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Sometimes when I steam potatoes, they have a lovely dry, fluffy, crystaline texture. Other times, they're the complete opposite, looking dull with a texture like that of banana.

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    Do you always steam the same type of potato? If so, what kind is it? – Catija Aug 10 '16 at 23:19
  • Do you store your potatoes in a cold place? Microscopic ice crystals that form inside when potatoes get cold will help create steam during cooking, producing a fluffier texture. – ESultanik Aug 11 '16 at 10:57
  • Cold storage converts the starches to sugars, which can certainly impact the texture, but generally in a manner opposite what's stated above, and no ice crystals are involved. – Ecnerwal Aug 11 '16 at 14:03
  • @Ecnerwal against the back of a fridge ice crystals may well be involved. We tend to keep new potatoes in the fridge at least in warm weather, and the veg drawer doesn't always have room. In this case you could tell as only those which had been touching the element would lose texture. – Chris H Aug 11 '16 at 16:44
  • @ESultanik yes, I store them in the fridge at approx 5C – Physiks lover Aug 11 '16 at 20:51
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Could it be you are not using the same type of potatoes all the time? Different varieties of potatoes do have very different textures. The ones with the brown, rough, dusty skins ("russet" I think they are called?) usually cook up with the fluffy, dry, almost "sparkly" flesh. The smoother skinned ones tend to have denser, waxier texture inside. The pink, smooth ones ("rose" or "early rose") seem to fit the description of "looking dull" inside when cooked.

  • Yes. Russet is what they are called in the US. They are 'starchy' as opposed to 'waxy'. – Jolenealaska Aug 11 '16 at 5:07
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    Russet's a specific variety of potato. As a whole, they're generally called 'starchy', 'mealy', 'floury' or 'baking' potatoes, and are your normal ones for baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and deep frying. 'waxy', 'boiling' or 'roasting' potatoes (eg, red bliss) are used for cases where you want them to hold up and not turn to mush (eg, soups and stews, etc.). There's also a class that's between the two types of potatoes, like many of the more recent yellow/golden varieties (eg, yukon gold) that can be used either way if needed. – Joe Aug 11 '16 at 13:59
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You mentioned in the comments that you store your potatoes at close to freezing in your refrigerator. When potatoes get cold, microscopic ice crystals can form inside that will help create steam during cooking, producing fluffy texture like what you describe.

I'll bet that the inconsistency in your potatoes is due to slight differences in temperature in your refrigerator (i.e., some areas of your refrigerator might be 5°C but others 0°C; refrigerators are rarely 100% consistent). It could also be the case that your potatoes were stored at near- or below-freezing temperatures before you bought them.

The cold will also promote the starch in potatoes to convert into sugar, which can cause the potatoes to taste sweet and/or cause premature browning. This effect and the textural changes may be desirable for certain recipes, e.g., french fries. However, for most recipes you will want to use potatoes that have never been close to freezing temperatures.

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