Imagine a world in which mashed potatoes were thought to be poisonous. Prior to the 16th century, the potato—because it is a member of the nightshade family—was not considered edible in Europe. That changed thanks to Sir Walter Raleigh, who planted a ton of them on his land in Ireland and espoused their virtues to his fellow countrymen.
Today, of course, potatoes are plenty popular around the world. Whether you’re a fan of Idahos or All Blues, there’s a tuber for you. When it comes to mashed potatoes, though, not all spuds are created equal. Here’s a primer of the four main types of taters, plus our preferred varieties for mashing.
You’ll sometimes see Russets in recipes under its pseudonyms “Idaho,” “old potatoes,” or “baking potatoes.” The Russet is a high-starch, low-moisture tater with a rough, brown skin and plenty of eyes. It’s ideal for baking and frying, and tends to crop up right alongside Yukon golds as the go-to for mashing. (Here are a few delicious ways to mash it up.) You’ll want to generally add plenty of milk or cream and butter back to these taters after drying them out for the best texture in the finished dish.
2. Long Whites
Similar in shape to Russets, long whites tend to have delicate, pale brown-gray skins and barely-there eyes. You might see them labeled “white rose” or “California long whites.” When babies, they’re generally labeled fingerlings (although “new potato” refers to any young potato variety.) Long whites are typically baked, boiled or fried.
3. Round Whites
Round whites and round reds are often called “boiling potatoes.” Yukon Golds, perhaps the best-known of the round whites, make a tasty cameo here in twice-baked form. They’re also renowned as the other great mashing potato, along with Russets. With their thin skin and moist, nearly buttery texture, they’re wonderful in almost any mashed potato recipe. (Lots of cooks use them alongside Russets, in fact.)
4. Round Reds
It’s best to stick to roasting and boiling for round reds, the most common varieties of which include huckleberry, blossom and Red Bliss taters. Plenty of round red fans particularly enjoy its edible skin, which is why you’ll see pretty roasted platters of them year-round.
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