The Different Types of Potatoes and Which is Best for Frying

At Frymax, the UK’s leading supplier of sustainable palm oil, we understand the importance of the perfect fry. It’s a crispy golden delight, a textural symphony in every bite, a side dish that elevates any meal. But achieving this culinary masterpiece starts with the foundation – the potato itself. Potatoes come in a dazzling array of shapes, sizes, and, most importantly for frying, starch content. Understanding these differences is the key to unlocking consistently, deliciously tasty fries. 



A Classification of Spuds: Starchy vs. Waxy vs. All-Purpose

The key player in potato classification for cooking is starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate that breaks down into sugars during cooking, influencing the texture and flavour of the final dish. Potatoes can be broadly categorised based on their starch content:


  • High Starch (Starchy Potatoes): These champions of crispness boast a high starch content (around 20-25%) and a low moisture content (around 70-80%). Starch granules within these potatoes readily break down during cooking, leading to a light and fluffy interior and a satisfyingly crisp exterior when fried or roasted. Russet (or Idaho) potatoes are the quintessential example, perfect for chips, wedges, and hash browns. With a low shape retention, their oblong shape and easily peeled skin make them a favourite for these applications.


  • Medium Starch (All-Purpose Potatoes): Striking a balance, all-purpose potatoes possess a moderate starch content (around 15-20%) and a moderate moisture content (around 80-85%). This versatility allows them to excel in a variety of dishes. Yukon Gold potatoes are a popular all-purpose choice, well-suited for roasting, mashing, and even pan-frying. With a medium shape retention, their smooth, waxy texture and slightly sweet flavour add another layer of interest to dishes. Maris Piper, a popular UK variety, falls into this category as well, offering a good balance for mashing, roasting, and even chipping.


  • Low Starch (Waxy Potatoes): These moisture-rich spuds (around 85-90%) boast a low starch content (around 10-15%). The limited starch translates to a minimal breakdown during cooking, resulting in a firm texture and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. With a high shape retention, these waxy potatoes excel at holding their shape when boiled, making them ideal for potato salads and boiled new potatoes. Charlotte and Wilja potatoes are popular waxy choices in the UK. They are perfect for salads, retaining their delicate flavour and texture when boiled.


A Guide to Popular Potato Varieties in the UK

The humble potato, a versatile and delicious staple in British cuisine, comes in a surprising array of varieties, each with unique characteristics that make them shine in specific dishes. 


Flour Power: The Champs of Mashing and Roasting

  • Maris Piper: This iconic potato, a mainstay in British kitchens since the 1960s, boasts a high starch content and a fluffy, floury texture. These characteristics make them perfect for mashing, producing a creamy and satisfying result. They also excel when roasted, developing a crisp golden exterior and a light, fluffy interior. Maris Pipers are a true all-rounder, equally adept at creating delicious chips.


  • King Edward: Another classic British potato, King Edwards shares the high starch content and floury texture of Maris Pipers. This translates to excellent results when mashed or roasted. Their flavour is slightly sweeter than Maris Pipers, making them a popular choice for roasts with rich gravy. While suitable for chips, they may not achieve the ultimate crispness due to their higher moisture content compared to Russets.


  • Desiree: Offering a delightful middle ground, Desirees possess a moderate starch content and a creamy texture. They are a versatile choice, well-suited for mashing, roasting, and even frying due to their ability to hold their shape well. Their red skin adds a touch of colour to dishes, and their creamy flesh offers a pleasing mouthfeel.


Waxy Wonders: Boiled and Salads Await

  • Charlotte: These delightful potatoes are renowned for their waxy texture and ability to hold their shape when boiled. Their smooth, creamy flesh makes them a favourite for potato salads, offering a firm structure that won’t disintegrate when dressed in mayonnaise. They also excel when boiled or steamed whole, retaining their delicate flavour and texture.


  • Wilja: Another waxy potato gaining popularity, Wiljas possess a creamy yellow flesh and a slightly sweet flavour. Similar to Charlottes, they excel when boiled or steamed whole, showcasing their vibrant colour and firm texture. They are also a good choice for potato salads and can even be pan-fried for a delicious side dish.


