Best Potatoes for Every Occasion: Frying French Fries, Mashed Potatoes, Potato Salad, Baking, Beef Stew, Hashbrowns and Scalloped Potatoes

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Best Potatoes for Frying French Fries

The best potatoes for frying french fries are Russet (Idaho) potatoes. The goal of a good crispy french fry is to ensure that the center is fully cooked while also having an adquately crispy crust. This is because Russet potatoes are dense and they have one of the lowest moisture content levels among potatoes.

Tips for Cooking Fries

So you got the first part correct in picking a nice russet potato. So what is the best way to prepare and cook these russet potatoes to get that perfect crispy exterior and soft interior. There are a few things that you need for the perfect French Fry. First, you must prepare the fries, then choose the best oil and then fry them properly.

Prepare the Fries

  • First, you must prepare those russets properly. After cutting the potatoes, you want to rinse them with cold water. Do this until the water is completely clear. (You are rinsing off starch here)
  • Fill a bowl with cold water and lemon juice. Letting the fries soak will keep the fries looking good and also make sure the outside doesn’t cook before the inside of the fry. No one wants an undercooked fry on the inside and a burnt fry on the outside
  • Let the fries chill in their ice bath for 30-45 minutes in the refrigerator

Best French Fry Oil

  • There are many choices for oil. You can fry with canola oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil, etc. We have found the best oil is peanut oil. Peanut oil works well because it doesn’t carry much taste and affect the taste of the fry. It also has a higher smoke point than many other oils which allows for cooking the inside and out of the fry quickly.

The Frying Process

After you have picked the perfect russet potato and have your peanut oil ready, it is time to fry. This involves a few steps.

  • Drain the water bowl and dry the fries. You want dry fries when dropping into the oil.
  • Cook the fries a first time. This will be focused on lower heat and longer time to cook the inside of the fries. You are shooting for a light golden color and soft texture.
  • Next remove the fries from the fryer and let them dry.
  • Lastly, crank up the temperature on the oil and fry them again for a few minutes. This step will crisp up the outside now that the inside is already cooked.

Best Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes have the densest and most uniform flesh of the potato varieties. When cooked, they aren’t grainy, watery, or mushy, which all happen to be qualities that ruin mashed potatoes instantly. And as an added bonus, Yukon Golds already have an inherent buttery flavor to them. So you’re starting with more butter flavor, without any actual butter. Yum.

Tips for Mashed Potatoes

Now that you have picked out the perfect Yukon Gold Potatoes, what’s next to create the perfect mashed potatoes? That involves boiling the potatoes, mashing the potatoes and then adding in the other right ingredients:

  • First, cut up the potatoes and boil them in large pieces. Many people make the mistake of cutting into small pieces, but the problem with that is that too much water gets in and loses flavor.
  • Next drain the potatoes to get rid of excess water and then immediately start to mashing. Some people do by hand and some immediately throw into a mixer. We don’t have a huge preference in this step. Just make sure to start mashing while they are soft.
  • Adding salt. Make sure to salt as you go. This involves a dash of salt at each step in the process.
  • Add some butter. Its up to you, but who can go wrong with too much butter?
  • Add the liquid last (ie milk) and do it slowly. Go for the right consistency by slowing pouring in liquid.

Best Potatoes for Potato Salad

For a potato salad, you will want to go with a potato that is waxy as opposed to starchy. Potatoes that have little starch retain their shape better when cooked and avoid falling apart. Good examples and options of potatoes that are waxy include red potatoes, new potatoes or fingerling potatoes. Another good quality of these potatoes is that they can also be eaten with the peel still on. If you are in a pinch (or want more color in the dish) then you can skip the peeling process.

Some potatoes that may work ok but aren’t ideal are potatoes like Yukon Gold potatoes. These aren’t waxy, but they also aren’t the most starchy. Starchy potatoes that you will want to avoid are potatoes like russet potatoes. These potatoes will fall apart on you when cooked.

Best Potatoes for Baking

When searching for the best potato for baking, you want to start with the many varieties that are considered starchy potatoes. The reason that starchy potatoes are great for baking are because they don’t hold their shape when cooked at very high heat. The potatoes that go into this category include russet potatoes, king Edward potatoes and sweet potatoes.

On the contrary, you should avoid waxy potatoes for baking. Because of their moisture and sugar content, they hold their form and can become chunky in the dish.

Best Potatoes for Beef Stew and Soups

When you are cooking a soup with potatoes, you are going to want a potato that holds together under a long cook time. For soups and stews, the best potato is to use a waxy potato (boiling potatoes some call them) These waxy potatoes are high in moisture content and low in starch. Examples of these potatoes include red potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes and new potatoes.

When making a soup or stew with potatoes, you should avoid russets or all-purpose potatoes like Yukon Gold potatoes. Because these are low in moisture content, they will soak up the moisture of the soup.

Best Potatoes for Hash Browns

When cooking hash browns, you want your potato to have a good balance of crispness and fluff. Because of this, you are going to go for similar potatoes to frying potatoes. The best potatoes for this is a starchy potato like russets.

If you decide to go with a more waxy potato like new potatoes, you will likely be disappointed in your finished product. These waxy potatoes are horrible at developing a crispy crust.

Best Potatoes for Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped or au gratin potatoes are often masked by a lot of cheese and cream, but the most important choice starts with the potato. When picking potatoes for scalloped potatoes, the best choice is to go with a starchy potato like russets or yukon gold (all-purpose) The reason is that these types of potatoes will help thicken the sauce but also be soft and tender once cooked.

More importantly when selecting potatoes is likely which ones to avoid. You will want to avoid waxy potatoes. Because of their skin and starch content, they will never get to be tender when baked like you are looking for.

Types of Potatoes: Waxy, All-Purpose and Starchy

There are three major categories of potatoes: Waxy, all-purpose and high starch (starchy) potatoes. Because of the different characteristics of these potatoes, it is important to learn a little bit about each so that you cook with the right potato for every occasion.

Waxy Potatoes

Waxy potatoes are potatoes that have a low starch content. With that, they contain more moisture and sugar than other varieties of potatoes. Most times, you can easily tell a waxy potato because of its small size. Examples of Waxy potatoes include red potatoes, fingerlings, new potatoes, dutch cream, kipfler, nadine, nicola, patrone, pink eye, and purple congo potatoes.

Because of their qualities, these potatoes tend to hold their shape well after cooking and are great for roasting, slicing and boiling. On the flip side, waxy potatoes are not great for baking, deep frying and mashing because they tend to hold their form.

All-Purpose Potatoes

All purpose potatoes are considered this way because they have average qualities of waxy and starchy. They sit in the middle between the two potato types. They contain more moisture than starchy potatoes and have a medium starch content. Examples of all-purpose potatoes include the likes of Golden Delight, Otway Red, Pontiac, Red Rascal and the most common Yukon Gold.

This makes them work well in stews and soups and for pan frying and roasting. They could be used for things like mashing but won’t be as fluffy as other varieties.

Starchy Potatoes

Starchy potatoes are low in moisture and you guessed it … high in starch. They have a fluffy texture and usually a white flesh. If you don’t know for sure, you can cut into a potato and if it releases a starchy liquidy, you are in luck. Another key indicator of a starchy potato is a rough skin vs. a smooth skin. The most common kind of a starchy potato is a russet potato. Other examples include sweet potatoes and king Edward potatoes.

Because they absorb, starchy potatoes are great for frying and baking alike. Their characteristics also allow them to become crispy for cooking things like fries, hash browns or chips. It is best to avoid these starchy potatoes for things like mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, sliced potatoes or put into things like au gratins, potato salads or casseroles.

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