Q. I am a cook of more than 45 years and my mom for more than 80 years and she is still a great cook. Within the past few months the potatoes are tasteless, lumpy and mealy. Have genetics caused this problem? After so many disappointments, we have decided that we might as well buy boxed potatoes. Although, I sure will miss my baked potato. What Happened???
Posts Tagged ‘russet’
Within The Past Few Months Our Potatoes Have Been Tasteless, Lumpy And Mealy. Have Genetics Caused This Problem?Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Q. I am a cook of more than 45 years, and my mom for more than 80 years, and she is still a great cook. Within the past few months I have noticed the potatoes are tasteless, lumpy and mealy. After so many disappointments, we have decided that we might as well buy boxed potatoes. Although, I sure will miss my baked potato. What happened????
Q. Can I bake 20 Idaho potatoes in my convection oven at the same time? How long, and what temperature? Thank you. (more…)
Q. Are there two grades of Idaho® potatoes, or two varieties?
A. There are two grades of potatoes typically sold in foodservice. A No. 1 potato from Idaho comes packed in cartons and has less defects, as well as a nice oval shape with few eyes. The No. 2 potato is commonly used in situations where the overall appearance is not as important such as freshly made French fries, mashed potatoes or hash browns. The No. 2 is packed in burlap bags, plastic or paper bags or can also be sourced in a one-piece box.
There are several varieties of Idaho® potatoes, to view the different varieties click here. The largest and best known variety from Idaho is the Russet Burbank, named after scientist Luther Burbank. It has high solids and bakes up dry and fluffy and fries crisp and golden brown. Another popular variety is the Russet Norkotah, which also works well as an all-purpose potato but has a slightly moister taste.
A. Russet potatoes are grown in many states, however, only potatoes grown in Idaho can be called Idaho® potatoes. Idaho’s ideal growing conditions – the rich, volcanic soil, climate and irrigation – are what differentiate Idaho® potatoes from potatoes grown in other states.
“Idaho® potato” and the “Grown in Idaho®” seal are federally registered Certification Marks that belong to the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC). These Marks ensure that consumers are purchasing potatoes that have been grown in the state of Idaho.
The IPC works hard to protect these trademarks and ultimately the integrity of the ‘”Idaho® potato” brand, which is recognized around the world as a premium potato. In fact, recently a trial was held in the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York where a jury concluded, and a Judge affirmed, that “Idaho” was not generic for any russet potato.
While the russet is the most well-known potato grown in Idaho, more than 25 other potato varieties are grown in Idaho including: Yukon Golds, Reds and Fingerlings.
Q. What is the perfect baked potato to pair with a steak?
A. Everyone has their own ideas as to what makes the perfect baked potato, so that’s where having a personal opinion comes in. I get the opportunity to visit a lot of restaurants and the ones that make the potato the “star” have a couple of things in common. Because of the natural “meat and potatoes” association, the finest steakhouse baked Idaho® potatoes have a lot in common with the preparation that you can do at home.
- The potato never was close to or in a microwave. For convenience sake, it is ok to microwave potatoes at home, just know that they are not going to taste the same as something that came out of a piping hot conventional or convection oven. It’s a fact that potatoes have about 20% solids (sometimes referred to as starch) however the other 80% is moisture, as in water. Baking in a dry heat oven or on the BBQ grill forces much of that water to evaporate, leaving a nice crispy outer skin and a dry fluffy interior. So unless you are in a big hurry, turn on the oven.
- The variety of the potato (and I also believe the source or state) has a lot more to do with a perfect baked potato than you might think. Of course, I am assuming that you looked for the “Grown in Idaho®” seal on the nearby bagged russets and found that Idaho is one of the few states (in fact, the first) to label the variety right on the bag or plastic white enclosure tag, called a quick lock. Look for the words Russet Norkotah or Russet Burbank or other Idaho variety names such as Ranger, Umatilla, Alturas, etc. If you find a variety you like, then ask the produce buyer at the store to continue to stock it. If you want a little moister baked russet potato, choose the Russet Norkotah. This is the variety commonly sold in grocery stores from August to March. Personally I find that this variety needs to be baked a little longer, typically ten more minutes. While it is not as pretty a potato, the Idaho® Russet Burbank is the potato of choice by steak restaurants.
- Size: The expensive steakhouse chains such as Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris, The Capital Grille, or Smith & Wollensky use an Idaho® Russet Burbank variety potato, about a pound each. Same with local favorites like Peter Luger in Brooklyn, Bern’s in Miami, Manny’s in Minneapolis, Gibson’s in Chicago or The House of Prime Rib in San Francisco. Budget steakhouses such as Sizzler or Golden Corral typically use a slightly smaller potato, the size you’ll find at most grocery stores in the loose potato displays, about 11-12 ounces.
