Chef Notes: Waxy vs. Starchy Potatoes

Chef Notes: Waxy vs. Starchy Potatoes

We’re so excited to introduce you to our newest column, Chef Notes. Written by Amanda Digges, my very sassy sister in law that also happens to be a chef, Chef Notes will give you the back story on ingredients and how to use them more more efficiently and effectively in your kitchen. The column will surely make your time in the hub of your home a bit easier. I can personally attest to the fact that Amanda’s advice is indispensable. The one thing I can’t promise is that I can get her to cook the stuff for you. However, I’m working on it.

For her first column, Amanda wanted to give you the low down on potatoes. If the selection of spuds in your produce section stops you dead in your tracks because the choice could be the death of your potato salad then you had good cause to pause. In other words, yes, it does make a difference. But Amanda’s got you covered. Take it away, honey….

Good grief, did you ever think that making potato salad could be so confusing.  There you stand in the produce department considering buying it premade.  Yukon gold, whites, California, Idaho, russets, purple, red, baby red, fingerlings, baby fingerlings….the list goes on and on. What’s the difference anyways?  Believe it or not, there can be a huge difference depending on what you’re planning.  If you’re simply roasting with a olive oil and fresh herbs it doesn’t matter all that much. For mashed, potato salad, or gnocchi it can mean the difference between a wonderful dish and a disaster.

Relax, there are only two types; waxy and starchy. Consider the mouth feel of a traditional baked versus a redskin. See what I’m talking about?  Baking potatoes are crumbly and dry and great for mashing, frying, baking, and making gnocchi. Easily identified by their thicker skin and oblong shape, they absorb other liquids, such as butter and cream, very well.  But try them in a potato salad and they’ll likely break up on you.  The most common are:  Russets, whites, and Idaho.

Waxy potatoes hold their shape better. Lower in starch and higher in sugar and moisture, they’re great for potato salads but also for roasting or boiling. They have thinner skin and tend to be round. You’re likely to find:  round white, reds, and yellows.

Of course, there are potatoes that fall in the middle such as the Yukon Gold and Peruvian Blue.  They are certainly the most versatile. Oh, one last thing, a new potato is just a small, immature potato. So the next time you’re zoning out over the choices take a minute to feel the skin, examine the shape and if you’re still confused go with the Yukon’s.

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  1. Ade Fraioli
    June 07, 10:39 Reply

    I have been inspired to make potato salad this summer, which I usually dread
    doing. Thanks Amanda!

  2. Sana Cotten
    June 07, 12:49 Reply

    I love it especially as a young mom I think that your column will truly help me, now if you can add a potato salad recipe I would greatly appreciate it!

  3. jan Clements
    June 07, 15:55 Reply

    I tried the Yukon potatoes for potato salad and they were very good. As you said, they did not crumble and they tasted great. After seeing the inside I can sure tell why they are called Yukon Gold.

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