Potatoes 101

Everything you need to know about potatoes.

Long considered a staple in kitchens, the potato is one of the greatest culinary mainstays of all time. Whether this tasty tuber is baked, fried, boiled, mashed or steamed, its down-home comfort can’t be beat.

The versatility of the potato makes it stand out, but it also has a long shelf life, is low in cost and offers a wealth of vitamins and minerals. So let’s take a closer look at the potato.

Plenty of Possibilities
While there are some 100 different varieties of potatoes, most fall into one of five types: russet, white, round, red and sweet.

Russet: Often called Idahos, russets are oblong thick-skinned potatoes. They are perfect for baking and mashing because their texture is light and fluffy. Due to their crumbly flesh, russets do not hold their shape when cooked, so they are not suggested for salads or casseroles. They are, however, great for frying because they stay crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and don’t absorb as much oil as other potatoes.

White: White potatoes are similar in shape to russets. Even though they can be baked, they are known as boilers because they hold their shape so well when cooked this way. They are often used in casseroles, soups and stews. White potatoes are also referred to as long whites.

Round: Sometimes called Irish potatoes, round potatoes are similar to whites but have thinner and smoother skin. Rounds are also ideal for boiling and for dishes where they are cut because they, too, hold their shape.

Red: Red potatoes are popular for boiling and steaming. They have a thin skin, but the skin’s red pigment makes the potato a colorful choice for salads.

New potatoes, also known as early or immature potatoes, are simply smaller versions of their full-grown counterparts. They are fresh from a garden and have never been placed in storage. Available in both red and white, they taste best when boiled or steamed.

Sweet: The sweet potato is a high-energy food that is chock-full of vitamins and minerals. When used in recipes, sweet potatoes are interchangeable with yams. They can be boiled, baked or candied.

1 Pound of Potatoes Equals:

  • 3 medium russet potatoes
  • 8 to 10 small new potatoes
  • 2-1/4 cups diced or sliced uncooked potatoes
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest