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If a recipe calls for 'boiling potatoes', what variety(ies) is it referring to, and why?

Example Recipes:

  • How recent is the recipe? (sometimes older terminology isn't used any longer) What is the recipe for? I generally pick my potato type based on the end product. – Catija Feb 2 '15 at 22:48
  • I'm guessing it means white potatoes, though, as they usually do best when boiled. – Catija Feb 2 '15 at 23:03
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    @Catija Waxy potatoes in general, not just white; see for example cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/6561/… – Cascabel Feb 2 '15 at 23:26
  • @Catija I've updated my question with examples. The latter two are Rachael Ray recipes, and I've noticed a lot of unconventional or quirky terminology from her. – SCK Feb 2 '15 at 23:27
  • @Jefromi Thanks! That's what I was thinking, too but for some reason the listing I was looking at didn't list red potatoes as good for boiling so I left them off, despite them being the ones I usually use. – Catija Feb 2 '15 at 23:46
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This most likely means waxy potatoes, typically white or red. In some contexts it might also mean you want small ones so that you can boil and serve them whole, but it doesn't look like that's the case here.

There are two main kinds of potatoes, starchy and waxy. Starchy ones (like russets) cook up fluffy and dry, desirable for things like baked potatoes and fluffy mashed potatoes, but are prone to disintegrating when boiled or mixed into potato salad, and can get waterlogged from over-boiling. Waxy ones (like most red and white potatoes) on the other hand stay relatively firm, making them good for boiling.

So "boiling potatoes" meaning "potatoes for boiling" would indicate waxy potatoes, and that's consistent with the recipes you linked to. For aloo gobi, you want firm ones so they don't fall apart when you mix it all up. For curries and stews, you don't want them to get waterlogged or fall apart. Fries are much easier to handle if they're not falling apart! And two of the recipes even mentioned red and white potatoes.

  • I've typically seen waxy white's referred to as gold. – agweber Feb 3 '15 at 4:01

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