When confronted with bags and bins at the friendly farmers market or grocery store, the choice is always between six and six.

There is a lot to think about when it comes to the garbage cans with potatoes in the supermarket. And honestly, how many times have you made that decision horribly wrong — grabbed that bag of Idaho and hoped for the best while the picnic salad or holiday porridge for the evening hung in the balance? Potatoes are fairly user-friendly, but they have certain qualities that are worth learning about if you want to make the perfect hash brown, for example.

One type of potato is better for frying, while another should definitely be avoided when making latkes. And then there’s the most flexible potato of them all. And there are these lilacs! What’s the matter with them?

In the supermarket you will undoubtedly find three main types of potatoes: rust red, red blissAnd Yukon Gold. And each (mostly) falls into one of two categories: starchy or waxy. Of course, there are other types of specialty potatoes to think about: fingerling potatoes (semi-firm and great for frying), butterball potatoes (starchy and perfect for a creamy and extra sweet mash) and peewees (great for soups). . But most of our cooking revolves around the big three, and once you master those, the others will all make sense.

The starchy potato is what it sounds like. When baked and fluffed, the pulp tastes chalky and dry, but is incredibly good at absorbing flavors. This means that the starchy potato can absorb a lot of fat. That’s where russet potatoes come in, your go-to choice for Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and fries. Ideal for potato gnocchi, potato pancakes and extra crispy rösti. Note, however, that it will fall apart as it cooks through and will completely dissolve into a starchy mush as it cooks further. As such, it’s a poor addition to broth soups where pieces matter.

Waxy potatoes have a lower starch content and higher moisture content. The waxier the potato is, the less likely it is that it will fall apart during cooking. Red Bliss is a waxy potato and while it dates a bit from the 70’s and 80’s it really does excel at roasting and braising and is a welcome addition to soups and stews where it will last and keep the long cook time its shape.

Yukon Golds fall somewhere between waxy and starchy and are sometimes referred to as all-purpose potatoes (at least that’s what Martha Stewart calls them, and no one wants to argue with Martha). With their sweet flesh and tender skin, they’re great for frying, boiling, and even pureeing. In fact, Daniel often uses YGs for his mash. They’re sweeter and offer a bit more flavor, and you can mash the skin right inside (unlike the rust mushrooms, which have to be peeled). In restaurants, they use a stand mixer with a mixer attachment to mash potatoes, and you can also do the same thing with your KitchenAid on the countertop, with the added bonus that the mixer attachment will mash up most skins, saving you some time peeling when needed to the Yukons.

This story is adapted from Food IQ: 100 questions, answers and recipes

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