Q: What's the best way to bake a potato?
A: A baked potato is not wrapped in foil - that's called a steamed potato because the aluminum foil traps the steam inside, causing the skin of the potato to be soft.
To bake a potato, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Pierce each potato in several places to allow steam to escape. Place potato on oven rack or baking sheet. Bake 40 to 55 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.
Q: What is the best variety of potato?
A: It depends on how you're using them. If you are looking for a specific outcome, like solid slices for scalloped potatoes, a waxy potato (red- or white-skinned) is recommended.
If you like smooth mashed potatoes, it might be best to start with a floury (baking) potato. I've listed below the different types of potatoes (excluding sweet potatoes) and their characteristics:
Russet potatoes: This is the most widely used potato variety in the United States. A large majority is grown in the Northwest. These potatoes are high in starch and are characterized by netted brown skin and white flesh. Russets are light and fluffy when cooked, making them ideal for baking and mashing. They also are wonderful for frying and roasting.
Round white potatoes: These potatoes are medium in starch level and have smooth, light tan skin with white flesh. These are creamy in texture and hold their shape well after cooking. Regarded an all-purpose potato, round whites are very versatile and can be used in most potato preparations.
Long white potatoes: Long whites are oval-shaped, medium in starch level and have thin, light-tan skin. These potatoes have a firm, creamy texture when cooked. They are available spring through summer. These all-purpose potatoes are very versatile and can be used in most potato preparations.
Red potatoes: These potatoes are characterized by their rosy red skin, but they can have white, yellow or even red flesh. Red potatoes have a firm, smooth and moist texture, making them well-suited for salads, roasting, boiling and steaming. Round reds are often referred to as "new potatoes"; however, technically, "new" refers to any variety of potatoes that is harvested before reaching maturity.
Yellow potatoes: These potatoes are increasingly popular in the United States and are now available most of the year. These potatoes have a dense, creamy texture. With their golden color, you can be fooled into thinking that they are buttered. They are great for roasting, baking, boiling and steaming.
Blue and purple potatoes: These potatoes originated in South America and have begun to gain popularity in the United States. Blue and purple potatoes are most available in the fall.
These relatively uncommon tubers have a subtle nutty flavor and flesh that ranges in hue from dark blue or lavender to white. Microwaving preserves the color the best, but steaming and baking also are favorable methods of preparation.
Q: How should potatoes be stored?
A: Potatoes should be kept in a cool, dark place with good ventilation. The ideal storage temperature is 45 to 50 degrees. At these temperatures, potatoes will keep for several weeks. But don't store potatoes in the refrigerator. When kept below 40 degrees, potatoes develop a sweet taste, due to the conversion of starch to sugar. This increased sugar causes potatoes to darken when cooked. If you store potatoes at room temperature, try to use them within a week or so.
Keep potatoes away from prolonged exposure to light, which causes them to turn green. This greening causes a bitter flavor. If potatoes develop green areas, just trim off these areas before using.
Potatoes that are cut and uncooked can take on a pinkish or brownish discoloration. This darkening or discoloration is similar to that of cut apples from exposure to air. It's due to the carbohydrate in the food reacting with oxygen in the air. Potatoes that become discolored in this way are safe to eat and do not need to be thrown out. The color usually disappears with cooking. Preserve the color of cut potatoes by storing them in cold water. Limit water soaking to two hours to retain water-soluble vitamins.
Q: Why do potatoes grow sprouts?
A: Sprouts are a sign that the potato is trying to grow. Cut the sprouts away before cooking or eating the potato.
Q: Is it safe to eat the potato skin?
A: Absolutely! In fact, we recommend it. The skin of the potato contains fiber and many nutrients.
Q: Is it safe to eat raw potatoes?
A: Yes, as long as they are washed and scrubbed clean. Some consider raw potatoes a treat.
Q: Are potatoes nutritious?
A: Yes, they are nutritious - but it's the foods that they often are associated with that give them a bad name, like sour cream, butter, cheese and bacon bits.
Potatoes are naturally fat-free and cholesterol-free. Potatoes eaten with the skin are a rich source of vitamin C and potassium, and a good source of fiber. Potatoes contain nutrients known to contribute to heart health. In fact, a medium-sized potato with the skin contains 21 percent of the daily value of potassium. Foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium, such as potatoes, may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
One medium potato (5.3-ounces), which counts as one cup of vegetables, contains 100 calories. With the skin on, it provides 2 grams of fiber and 620 milligrams of potassium. Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C (45 percent of the recommended daily value per serving). Potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6 with 10 percent of the recommended daily value. It also provides 6 percent of the recommended iron for the day.