you're making a luscious bowl of mashed potatoes, and more.
What are the seven main types of potatoes?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it’s important to know that there are seven main types of potatoes and more than 200 varieties of potatoes sold throughout the United States. The seven categories of potatoes are: russet, red, white, yellow, blue/purple, fingerling, and petite. These all differ based on key factors like shape, size, flesh consistency, and skin texture or color, to name a few.
The key features of the seven main types of potatoes:
- Russet: Thick skin with a light and fluffy center
- Red: Thin skin; stays firm when cooked
- Yellow: Rich, creamy texture with a buttery flavor
- White: Pale-colored skin and flesh that stays firm when cooked
- Purple: Medium-thick skin with an earthy flavor and a vibrant purple hue
- Fingerling: Nutty and buttery flavor with a firm texture and a small, narrow, oval-shape
- Petite: Bite-sized versions of larger potato varieties and more concentrated flavor
The best potatoes for roasting in the oven or air fryer
When choosing a potato that’s ideal for roasting in your over or air fryer, you want to make sure it’s a kind that won’t get too mealy when exposed to high heat; it should still maintain its shape when cooked. For this, you’ll want to stick to heartier potatoes like russet, red, yellow, purple, fingerling, or petite. These types are generally low in starch and high in moisture and have creamier flesh and waxy skin. They also tend to hold their form well when cooked. In addition to basic roasted oven fries, wedges, or hashbrowns, these potatoes are best suited for other baked dishes like gratins and pommes anna, and well as soups and salads (where you want to keep their shape intact and not disintegrate when touched).
The best potatoes for making mashed potatoes
When looking to make an award-worthy side of mashed potatoes, you’ll want to opt for starchier potatoes that have low moisture content and easily break down when cooked. That includes varieties like Russets or yellow potatoes. BTW, for an out-of-this-world good bowl of mash, try boiling potatoes in chicken stock or cream (instead of water) for added delicious flavor. And don’t forget to start with a pot of room temperature water when boiling potatoes (and knowing how long to boil potatoes) to avoid over, under, or unevenly cooking your spuds.
The most versatile potatoes
Of course, we love a potato that can do it all—and there are certainly some (more than others) that can withstand just about every imaginable cooking technique possible. These multi-purpose-style spuds include ones like red, yellow, and white. They’re generally smaller in size and can maintain their texture when cooked—and not turn into a pile of mush when exposed to high temperatures.
Red potatoes have a thin skin and stay firm throughout cooking, which is why they’re great for baking (or air frying), using to make potato salads, adding into soups, grilling, or even steaming. Meanwhile, yellow potatoes are ideal for all of the aforementioned techniques (with the addition of mashing). Lastly, white potatoes are also great for pan-frying or sautéing, adding to salads or soups, making french fries, or steaming, as they can stay firm throughout the cooking process.
TL; DR? It's hard to go wrong when picking the perfect potato... so long as you choose the appropriate cooking method for it.
An RD gives us even more excuses to love potatoes:
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