1. Waxy potatoes: If you're looking to make potato salad, waxy potatoes are the ones for the job. The most popular waxy potatoes are fingerling potatoes and new (or nugget) potatoes.
The flesh of waxy potatoes holds its shape better than other kinds of potatoes when cooked, so the chunks of potato won't fall apart in your salad. They've got slightly thinner skin, too, so they’re easy to eat unpeeled, making them an excellent source of fibre.
2. Starchy potatoes: Starchy potatoes – of which the most popular is the Russet Burbank (sometimes referred to as an Idaho potato) – are your best bets for making family favourites such as baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and french fries.
Because these potatoes have a high starch content, they make for fluffy, airy mashed potatoes and deliciously creamy baked potatoes ready to sop up dollops of butter and sour cream.
"There are many varieties of russet potatoes," says Canadian Living Test Kitchen food specialist Amanda Barnier. "Popular ones include Russet Burbank, Century Russet, Frontier Russet, Norking Russet, Russet Norkotah and Ranger Russet potatoes."
These spuds are perfect for roasts, stews, gratins, latkes, pancakes and other general-use recipes, and are great scalloped as well.
All-purpose potato varieties include:
3. Yukon Gold potatoes: "Yukon Golds have a slightly mealy texture and a delicious flavour. They’re excellent baking potatoes, and are great mashed. Generally, they're the perfect all-around potato to have in your cupboard," says Barnier. Though Yukon Golds are considered waxy by some – and aren’t the best for gratins or recipes that call for shredded potatoes – they're still the best pick for all-purpose potato cooking.
4. White potatoes, such as Superior, Kennebec, and Shepody potatoes: "Kennebec potatoes are smooth with buff-white skin and flesh, and are good for baking, broiling and roasting," says Barnier. "Shepody potatoes have a light, creamy flesh and are good for boiling, mashing and roasting, while Superior potatoes are good for chipping and most other methods." Fun fact: Shepody potatoes were first harvested in New Brunswick in the 1960s, specially engineered for Canada's short growing season.
5. Red potatoes, such as Norland, Chieftain and Redsen potatoes: "Norlands have a creamy flesh and are good for baking, boiling, mashing and salads," Barnier says. "Chieftain potatoes are good for baking and boiling, but are not ideal for chips."
6. Blue or purple potatoes: Though not commonly grown in Canada, blue potatoes can be seen in many supermarkets and are a great alternative to your usual potato of choice. "Vitelotte potatoes are long, thin, finger-shaped potatoes that have a dark grey or blue flesh, a firm waxy texture and a mild nutty taste. They're good for boiling and in salads," Barnier says. "Swedish Black potatoes have a bluish-purple skin, and are very mealy once cooked."
• New potatoes: New potatoes are any potatoes that have not grown to full maturity. They're best bought in late spring and early summer, when the potato harvest is just underway. New potatoes are much more perishable than their fully grown, perfect-for-root-cellar cousins, and should be eaten within a few days of purchase.
"New potatoes, such as Nadine potatoes, are creamy and have a yellow or white waxy flesh that's firm and good for baking," says Barnier.
What to look for when buying potatoes
"Consider what you plan to do with the potatoes, and buy them appropriately," advises Barnier. "Scrape the skin to see if the potato is young; if so, the skin should peel off easily. The fresher they are, the more they retain their vitamin C content."
She says potatoes should also be firm to the touch. “Avoid soft potatoes [that have] sprouts or any signs of mould. Check potatoes for any green patches – they're a sign that potatoes have been stored under light," she adds. If you do see small green patches, discard the potato, as they're known to be poisonous.
Tips for preparing and cooking potatoes - any variety
"Potatoes oxidize quickly," Barnier says. "Peel them just prior to use, or submerge them in cold water for a short amount of time until ready for cooking."
How to store potatoes
Barnier suggests storing potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place to prevent sprouting and mould.
Show your spuds some love
"I’m a fan of flavoured mashed potatoes," Barnier says, "[with toppings] such as horseradish and wasabi."
"Potatoes are generally mild in flavour and are easily complemented by so many foods," she adds. "Great flavour combinations include bacon, cheese and onions; leeks and nutmeg; cream, leeks and oysters; and parmesan and rosemary."
Easy potato recipes from the Canadian Living Test Kitchen
Barnier suggests these Tested-Till-Perfect favourites. Your family is sure to love them!
Crispy Smashed Fingerling Potatoes
Chive Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes
Crunchy Scalloped Potatoes
Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
So whether you prefer creamy mashers or that perfect crispy-skinned baked potato, whether you’re a lifelong french fry lover or a potato salad guru, expand your starchy horizons and pick up a new kind of potato on your next shopping trip!