Skip to Content

What is the russet potato secret you should know before cooking?

Russet potatoes are one of the most popular types of potatoes in America. Known for their brown, netted skin and fluffy, dry texture when cooked, russets make excellent baked potatoes and french fries. However, to get the best results when cooking russets, there are a few secrets you should know.

The importance of starch content

One of the key factors that determines the texture and cooking properties of russet potatoes is their starch content. Russets have a high starch content around 18-22%. This starch gelatinizes when heated, resulting in russets’ characteristic fluffy texture.

Newly harvested russet potatoes have a lower starch content. As they are stored, starches convert from sugar into starch. Therefore, older russets that have been stored at cool temperatures for weeks to months tend to have a higher starch content and work best for baking, mashing, and frying.

For boiled or roasted potatoes, younger newly harvested russets are a better choice. Their lower starch content results in a firmer, waxy texture rather than falling apart when cooked.

Acid content affects browning

The browning potential of potatoes is determined by their acid content. Russet potatoes have a low acid content, making them prone to browning when they are peeled, cut, or cooked at high temperatures.

Exposure to air causes russet potatoes to oxidize and produce brown melanoidin pigments. Their low acidity raises the pH on their surface, accelerating the oxidation browning reactions.

To prevent browning, it is important to acidify the surface of cut russets. This can be done by soaking them in water acidified with citric acid or lemon juice for 30 minutes prior to cooking.

Best practices for baking russet potatoes

For light, fluffy baked russets with a creamy interior, there are a few best practices to follow:

  • Choose large, uniform sized potatoes between 8-10 ounces. Larger potatoes bake more evenly.
  • Rub the potato skin with oil or butter to make it extra crispy in the oven.
  • Pierce the potatoes several times with a fork to allow steam to escape and prevent splitting.
  • For a creamy texture, bake at a high temperature of 425°F for about an hour until fork tender.
  • For a fluffier texture, bake at a lower 350°F for 1.5-2 hours.

Seasoning baked potatoes

Baked russets can be taken to the next level by seasoning between layering ingredients:

  • Rub potatoes with oil or butter, salt, and pepper before baking.
  • After baking, top with cheese, bacon bits, broccoli, salsa, Greek yogurt, etc.
  • Sour cream, chives, and cheddar cheese are classic baked potato toppings.

Making the perfect russet fries

Russet potatoes are ideal for making French fries with a fluffy interior and crispy, golden exterior. Here are some secrets to perfect russet fries:

  • Cut potatoes into even batons, around 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  • Rinse fries in cold water to remove excess starch for a crispier fry.
  • Soak cut fries in ice water for at least 30 minutes to draw out starch.
  • Pat fries completely dry before frying to improve browning.
  • Fry fries twice, first at a lower 300°F to cook interiors, then at 375°F to brown.
  • Allow oil to return to temperature between batches to maintain crispiness.

Seasoning french fries

To boost the flavor of russet fries:

  • Toss fries in vinegar or lemon juice before frying for tanginess.
  • Season with cajun seasoning, onion/garlic powder, or chili powder when hot out of oil.
  • Top with parmesan cheese, truffle oil, ranch dressing or ketchup for dipping.

Making light, fluffy russet mashed potatoes

For heavenly mashed russets:

  • Peel and cut potatoes into even sized chunks.
  • Boil pieces until fork tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Drain potatoes and allow steam to escape for 1 minute.
  • Mash potatoes while still hot using a ricer or masher.
  • For fluffiest texture, whip potatoes vigorously with a stand mixer.
  • Slowly incorporate warmed butter, milk and seasonings until creamy.

Tips for better mashed potatoes

  • Use starchy russets over waxy varieties like Yukon gold.
  • Do not overbeat, as it can make them gummy.
  • Add sour cream or cheese for extra richness.
  • For lighter mash, fold in egg whites or Greek yogurt.

Best ways to store russet potatoes

To maximize freshness and shelf life of russets:

  • Store whole unwashed potatoes in a cool, dark place around 45-50°F.
  • Avoid refrigerating raw potatoes. Cold temperatures convert starch to sugar, resulting in a sweet taste.
  • Place potatoes in a paper or burlap bag. Plastic bags can trap moisture and cause rotting.
  • If potatoes sprout, simply trim off eyes and sprouts before cooking.
  • Cooked mashed potatoes can be refrigerated 3-4 days or frozen for longer term storage.

