Here's what you need to know about picking potatoes.

A potato is a potato is a potato. Right? Not so much. Here's a handy guide that will make you a smarter potato shopper so your recipes turn out better.

Starchy vs. Waxy Potatoes

All potatoes have starch, but some are considered more "starchy" or "floury" than others. Russet or Idaho potatoes are "starchy" and tend to lose their shape and absorb more moisture as they cook. Red-skinned potatoes and fingerling potatoes have a "waxy" starch that helps them keep their shape as they cook. However, they don't absorb moisture as well as Russets do. That's why it's important to choose the right potato for the right recipe.

Potato Potahto - Get the Right One for Your Recipe

Russet Potatoes

Three Raw Russet Potatoes
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Russet potatoes are called starchy because they contain more of a certain kind of starch that makes them cook up drier and fluffier. That's why they're ideal for soaking up butter and gravy when they're baked or mashed. But that same fluffy texture makes them fall apart in stews.

Try these recipes with russet potatoes:

Boiling and Fingerling Potatoes

Multicolored fingerling potatoes
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Boiling potatoes and fingerlings are called waxy because they hold their shape when they're cooked. Firm rather than fluffy, their texture can stand up to the moisture in soups and casseroles without disintegrating.

Try these recipes with fingerling potatoes:

All-Purpose Yukon Golds

Yukon gold potatoes being mashed in mixing bowl with masher
Credit: Jason Donnelly/Meredith

All-purpose potatoes are like the Goldilocks of the potato world. Their balance of starchiness and waxiness makes them just right for almost any recipe.

Try one of these Yukon Gold recipes:

The Potato You Use Makes All the Difference

Should you always use one kind of potato over the other? Not necessarily. For example, you might prefer to use a starchy potato instead of a waxy potato in your potato salad because you like how it soaks up the dressing. Or you might like how a starchy potato breaks down and adds thickness to your soup. But knowing how different kinds of potatoes behave helps you control the outcome and makes you a more successful cook.

Ready to take on some 'taters? We've got bushels of potato recipes for you.

Happy cooking!