Baked, fried, soups and salads: There’s a potato for that!

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Potato lovers know their spuds! Potatoes with a smooth, waxy flesh are best for soups and salads, while grainy or mealy-fleshed potatoes are better for baking and mashing.

When it comes down to how well a variety performs in the kitchen, scientists say it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Potato performance depends on the balance between water and starch – something potato breeders look at closely when developing new varieties.

"People who cook with potatoes regularly know that potatoes with different starch profiles are better suited for certain cooking methods, recipes or end products. In fact, when we evaluate our potato selections, one of the most important things we do is cook them in our quality lab to ensure they look and taste just right."

– Agnes Murphy, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

"From a potato science point of view, starch composition is one of the key things we evaluate when breeding potatoes for the fresh and processing markets,” she continued. “There’s a target ratio of starch we look for to determine the best application. Some are better for table potatoes, the ones you find at the supermarket. Others are better for processing, like fries or chips."

Starch is a large molecule or polymer made of glucose molecules – amylose and amylose-pectin. The proportion of each of these molecules influences the physical and chemical properties of potato varieties.

For fresh or table potatoes, high starch varieties like most Russets are best for baking, mashing and frying because they have a dry, fluffy texture when cooked. For salads and soups where you want your potatoes to hold their shape, a lower starch variety, such as many red-skinned potatoes works really well.

For those looking for a versatile, all-purpose spud, some varieties have just the right balance between water and starch. Medium starch potatoes like Yukon Gold – which was developed right here in Canada – will hold their shape for salads and casseroles, and also taste great baked, boiled or mashed!

Key discoveries

  • Starch composition is one of the key things potato breeders evaluate when developing new potato varieties.
  • High starch potato varieties are best for baking, mashing and frying because they have a dry, fluffy texture when cooked.
  • For dishes that require potatoes to hold their shape, like soups and salads, a lower starch variety is best.

Photo gallery

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Example of Russet variety best used for baking, mashing and frying
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Many red-skinned potatoes are great for salads and soups because they hold their shape
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Medium starch potatoes like Yukon Gold are all-purpose spuds that can be used in most potato dishes.

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