Buying, Storing, and Cooking Potatoes: A Guide

Buying, Storing, and Cooking Potatoes: A Guidegitusik /123RF

Let’s make potatoes great again! Find out how to pick them at the store, keep them at home, and cook them to perfection.

Potatoes are high in nutrition and are some of the most versatile vegetables on the market. You can bake, boil, and fry potatoes, and you can use them in stews and other recipes to eat them by themselves or with other dishes.

Potatoes are high in starch and contain valuable nutrients for the body, including iron, vitamin B6, fiber, protein, carbohydrates, potassium, and vitamin C.

How to pick potatoes at the grocery store:

When you find yourself at the market in the produce section looking for the perfect potato, look for the smoothest and cleanest spuds with a firm texture and no bruises, cuts, or discolorations.

How to store potatoes at home:

The best place to store potatoes is in a cabinet, pantry, or root cellar with temperatures between 45ºF and 55ºF. Store them in a paper bag or a cardboard box—in dark areas away from direct sunlight—to prevent early spoilage.

How long potatoes last:

Raw, uncooked potatoes will last from 1 week to 1-2 months, depending on the variety, the spud’s age, and the storage method. Leftover cooked potatoes must be stored in the fridge, where they will last for 3-4 days.

We are eager to show you just how versatile potatoes are for different recipes and offer tips you may or may not have heard of previously.

There is much caution and awareness about choosing the right potatoes because some markets try to sell with the sprouts starting to grow. By then, it may be too late for some potatoes to be purchased. 

The Different Types of Potatoes

There are over 4,000 different varieties of potatoes—and we would be here trying to explain them for quite a while had we covered them all—so we will stick to the eight most popular varieties instead.

Multiple types of potatoes are grown and found in the produce section at the markets, but there are eight of them we are accustomed to and use more than the others.

They are as follows, along with their uses:

Russet potatoes have a fairly dry surface that crisps up during cooking, yet are starchy enough on the inside to hold on to their shape. Russets should be used for baking, roasting, and mashing. Gnocchi, those tiny Italian potato dumplings, must only be made with russet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes, as their name suggests, taste sweet, almost pumpkin-like. They are mostly used in sweet dishes and are usually mashed, baked, or roasted. They are also great for adding to chilis, as their sweetness balances out the salt from the sauce and the meat.

Red-skinned potatoes are typically found in German potato salads. They are perfect for boiling and roasting. Add them to clam chowders in summer and sauerkraut stews in winter. Peeled and cut coarsely, they make a great addition to pot roasts.

White potatoes, also known as “boiling potatoes,” have a pale white skin that’s not too brown or earthy. Not too starchy, slightly waxy, and carried by virtually every store, they are suitable for frying, boiling, mashing, and roasting.

Fingerling potatoes should be cooked in boiling salted water and added to French potato salads or Swiss raclette dishes.

Yellow potatoes, the most widely known of which are Yukon Golds and Ozette, are versatile spuds with a golden skin and a medium starch content. They are good for mashing, roasting, boiling, and frying.

Purple potatoes have a unique color and flavor profile that’s perfect for Latin-American dishes. Boil or fry them, then add them to your black bean soups, burritos, enchiladas, and salpicons.

Petite potatoes, also called “mini potatoes” or “baby potatoes,” are small spuds used for steaming, roasting, and boiling. Of all preparation methods, we love them roasted—and you will, too.

Choosing the Perfect Potato

When shopping for potatoes, it is essential to know the dish you are making so that you can identify the best potato to use.

Like all produce selections, we strive to find the ones ready to cook, which will add the freshest flavor to our meals. The idea is to get the most for your money, so be sure to choose the potatoes that you will not have to slaughter by removing eyes, bruises, and cuts.

Take a baked potato, for example. The artwork shows how the food looks on the plate and is just as important as its taste.

You want a whole potato that holds all the additions inside it, like bacon bits, cheese, sour cream, and other favorites, not one that falls apart because of all the removals of bruises and eye buds.

