Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Today's Food Ingredient Mysteries- Russet, Yukon Gold, vs. Red Potatoes?

Do you think our great grandparents had to worry about the choices we face today when we are shopping in the grocery store? What potatoes to use to make the perfect mashed potatoes or potato salad? or What ground meat makes the best hamburgers?

I don't think so.

My great grandparents had a garden and grew their own potatoes. I think whatever variety they grew was used for any and every application in the kitchen. My mom told me how her mom's mom would take leftover mashed potatoes and make potato pancakes for breakfast. We would say she was being economical with her potatoes. She would probably say I wouldn't think of doing anything different because that was the way of life. My great grandmother didn't waste anything. My mom also told me that if my great grandmother had a tablespoon of potatoes or other vegetables leftover from a meal that she would add it in to make a vegetable soup.

Hamburgers......What ground meat makes the best hamburgers? If I would ask my other great grandmother, she would probably say a butchered cow. She raised cattle and butchered the cows for meat. Talk about fresh. cow-> meat -> hamburger all right at your home.

Today some of us do not have this "luxury" of reaching in the ground for our own poatoes (no one in my immediate family has a green thumb) or butchering a cow for meat. We walk into a grocery store to buy our potatoes and meat.

So, because of the decisions facing us today,  I am going to let you in on a few secrets to the mysteries my mom and I uncovered about potatoes and meat.


I hate to say it, but I grew up not worrying about the difference in potatoes.  My grandparents had gardens.  I can remember digging the mounds to get the potatoes, being careful to not cut the potatoes.  As the potatoes were harvested, any that were not being used would be piled up under a tree and lime would be sprinkled on them as a preservative.  I ate potatoes fresh out of the garden and they were wonderful.  I had boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, potatoes and dumplings, and fried potatoes. Maybe somewere baked...I don't remember these much.  I think that whatever was cooked was made to serve multiple servings economically. I don't really even remember seeing many russet potatoes, mostly red.  We ate a lot of tiny red new potatoes.  They were delicious, especially added to fresh green beans, etc..
                                                                                                                                                       As a cook (and restaurant customer) in the past years, I became more acquainted with russet potatoes, but mostly I thought of them as baking potatoes.  I used red for everything else.  Then, along comes Whitney and her consuming interest in the food world.  I suddenly discover that I might not be cooking potatoes in a way that utilizes them the best according to their various textures and tastes (and of course, I have been learning a lot about starches).  Oh, and to make choices more interesting, a new potato enters the picture, the new "gold or yellow butter" potatoes.

Being a former teacher and fond of analyzing and researching, I decide to test out the three kinds of potatoes and learn firsthand about them and their tastes, textures, and best uses (from my family's viewpoint).  I was interested in making a great mashed potato and potato salad.  Which should I use? I cut each type into cubes and boiled. When mashed, I discovered the russet and gold to be creamier than the red.  The majority of my family preferred the taste of the russet for mashed potatoes.  (Whitney liked the "gold" better.) From my research, russet is the starchiest and because of this makes the fluffiest mashed potatoes; some professional chefs use them.  However, I learned that some people do not prefer them over gold because they said they don't like the starchier taste. . The gold is an all purpose, medium starch potato and does produce fluffy potatoes with a buttery taste.  Obviously, there seems to be differing opinions about which makes the best mashed potatoes. (Which do you prefer?)

 By the way, Whitney has taught me to use a food mill to make my mashed potatoes creamier.  It works great! Believe it or not, her food mill was her only asked for Christmas present. Recentlly, I found an antique food mill at a flea market.  Upon researching, I learned that the food mill was used in canning; it helped to strain out skins and seeds as well as puree fruits and vegetables. It was used in making jams and jellies, even apple sauce. It could be used to make baby food. Basically, it is a cross between the modern day strainer and food processor.

On to potato salad....because of the texture of the red potato, I think it works best .  The red potato is the least starchy potato and holds its shape.   

Whitney :)

I wanted to know what ground meat makes the best hamburgers so I decided to test out the differences between ground beef, ground chuck, and ground round. I didn't know what the differences were going to be except that each of these have different ratios of lean to fat.

Ground Beef-   73% lean  27% fat
Ground Chuck- 80% lean 20% fat
Ground Round- 90% lean 10% fat

I prepared a patty from each of these ground meats. I flavored them all the same with salt, pepper, and a little marinade. I didn't want to mask their flavors but showcase them. After I cooked the three patties, it was time for the taste testing.
The Results:

Ground Beef- moist, light texture, flavorful
Ground Chuck- moist, flavorful
Ground Round- dense, flavorless

I enjoyed the ground beef and chuck. I don't think you could go wrong with either of these ground meats. I would not use the ground round for burgers unless you mix it with the ground beef to compromise the leanness of the ground round with the fattier ratio of the ground beef.

If you would ask me what the best combo of ingredients on my hamburger, I would say my spicy pimento cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato= Southern BLT Burger



  1. you should try a combo of ground beef and ground pork. It makes quite a moist and tasty hamburger.

  2. Should make a combo of all farm animals ground together. I wonder how it would taste lol

  3. Any recommendations on what brand or size of foodmill I should buy? Thanks!

  4. I have seen only a small and big size. I would get the bigger size. I wouldn't know what to do with the smaller one. It would take a long time to cream potatoes with a small one.