  • Jersey Royal: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status makes these little potatoes a true British treasure. Hailing from the Channel Island of Jersey, Jersey Royals are harvested young, resulting in a high moisture content and a waxy texture. Their earthy flavour and delicate skin make them best enjoyed simply boiled or steamed with a drizzle of butter and herbs.


All-Purpose Allure: Versatility Takes Centre Stage

  • Maris Piper: While excelling in the world of mashing and roasting, Maris Pipers also hold their own as an all-purpose potato. Their moderate frying ability makes them a good choice for home cooks who may not want to invest in a separate variety for chips.


  • Red Rooster: These vibrant red potatoes boast a slightly waxy texture and a creamy interior. Their versatility shines in roasting, boiling, and even pan-frying. The red skin adds a pop of colour to dishes, and their flavour profile complements a variety of herbs and spices.


  • Yukon Gold: A popular choice across the globe, Yukon Golds offer a moderate starch content and a smooth, creamy texture. While not the ultimate choice for deep-frying due to their moisture content, they can be pan-fried for delicious home fries or roasted for a creamy delight. They also excel in mashed potatoes, offering a slightly sweet flavour.


The UK potato scene isn’t limited to the big names. Several lesser-known varieties offer intriguing culinary possibilities:

  • Fontane: This waxy potato boasts a nutty flavour and a firm texture, making it ideal for salads and potato wedges.


  • Cara: Renowned for its beautiful purple flesh, Cara offers a unique visual appeal in salads and mashed potatoes. It has a slightly sweet flavour and a waxy texture.


  • Pink Fir Apple: This heritage variety boasts a vibrant pink skin and a creamy yellow flesh. Its flavour profile is nutty and slightly earthy, making it a good choice for roasting or mashing.


Exploring Exotic Potato Varieties for Culinary Adventurers

The humble potato, a global staple, might seem like it doesn’t hold many surprises. But venture beyond the familiar Russets and Yukon Golds, and a world of exotic potato varieties awaits, each boasting unique colours, textures, and flavour profiles.


  • Purple Majesty (and other purple potatoes): Nature’s candy, these vibrant potatoes boast a stunning deep purple flesh that retains its colour even after cooking. The anthocyanin pigments responsible for the colour offer potential health benefits too! Purple potatoes can be enjoyed in all sorts of ways – roast them for a visually stunning side dish, mash them for a vibrant twist on a classic, or even slice them thinly for colourful potato chips. Other purple potato varieties like Adirondack Blue and Blue Danube are worthy contenders as well.


  • Red Flesh Potatoes (e.g., Red Emmalie, Red Norland): Not just about the skin, these potatoes showcase a vibrant red flesh that bleeds slightly during cooking. Their earthy flavour profile complements a variety of dishes. Roast them with rosemary and garlic for a flavourful side or use them in potato salads for a pop of colour. Red flesh potatoes also hold their shape well, making them suitable for boiling or grilling.


  • French Truffle Potato (a.k.a. Violet Kartoffel): Intrigue your taste buds with this unusual variety. These small, knobbly potatoes possess a light brown skin and a creamy white flesh with flecks of purple and violet. While the “truffle” in the name may be a stretch, they do boast a unique earthy and nutty flavour with hints of truffle oil. Enjoy them roasted whole for a delightful appetiser or incorporate them into elegant potato salads.


  • Fingerling Potatoes (e.g., French Fingerling, Purple Peruvian): These slender, elongated potatoes come in an array of colours, including purple, red, and yellow. Their small size makes them perfect for roasting whole or halved. Fingerlings boast a creamy texture and a concentrated flavour, offering a delightful textural experience in every bite. Experiment with different roasting herbs and spices to create a flavour explosion. Purple Peruvian fingerlings, with their waxy texture, are excellent choices for potato salads or pan-frying whole.


