Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food, starring in favorite recipes like creamy mashed potatoes, saucy scalloped potatoes, fluffy baked potatoes, and more. Start by picking a potato that is right for your recipe. There are three categories of potatoes: waxy (such as round white potatoes), high-starch (such as russet potatoes), and medium-starch (such as Yukon gold potatoes). Waxy potatoes hold their shape well after cooking, making them great for casseroles and potato salads. High-starch potatoes don't hold their shape well after cooking, so they're not a great choice for casseroles and gratins, but they're delicious when boiled, baked, or fried. Like their name suggests, medium-starch potatoes fall in between the two—because of this, they're great in almost any recipe.
Making baked potatoes is easy—just four simple steps. A baked potato is a classic dinner side dish (steak and baked potatoes, here we come!), or it can also be a great lunch or light dinner depending on the toppings you add. Here are the basic steps for cooking baked potatoes:
Call them what you like—fried potatoes, home fries, cottage fries—they're delicious no matter the name! Similar to French fries, fried potatoes are thinly sliced potatoes or wedges that are cooked in butter or oil. You can easily cook them on your stovetop or in the oven.
Follow these instructions for cooking them in a skillet:
Boiled potatoes can be used in so many different ways: potato salad, mashed potatoes, and even as a side dish on their own (simply top with fresh herbs). If you need tender potatoes in a hurry, boiling is the way to go. Here is what to do:
Boiling sweet potatoes is about the same as boiling regular potatoes, and it's just as delicious and easy. Boil sweet potatoes to make mashed potatoes, or for use in a casserole or other dish. Here's what you need to know:
For the best scalloped potatoes, select a waxy or medium-starch variety such as Yukon gold, red, yellow, or white potatoes. Slices of these potato varieties tend to hold their shape better during baking than higher-starch potatoes. Because these potatoes have thin peels (unlike russets), you can leave the peels on the potatoes for extra color and texture. Here are some other tips for making homemade scalloped potatoes:
The thickness of your potato slices is key; typically 1/8 inch is recommended. Because you'll want the thickness of all the slices to be consistent for even baking (to avoid over- or underbaked areas), your best bet is to use a mandoline. If you don't have access to a mandoline, use a sharp chef's knife to cut thin, even slices.
To ensure the white sauce for your scalloped potatoes is smooth and rich, always thicken it with a roux. A roux is a mixture of equal parts melted butter (or any fat) and flour that combined before being whisked into the milk. The roux doesn't leave lumps in the sauce like a thickening mixture of flour and water, because the butter coats the starch molecules of the flour and prevents them from clumping. In addition, the butter adds a rich flavor to the sauce.
Get our classic Scalloped Potatoes Recipe.
Mashed potatoes are a delicious side for almost any kind of main dish. Start by selecting potatoes that are either high-starch or medium-starch varieties. Russets (high-starch) will give you light, fluffy mashed potatoes, while medium-starch varieties like Yukon gold and red potatoes will give you a creamier texture. Follow these essential steps for amazing mashed potatoes:
Handheld Potato Masher
Mash potatoes with a potato masher or electric mixer, or press through a ricer.
A potato ricer will create the fluffiest mashed potatoes. To use this method, you will need to peel all the skin off your potatoes before boiling.
If using an electric mixer to mash potatoes, beat only until potatoes are light and fluffy. Beating too long will break the starch molecules, giving the potatoes an undesirable gluey texture.