Since restaurants use their ovens for lots of different food cooking applications the chances are that they are cooking the potatoes longer and hotter than you do at home. I recommend preheating the oven to 400°F, setting the timer for an hour. The potato is done when the internal temperature is 210°F, or a minimum of 185°F.
More tips when it comes to the perfect baked potato:
- Don’t store the potatoes in the refrigerator; the natural starches will convert to sugar and the potato will taste sweet when baked. Store in a cool dark place such as your pantry or where you store your dry cereals.
- Don’t wrap the potato in foil, this just steams the potato and makes the skin wet. Yes, some restaurants do this but primarily they are trying to hold the potatoes longer and dress them up. The brown skin may not be the prettiest vegetable but it does not improve the flavor when the water content is trapped inside a sealed wrapper.
I use a fork to pierce the potato on both sides to let steam escape and then I place the potatoes (with spacing around each) in the oven right on the racks so they will cook evenly and faster than if bunched together or on a cold metal tray.
- When a potato is done baking you can usually start to smell the aroma leaking out of the oven or vents. Pull one of the potatoes and poke it with a fork till you don’t see the tines of the fork. Just like baking a cake, the fork should come out nearly clean once the potato is thoroughly baked. Or, use a meat thermometer and check the temperature to see if you are above 185°F. If you need to hold a potato until dinner is ready, turn off the oven but keep the door closed and the heat will stay in for another 10-15 minutes. That’s about how long it takes for me to start and finish a steak on the BBQ.
- I open the potato with a fork, cutting a cross into the top of the potato. Then I push in both ends of the potato and it will blossom open, just like at your favorite steak house. If the potato is still moist inside I pop it into the micro wave for 30-45 seconds, pull it out and put on salt, pepper, and your favorite toppings such as butter, sour cream, cottage cheese or low fat yogurt. For a healthier option (which I love for a lunch entree) I put fresh salsa on the potato with no dairy products. It tastes great!
Q. What is the correct oven temperature and time to cook a baked potato? I especially would like to know the cooking temperature for russets.
A. I just saw a post on the internet where people were asked to write in with their comments and a couple of suggestions, if followed you will end up with an inferior tasting baked potato. Baking at 450 degrees F is way too high and the potato will have a wrinkled skin. Baking for an hour and a half is too long, the potato will be overcooked. Of course it can take that long if potatoes are stacked on top of each other. Be sure to place in a single level, preferably right on the rack. We recommend 400° F. In previous studies with Kitchen Consultants, out of Los Angeles, we raised our baking time suggestions from 45 or 55 minutes to one full hour or when the internal temperature of the Idaho® baked potato reaches 210° F. Baking in foil is NOT recommended, as it steams the potato. If you must, then wrap the potato so that the top is open and the steam can escape. Once fully baked, remove from the oven, and using a hot pad or mitt, fold the foil over the top of the potato to seal it up. This method allows most of the steam to escape before it has finished cooking.
Q. I know Idaho grows a lot of russet potatoes, but I’ve seen the Grown in Idaho seal on reds, yellows, and even fingerling potatoes. Are these potatoes really from Idaho? How many yellow potatoes are grown annually in Idaho?
A. Yes! These potatoes really are from Idaho. We grow about 13 billion pounds of potatoes each year, and while most of them are Russet Norkotah or Burbank varieties, about 4-5% of our annual production is non-brown spuds. According to the USDA, Idaho shipped over 60 million pounds of yellow-type potatoes in 2012. That’s a whole lot of non-russets! Try out any of our delicious varieties the next time you go to the grocery store—and always look for the Grown in Idaho seal!
Q. How do I get the moisture out of my mashed potatoes?
A. CooksCountry.com just had an excellent article on making whipped mashed potatoes with several tips. The article walks you thru several options that were discarded or modified.
I always like to start with the right variety of potato, and russets seem to consistently outperform reds or Yukon Golds… primarily because most russets on average have a little more starch to water ratio. I firmly believe in using the Russet Burbank variety from Idaho, although others will work too. First, don’t waterlog the potatoes when you cook them, usually by boiling or steaming whole. Try cutting the potato into chunks and start with cold water, boil and then remove and drain when fork tender (it will give when you press the potato with the fork tines). Try draining the cooked water off in a sieve or colander and then placing back on the stove to cook out some of the extra moisture, just a couple of minutes. Mash with a masher (or a ricer which makes great non lumpy spuds). Always add melted butter or the liquid when it is warm and do this a little at a time.
It is really not that hard, give it a try.
Q: We want to grow Idaho® russet’s in our garden here in eastern Oklahoma. We are much warmer and more humid than Idaho and we wonder if the potatoes would do well here. Also, I have been unable to find where I can buy starts. Do you know of any garden companies that sell them?
A: Only Idaho potatoes come from Idaho. As far as growing potatoes in your state… nearly all states grow potatoes, I’d check with the land grant college there or with the State Department of Agriculture.