Potatoes have been a kitchen favorite for the longest time! They are intertwined in almost all cuisines, starting from European and South American to Asian, Middle Eastern, and even African. This versatile vegetable can be used in a number of ways - you can slice it, dice it, mash it, boil it, roast it, or even fry it.
We can all agree that there are probably a hundred, or even more, ways you can cook potatoes. The most popular potato dishes from around the world include french fries, mashed potatoes, potato salad, hash browns, and poutine among others. You can also use potatoes in curries, savory pies, and soups.
You may wonder why people love potatoes so much. The main reason could be that potatoes are delicious and relatively cheaper than other vegetables. Potatoes are versatile in the sense that they can be prepared in a variety of ways. Plus, they are widely available all year round.
Potatoes exist in different varieties. The most common ones are red potatoes, russet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, and Yukon gold potatoes. Now, let’s look at the differences between red potatoes and russet potatoes.
Red Potatoes vs. Russet Potatoes
Although red potatoes and russet potatoes may taste similar, there are quite a few differences between the two.
The origins of the Red Potato can be traced back to its initial cultivation in the Peruvian mountains. Following this, Spanish adventurers transported the potato back to Europe during their return journey in the 1560s, marking its introduction to the continent.
As the popularity of potatoes grew and their influence expanded throughout Europe, red potatoes were also brought to the United States. Nowadays, red potatoes are readily accessible and widely available in South America, the United States, and Europe.
The origin of the Russet Potato can be linked to the Irish potato famine that occurred in the 1800s. To address the devastating potato blight that had a severe impact on Irish farming, an American botanist named Luther Burbank worked on creating a new type of potato that would possess strong resistance to this blight.
Hence, through selective breeding, a new type of potato called Russet Potato was formed. This single variety has also given rise to more than forty other types of russet potatoes.
As the name suggests, red potatoes are red in color. They get their red color from natural pigments called anthocyanins. It can range from light pink to deep red, with the flesh being creamy white or pale yellow. The skin of red potatoes is thin and the flesh is waxy.
Red potatoes tend to have smoother skin and are often smaller and rounder in shape. Small red potatoes are usually about 1 to 2 inches in diameter, medium red potatoes typically range from 2 to 3 inches in diameter, and large red potatoes measure around 3 to 4 inches or more in diameter.
On the other hand, russet potatoes have rough brown skin and white, starchy flesh. This variety of potatoes tends to have a rougher, netted skin. The skin resembles a net or mesh-like pattern.
Unlike red potatoes which are rounder in shape, russet potatoes have a rather elongated shape. Plus, they are slightly larger than red potatoes. Small russet potatoes are usually about 2 to 3 inches in diameter, medium russet potatoes typically range from 3 to 4 inches in diameter and large russet potatoes measure around 4 to 6 inches or more in diameter.
Amongst all the potato varieties, red potatoes are one of the most waxy varieties. They are known for their pale, waxy flesh which means that this variety of potatoes is able to retain their shape even after cooking. This is why red potatoes are great for boiling, roasting, and using in salads. Plus, the skin is quite thin so most recipes do not even require the potatoes to be peeled before cooking.
On the other hand, russet potatoes are quite starchy. They tend to have a high starch content and a low water content. This means that russet potatoes are super absorbent. They are great for soaking ingredients like milk, butter, or salad dressings. One thing to note about russet potatoes is that they tend to fall apart during cooking. The dry and fluffy texture makes them best suited for baking, mashing, and frying.
Red potatoes taste slightly sweet. Their taste is often described as buttery and nutty, with subtle earthy undertones. When cooked, the texture of the potato becomes smooth and waxy.
In contrast, russet potatoes are less sweet. These potatoes tend to have a more neutral and starchy flavor compared to red potatoes. Russet potatoes have a high starch content, meaning the texture becomes fluffier and drier when cooked.
Red potatoes come in a variety of types, each with its own unique characteristics. Some of the most common varieties include Red Gold, Strawberry Paw, Adirondack Red, Sangre, Dakota Rose, and Viking.
What's different about Adirondack Red Potatoes is that they have red skin as well as red flesh. Red Gold Potatoes are known for their yellow flesh, while Sangre, Dakota Rose, Viking, and Strawberry Paw Potatoes have a creamy white flesh. Among these, Sangre is often celebrated for its striking appearance.
Russet potatoes exist in over forty varieties. The varieties include Russet Burbank, Kennebec, Ranger Russet, Umatilla Russet, Red Norland, Red Gold, Red La Soda, Vitelotte, Yellow Finn, Norkotah Russet, and Pomerelle Russet.
Although red potatoes and russet potatoes have similar nutritional characteristics, red potatoes are considered more nutritious than russet potatoes.
According to USDA, red potatoes are higher in certain nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, iron, and fiber. Red potatoes also contain protein and magnesium and are very low in fats. They are also a good source of carbohydrates and antioxidants.
Russet potatoes, too, are rich in antioxidants and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin A, calcium, iron, and potassium. It also contains dietary fiber, which aids digestion, promotes gut health, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Both red potatoes and russet potatoes are free of gluten. Due to their carbohydrate and fiber content, these two varieties of potatoes can help provide a feeling of fullness and satisfaction. This can aid in managing appetite.
Red potatoes have a relatively shorter shelf life compared to russet potatoes due to their lower starch content and thinner skin. When stored properly, typically in a cool, dark, and dry place, red potatoes can last for a few weeks to a couple of months. Their thinner skin makes them more susceptible to moisture loss and bruising.
Russet potatoes tend to have a longer shelf life compared to red potatoes due to their higher starch content and thicker skin. When stored in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated place, such as a cellar or pantry, russet potatoes can last for several weeks to a few months. The thicker skin helps protect them from moisture loss and bruising. However, over time, their starch content can convert to sugars, affecting taste and texture.
