Potato Planting for Potato Cooking

Potatoes boile Yukon Gold
Boiled Yukon Gold potatoes with butter and dill
Boiled Yukon Gold potatoes with butter and dill

Choose potatoes for planting with cooking in mind. Potatoes for boiling—for making potato salad and home-fry potatoes—should have a low- to medium-starch content. Potatoes for baking should have high-starch content.

Low- and medium-starch potatoes keep their shape and remain creamy and toothy when boiled. High-starch potatoes will swell and puff up when baked; they will be light, dry, and delicate. (A high-starch potato submitted to the rigors of boiling will explode and turn inside out in boiling water.)

Low- and Medium-Starch Potatoes for Boiling

Low- and medium-starch potatoes are sometimes called salad or boiling potatoes. They have high moisture content so they don’t absorb as much water when submerged and boiled. The most common low-starch potatoes are red-skinned varieties often called round-reds; look for the variety Red Bliss. Other boiling potatoes are California long whites, Maine, and Kennebec potatoes. Medium-starch potato varieties include Yukon Gold and Yellow Finn.

Other low- and medium-starch potatoes include many dubbed fingerlings (name for their shape and size) and heirlooms (look for rose, pink, gold, and purple potatoes).

High-Starch Potatoes for Baking

High-starch potatoes, best for baking, are russet, russet Burbank, and Idaho. They have low moisture content and are sometimes called “mealy” potatoes. If you can’t get a russet, Burbank, or Idaho potato for baking, use a medium-starch potatoes, again Yukon Gold and Yellow Finn are the best known. Medium-starch potatoes will not produce a baked potato as light and puffy as a russet or Idaho.

Mashing Potatoes

If you plan to mash the potatoes you grow, you can choose either low-, medium, or high-starch potatoes, but preparation differs when making mashed potatoes. Low- and medium-starch potatoes will be more flavorful as mashed potatoes than high-starch potatoes, but you will find they are stickier, almost glue like, in preparation so you may find it difficult to achieve a smooth-texture mashed potato serving. Use high-starch potatoes for a smooth, fluffy mashed potato, but rather than boil the potatoes steam them.

Test a Cooking Potato for Doneness

To test a cooking potato for doneness, use a fork or skewer rather than a paring knife. The blunt tip of a fork will give you a better read of how done the potato is; the sharp tip of a knife will make is feel more done that it truly is.

For more on potatoes, click over to these articles:

Potato Growing Tips

How to Cook a Potato

Potatoes for Cooking

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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