Sorting out Russets
Russet potatoes are the grand-daddy of potatoes here in the United States, but there’s more to these potatoes than meets the eyes. As varietal potatoes like Klondike Rose and Klondike Goldust have become more popular and easier to find in stores, the Russet has taken a back seat to these new potato types. But the stable Russet is the cornerstone of the potato world, so let’s learn a little more about the Russet and its uses.
Russets come in several varieties, the two most common are the Norkotah and the Burbank. To the naked eye, most of us would have a hard time deciphering which is which, but to the trained observer there are little tell-tells that give the potatoes away. I guess it’s true what they say, “The eyes are the window to the soul…” one of those clues is the deeper set eyes of the Russet Burbank.
Russet Burbanks have a higher specific gravity, meaning they have more solid (or flesh) and less water. Because there is more flesh to these potatoes, they have a longer growing season, harvesting a month after the Russet Norkotah. Because of their specific makeup, however, Burbanks are your standard French Fry potato and are used by national chains such as Five Guys to make a golden fry. A potato with less water will fry more evenly.
Russet Norkotahs have the same flavor profile as the Russet Burbank, but they have a lower specific gravity which makes them better for baking, mashing and roasting. Having a little more water base makes them a fluffier baked potato.
Now the big question, as a shopper, how do you know which Russet variety you are getting? Most of your bags of potatoes will have it named right on the bag enclosure. You can see below that I have taken a picture of two bag closures that I got from the local grocery. These tags will call out whatever variety of potatoes is in the bag, in this case it is Russet Burbanks, but it could be Rosara (Klondike Rose) or Chieftan (red). In Idaho, every bag of potatoes must call out its variety on the packaging. So when you are looking for Russets for a specific use, keep these tips in mind when shopping!
Written by Barbara Keckler, Marketing Manager at Potandon Produce L.L.C.