If you want to maximize the shelf life of both types of potatoes, make sure to keep them in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated area. The optimal temperature is ideally around 45-50°F or 7-10°C. You should also keep them away from direct sunlight as exposure to direct sunlight can cause greening and increase the production of solanine, which is a natural toxin found in potatoes.
Another useful tip is to keep the potatoes separate from onions as they can cause nearby potatoes to spoil and rot more quickly. Onions produce ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process. Other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas include bananas, apples, tomatoes, avocados, melons, and peaches.
Cultivation & Harvesting
Red potatoes can grow in both warm and cold climates. The first step in growing red potatoes is to begin "chitting" the potatoes indoors. This process allows the potatoes to grow at a faster rate.
"Chitting" refers to the process of allowing the parts of the potato plant that we commonly eat to sprout before they are planted. This is typically done a few weeks before the potatoes are planted in the ground. Chitting helps to encourage early growth and can lead to higher yields.
The cultivation of red potatoes involves chitting or pre-sprouting the potatoes indoors on a sunlit windowsill at approximately 15°C for a duration of four weeks. Once the potatoes have sprouted, plant them outdoors when the climate is a bit warmer or when the soil reaches a temperature of 8-10°C. This is usually done sometime between the end of March and start of May.
The timeframe for harvesting your red potato yield can vary based on several factors such as the specific potato variety, the planting date, and the prevailing weather conditions. Generally, the harvest window spans from July to October, right before the first frost.
Russet potatoes are grown in a similar fashion as well. You can cultivate them using seed potatoes or potato tubers. The benefit of using seed potatoes is that the yield is usually healthy and free of diseases. Moreover, you do not need to use any sprout inhibitors, like they do with the potatoes found in grocery stores.
Russet potatoes take up to four months to mature. Like red potatoes, russet potatoes grow best in warm climates as well. The ideal time for planting russet potatoes is between the months of April and June and the ideal time for harvesting russet potatoes is from mid September to mid October.
There is so much you can do with red potatoes and russet potatoes! The recipes are endless.
The waxy texture of red potatoes makes it best suited for boiling, roasting, and using in salads. This is because red potatoes are low in moisture and hence, do not break apart when cooked. Red potatoes work well as a side dish or can be used in more complex dishes such as steaks, baked fish, chicken breast, and lots more.
What’s great about red potatoes is that the skin is also edible so you don’t really have to peel them before putting them in a pan or pot. You can roast red potatoes with their skin on at about 350°F for 45-50 minutes. You can coat the red potatoes with olive oil, garlic, and herbs to bring out their natural sweetness and create a crispy exterior while keeping the interior tender.
If you’re hosting a BBQ party, you can easily make foil-packed grilled potatoes. You can slice the red potatoes, coat them with olive oil, herbs, and seasonings, and then grill them until they're tender and slightly crispy on the edges. It might be a good idea to boil the potatoes in salt water for about five minutes before putting them on the grill.
Red potatoes are often used to make potato salad because of their waxy texture, which holds its shape well after boiling. You can toss the chopped red potatoes with a tangy dressing, herbs, and other ingredients for a flavorful salad.
On the other hand, russet potatoes, known for their starchy and fluffy texture when cooked, are a versatile ingredient in the culinary world as well.
Russet potatoes are excellent for making creamy and fluffy mashed potatoes due to their high starch content. The high starch content helps create a smoother and more airy consistency when they are cooked and mashed. All you have to do is boil and mash the russet potatoes, add milk, butter, and seasonings to create a comforting dish.
Russet potatoes are also a preferred choice for making crispy and golden brown french fries. After cutting the russets into uniform strips, make sure to soak in water to remove the excess starch, and fry until crispy.
Moreover, if you’re making baked potatoes, hash browns, or potato pancakes, it might be best to use russet potatoes because of their fluffy interior and crispy skin. You can serve the baked potatoes with various toppings including sour cream, chives, cheese, and bacon. If you’re making hash browns, make sure to squeeze out the excess moisture after grating the russet potatoes.
Russet potatoes are also great for making potato stews and soups, potato casseroles, Shepherd’s pie, and potato wedges among others.
How can I tell if potatoes have gone bad?
There are quite a few ways you can tell if your potatoes have gone bad. You can tell by appearance, texture, or odor.
If the outside skin has mold, dark spots, or other blemishes, it could indicate spoilage. A spoiled potato will feel soft, wrinkled, and mushy and it is likely to produce a foul odor. After slicing the potatoes, if you notice green or brown discolorations, it might be time to throw them away.
How can I identify a red potato and a russet potato?
The main difference between a red potato and a russet potato is that a red potato is red in color whereas a russet potato is brown and has a net-like pattern on its skin. Red potatoes are usually smaller than russet potatoes. They have a rather round shape whereas russets typically have a more elongated shape.
Should I chop the potatoes before boiling?
If you don’t want your potatoes to turn too gummy or mushy, it might be best to chop them into thick dices before boiling them. Chopping the potatoes into small dices may help to remove the excess starch. You should rinse the potatoes in cold water before putting them in the hot water for boiling.
Potatoes have been a culinary favorite for the longest time. Whichever restaurant you go to and whichever cuisine you try, you may notice that potatoes are present in at least two to three dishes, or more. Whether they are boiled, baked, fried, or roasted, potatoes never fail to satisfy our taste buds.
Now that you are aware of the differences between red potatoes and russet potatoes, you can prepare your potato recipes accordingly. For instance, if you’re making mashed potatoes, you might want to use russet potatoes for that extra fluffy texture.