Mashed spuds: Which are best?

April 26, 2006|By DONNA PIERCE | DONNA PIERCE,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Which potato makes the best mashed potatoes? Yukon golds or russets?

In On Cooking: Techniques From Expert Chefs, a reference book often used in culinary schools, the authors call for waxy potatoes.

In The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook, from the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine, the authors cite the assets of both. "Russet potatoes make fluffier mashed potatoes," they write. "But Yukon golds have an appealing buttery flavor."

So we weren't surprised when our own unofficial tasting yielded much the same results. Several staffers picked the mashed Yukon golds, with one noting the spud's ability to whip up into a "creamy, buttery goodness." But some praised the russet version as "tasty and comforting" and "really nice, smooth and completely buttery."

We liked Russ Parsons' take on the subject in his book, How to Read a French Fry and Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science. Parsons, a food columnist for the Los Angeles Times, delivers a sort of spud peace agreement.

Waxier potatoes such as Yukon golds will mash up to a heartier texture because they contain a slightly higher amount of pectin, which forms a linkage that holds the granules together. On the other hand, he writes, baking potatoes like russets whip up to a creamy, "ethereal puree," because starch cells in this variety soften and fall apart easier.

"They're both good," he says.

We agree. As with many dishes classified as "comfort food," the best choice may just depend on childhood memories and your mom's shopping list.

Donna Pierce writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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