Always go for one that is not green or black. The potato should be firm with no soft, mushy spots. If you want to peel the potato, try to find the smoothest one possible to make it easier with the potato peeler.

Greening comes from solanine, a chemical that can naturally be found in potatoes, and it only appears if the spuds have been exposed to too much sunlight for too long of a time.

Grey, brown, or black spots on potatoes, especially if they have been brushed, are the result of oxidation.

Both green and dark spots must be cut away before cooking.

What Potato Goes Best With Each Dish?  

Perhaps this may be the most challenging question to answer because the texture is different in the skin of each potato. The skin is edible, but some choose not to eat it, which is perfectly normal. Those with tough skins are not favored in eating.

We will look at each dish and determine which potato to use below.

French fries:

This is America’s favorite side that goes best with hamburgers, steak, and seafood platters. Any potato can be used, but we recommend yellow potatoes, fingerling potatoes, and white potatoes due to the soft skins. Russet potatoes are also used, but they are better for baking rather than frying. 

Baked potatoes:

Russet potatoes and sweet potatoes are the best for baking because the skin holds up better when adding the goodies to the inside. They both have a look of creativity when baking, and both go well on the grill too. Both can be mashed after being thoroughly cooked, but sweet potatoes would be best for deserts called “yams” in the South. 

Potato salad:

Hands down, red potatoes are the best to use for potato salad, and the chunkiness of the potato adds a hearty bite to every spoonful. These potatoes do not fall apart as much as the rest and are also used more in boiled foods as a side. 

Oven-roasted potatoes:

These are found in casserole dishes and served as a side dish among gatherings. The choice is up to the cook because all potatoes can be oven-roasted, but perhaps the best ones are the red or the russet potatoes. We recommend cooking in olive oil and your favorite seasonings. 

Keep cut potatoes from turning brown:

When cutting the potatoes to roast them; before putting them in the casserole dish, put the cut potatoes in a container of cold water. This will keep them from turning brown.

Stews:

Petite potatoes would be the best option for stews due to their small size, and they do not need to be cut into chunks. Any one of the potatoes except for sweet potatoes can be stewed, but petite potatoes will save time and energy. 

Storing Potatoes Dos and Don’ts

Potatoes can spoil quickly if not stored properly. There is no set time limit to how long potatoes will stay good but here are the tips to keep them fresh for as long as possible.

Cooked potatoes are a perishable food. They should not sit out for longer than 1-2 hours at room temperature and must be stored in a ziplock bag or food storage container in the fridge, where they will stay good for 3-4 days.

Raw, uncooked potatoes abide by different rules, which we have explained below.

The dos of storing raw potatoes:

  • Store in a dark, cool place where temperatures are 45ºF to 55ºF; 
  • Keep the potatoes well ventilated; 
  • If they are in a bag, make sure the bag has holes in them. Paper bags are also good to use. 

The don’ts of storing raw potatoes:

  • Store in pantries, cabinets, or areas that maintain heat, such as your root cellar (they can be stored in pantries only if it is cool);
  • Never store on the countertops or in the sunlight;
  • Never wash them before storing them. The dampness will cause mold to form;
  • Putting uncooked potatoes in the fridge is not recommended. Colder temperatures turn the starch into sugar. It will also discolor the potatoes when cooked.

Special tip for those who store potatoes in the fridge nevertheless:

If, by accident, the potatoes end up in the fridge, put them in the drawers inside the refrigerator, not in the back of the refrigerator. Let them warm up to room temperature before cooking. This will keep the color from becoming distorted.  

Final Tips on Storage

Here is something most people may not know. Potatoes should never be stored with onions or any other fruits or vegetables. The reason is that onions and other fruits and vegetables have moisture inside them, and both have moisture that will spoil them quicker.

It is for these reasons we want to keep the potatoes in a dry location. Mold will take over and spoil the potatoes and any other produce nearby. Take note of how potatoes are stored separately from the rest of the produce in the grocery stores, almost like it has its own section and aisle. 

The best idea is to keep the potatoes where you will see them. Believe it or not, it is easy to forget you have them if you do not see them when opening doors or moving stuff around.

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