Knowing the starch level of a potato can help you choose the right one for your recipe.
High-starch potatoes such as Idaho russet potatoes, have a light, mealy texture. They’re best for baking, mashing, potato pancakes and french-frying. According to food scientist Harold McGee, the cells of a high-starch potato separate when cooked. That means fluffy baked potatoes and mashed potatoes that readily soak up milk and butter and hold plenty of air when whipped. But high starch potatoes also absorb water, so they fall apart when boiled, making them not much good for salads.
Medium-starch potatoes or all-purpose potatoes such as yellow potatoes, purple potatoes or white potatoes, are moister than high-starch potatoes and hold their shape a bit better. They are best roasted or made into gratins. They’re fabulous cut into chunks, seasoned with olive oil and garlic, wrapped in foil, and roasted.
Low-starch potatoes such as red potatoes, Yukon golds, and fingerlings are best for salads. Often called waxy potatoes, these have a more cohesive cell structure and hold their shape better than other types of potato.