Signs of potato spoilage

Discard potatoes that are shriveled, sprouting, or green-tinged. Also discard if moldy or smells unpleasant. Other signs of spoilage include:

  • Soft, water-soaked appearance
  • Darkened, wrinkled skin
  • Emerging sprouts
  • Green color under the skin from exposure to light

Picking the freshest russets

Follow these tips when selecting fresh russet potatoes:

  • Choose firm, smooth potatoes without wrinkles, bruises, or blemishes.
  • Avoid potatoes with cuts, cracks, or other signs of decay.
  • Pick potatoes with few eyes or sprouts emerging.
  • Choose medium to large-sized potatoes for more uniform cooking.
  • Avoid potatoes with green skin, which indicates sun exposure and high solanine levels.
  • Select thin-skinned potatoes over thick-skinned if peeling.

Nutritional benefits of russet potatoes

Here are some of the key nutrients found in a medium, 5.3 ounce russet potato:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 161
Carbohydrates 36 grams
Dietary fiber 2.3 grams
Protein 4.3 grams
Vitamin C 20% DV
Vitamin B6 27% DV
Potassium 620 mg
Iron 6% DV

Russets provide an abundant source of vitamins C and B6. They also contain a variety of minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and folate.

Common russet potato varieties

While all russet potatoes have a similar starch content, skin texture, and cooking properties, there are a few common commercial varieties:

  • Burbank Russet – This medium to large russet has oblong shape. It has dry, white flesh making it great for baking. Burbanks make up the majority of russet potato production.
  • Norkotah Russet – A widely grown commercial russet prized for its high yields. It has a uniformly round to oblong shape.
  • Ranger Russet – A long potato with rough skin. It has an excellent flavor profile. Rangers are ideal for frying and baking.
  • Umatilla Russet – This variety has high solids content for light, fluffy texture when cooked. It is also highly resistant to bruising.

There are also many russet heirloom varieties like French Fingerling, Purple Majesty, and Rose Finn Apple prized by home growers.

Substituting russet potatoes

In some recipes, russet potatoes can be substituted with these varieties:

  • Yukon Gold – Waxy Yukon golds can be used in place of russets in boiled or roasted dishes. Reduce cooking time slightly.
  • Sweet Potato – Baked sweet potatoes make a flavorful alternative in casseroles and soups. Adjust seasonings to complement their sweetness.
  • Red Potatoes – Small red potatoes can be roasted or pan-fried instead of russets for salads or sides.

For mashed or French fries, it is best not to substitute russets. Their high starch content is hard to mimic in other varieties. In most recipes, russet potatoes cannot be replaced with white or purple potatoes either.

Common questions about russets

Why are my baked russet potatoes hard in the middle?

Potatoes baked whole at too high of a temperature can undercook the inside while overbrowning the outside. Bake at a lower 350°F for 1.5-2 hours until fork tender.

What causes russet potato fries to be limp and soggy?

Not drying potatoes sufficiently before frying, under-blanching, and not frying at a high enough heat can all cause soggy fries. Blanch cut potatoes, dry thoroughly, and fry at 375°F for best results.

What is the best way to store leftover mashed russet potatoes?

Refrigerate mashed potatoes in an airtight container up to 4 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop with milk or broth to prevent drying out. For longer storage, freeze in portions for 2-3 months.

How long do whole uncooked russets last?

Whole, unwashed russets keep 2-3 months in a cool, dark pantry around 45°F. Avoid refrigerating, which converts their starch to sugar creating an undesirable sweet flavor.

Can you freeze raw russet potatoes?

Freezing raw russets is not recommended as ice crystal formation can rupture cell walls. This causes leaching of starch and water when thawed, yielding mushy potatoes. Only freeze cooked russet dishes.

Cooking with russet potatoes

Russet potatoes are valued in cooking for their fluffy yet dry texture when baked, fried, or mashed. They are an all-purpose potato great in these recipes:

  • French fries or wedges
  • Hash browns
  • Potato pancakes like latkes or röstis
  • Au gratin or scalloped potatoes
  • Twice baked potatoes
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Potato salad
  • Potato soup
  • Shepherd’s pie or cottage pie
  • Potato gnocchi

Russets also make a hearty, filling baked potato. While they can be boiled, their waxy texture is better suited for baking and frying uses where fluffiness is desirable.


With their brown netted skin, tall shape, and white flesh, russet potatoes are packed with nutrition and versatility. Follow these tips on selecting, storing, and cooking russets to highlight their natural fluffy texture in your favorite potato dishes. Paying attention to their starch content, acidity, and water content will ensure you get perfect russet potato results every time.