Americans love potatoes, and though we consume them mostly in unhealthy fast food, there’s a growing market for gourmet varieties like fingerling and marble potatoes. Whichever type of potato you prefer, here are some tips to help you select the best.
If possible, choose individual potatoes from a bulk display. Buy pre-bagged potatoes only if you can check the condition of the potatoes through the packaging—and if you know you will use all of them before they spoil.
Look for clean, smooth, well-shaped potatoes, free from sprouts. A sprouting potato, though edible, has started to age and may contain increased amounts of the toxic alkaloid solanine, found in the leaves of potato plants.
Potatoes should feel firm, the “eyes”—the buds from which sprouts can grow—should be few and shallow, and the skins should be free of cracks, wrinkles, or dampness. Reject any with green-tinged skins, which indicates improper storage and usually the presence of solanine. Also reject potatoes with black spots, bruises, or other discolorations.
The USDA has established grades for potatoes, according to appearance and size. “U.S. Extra No. 1” is a premium grade, followed by “U.S. No. 1,” which is the most common grade and denotes potatoes that have few defects and are at least 1¾ inches in diameter. However, grade labeling is not required, and many potatoes are not marked.
See our suggestions for recipe ideas for potatoes.