There are more than 3,000 varieties of potatoes.
But when it comes to cooking, there are only three kinds of potatoes: high starch, medium starch, and low starch.
When you are cooking potatoes—and all potatoes must be cooked to be eaten, the starchiness of the potato you choose should fit the cooking you plan to do.
Here are potato cooking basics:
• High starch potatoes are used for baking, frying, and mashing. Cook high starch potatoes and they will have a floury, dry texture. High starch potatoes have thick brown skins. Idaho russets and Burbank russets are high starch potatoes.
• Medium starch potatoes are all purpose potatoes. You can use them for steaming, baking, roasting, grilling, and au gratin dishes. The flesh of medium starch potatoes is moister than high-starch potatoes. Medium starch potatoes include Yukon gold, yellow Finn, and German Butterball.
• Low starch potatoes are used for boiling, roasting, grilling, sautés, stews, salads, and au gratin dishes. When you cook low starch potatoes their moist, dense, waxy flesh holds together and keeps its shape. Low starch potatoes include California white potatoes, round white, and round red—sometimes called “new” potatoes.
Many fingerlings—small finger sized-potatoes—are also low starch potatoes. Fingerling varieties include French fingerling, German fingerling, Russian banana, Ozette, and Ruby Crescent.
If you don’t know the variety of the potato you have in hand, you can determine how starchy it is by cutting it with a knife. If the potato clings to the knife or if the knife is coated with a creamy white substance, the potato is starchy.