  • Cipollini (a.k.a. Potato Onion): This intriguing variety resembles a small onion but is indeed a potato. A flattened, bulbous shape and a brown, papery skin distinguish them from the crowd. Cipollini boasts a creamy, slightly sweet flavour and a smooth texture. Roast them whole for a unique side dish or slice them and pan-fry them for a caramelised and flavourful treat.


  • Black Garlic Potato: Don’t be fooled by the name – the flesh inside is actually white. However, these potatoes have a unique characteristic – tiny black flecks throughout the flesh, reminiscent of black garlic. They possess a subtle garlicky flavour and a creamy texture, making them perfect for mashing or roasting.


  • Japanese Sweet Potato (Satsuma Imo): Not technically a true potato, but included for its unique flavour profile, these vibrant orange sweet potatoes are a staple in Japanese cuisine. They boast a naturally sweet and slightly nutty flavour, making them perfect for roasting or even baking into delicious desserts.


  • Uka Cipolla (Peru): Hailing from the Andes, these small, yellow potatoes are renowned for their intense earthy flavour and slightly nutty undertones. They are typically freeze-dried and then rehydrated before use in traditional Peruvian dishes. If you can find them fresh, try roasting them whole or incorporating them into stews for a unique flavour experience.


Choosing the Right Spud for the Job

Now that you’ve explored the diverse landscape of potatoes, here’s a handy quick reference to guide your culinary adventures:

  • Mashing: For a classic creamy mash, Maris Piper and King Edward are your champions. If you prefer a smoother texture with a hint of sweetness, Yukon Gold is a good choice. Desiree offers a happy medium between creamy and slightly chunky.


  • Roasting: Maris Piper, King Edward, and Red Rooster excel when roasted, developing a crisp golden exterior and a fluffy interior. For a touch of sweetness, try Yukon Gold. Jersey Royals, while delicious boiled, can also be roasted for a unique treat.


  • Boiling & Salads: Charlotte, Wilja, and Jersey Royals are your waxy heroes, perfect for salads and maintaining their shape when boiled. Fontane can also be a good salad option with its firm texture.


  • Frying: For the ultimate crispness, Maris Piper is the gold standard and the best potatoes for chips. King Edward, Sante, and Pentland Dell are also good choices. Desiree holds its shape well when fried, making it a versatile choice if you want something a little different, and Red Rooster can be pan-fried for a delicious side dish.


Fry Like a Pro: Mastering the Art of Frying Potatoes

Now that you’ve selected your champion potato, let’s explore some top tips for achieving perfectly fried spuds:


  • The Double Fry: The double cooked chips technique is the secret weapon of professional fryers. Par-cook the potatoes by blanching them in hot oil (around 150°C) for servals minutes until they begin to turn soft. Remove them and let them cool completely. This first fry helps to cook the interior without browning the exterior. Once cooled, crank up the heat (around 190°C) for the second fry, resulting in a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try our triple cooked chips recipe!


  • Soak & Dry: For extra crispness, consider soaking your potato slices in cold water for 30 minutes to an hour. This helps to remove excess starch, which can prevent fries from crisping properly. After soaking, pat the potatoes dry thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel. Excess moisture is the enemy of a crispy fry!


  • Cooking Oil Matters: The type of oil you use for frying plays a significant role in the final product. For deep-frying, vegetable oil with a high smoke point, like palm oil, is ideal. This will ensure you get the high heat needed for crispy chips without the oil burning and turning bitter.


  • Seasoning is Key: Don’t underestimate the power of salt! Season your fries generously with salt after frying. For an extra flavour boost, try sprinkling them with paprika, garlic powder, or your favourite herb blend.


  • Fry in Batches: Avoid overcrowding the fryer. This can lead to uneven cooking and soggy fries. Fry your potatoes in batches to ensure they have enough space to cook evenly and crisp up properly.


  • Safety First: Always ensure your fryer has reached the desired temperature before adding potatoes. Never leave hot oil unattended and keep a fire extinguisher readily available in case of emergencies.


Buy the Best Oil for Deep Frying in the UK

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11 July 2024