The Superiority of the Russet Potato

James Sexton-Holtmeier, Contributing Writer

The standard russet potato is not only the superior potato, but it is also, without question, the greatest vegetable on the planet. A very common misconception is the idea that the potato is not a vegetable because it has such a different appearance and taste than what the average person tends to associate with a vegetable. While it is, of course, true that the potato stands out from other vegetables — it is actually a standard variety of root vegetables. The purpose of this brief piece, however, is not to argue that the potato is a vegetable, but rather to shine a light on just how impressive the potato, and more specifically, the russet potato, really is.

Before deeming the russet potato the superior potato, it must first be established that in general, potatoes are the most enjoyable vegetable to consume on planet Earth. It is not a stretch to say that potatoes are undeniably the most versatile vegetable. There are few vegetables that can be enjoyed fried, mashed, baked, puréed and in a salad. Potatoes find a way to check all of the boxes. Potatoes push the boundaries of what a vegetable can be. Take mashed potatoes, for example. The idea that a vegetable can be boiled, then mashed into a strange, smooth yet chunky consistency and served plain, and still be delicious, is nothing short of a miracle. Potatoes have become so universally adored that in restaurants, waiters will often ask customers if they would like a side of french fries with their meal. Entirely unprovoked by any cues from the customer, the waiter intuitively knows that fries would enhance just about any dish. The only other side that receives this level of praise and respect is potato chips. If a waiter were to do this with any other vegetable, they would be met with nothing but confusion. 

There is only one positive trait that other vegetables have over potatoes: the ability to be eaten raw. Most of the more “standard” vegetables can very easily be enjoyed raw. This tends to be the reason that when discussing vegetables, things like broccoli and carrots come to mind first. People like to associate vegetables with salad and other very healthy dishes, and because of this, potatoes are overlooked. Somehow the idea that vegetables that belong in salads are healthy and consequently potatoes are not healthy has gained popularity. Contrary to popular belief, potatoes have a number of impressive health benefits. Not only are they an excellent source of fiber, but they also contain many of the same antioxidants and vitamins that other, more “healthy” vegetables have. The idea that greener, more stereotypical vegetables are the only healthy vegetables is outdated and, quite frankly, childish. Although potatoes may be more calorically dense, this in no way means that they are unhealthy.

Now, to dive deeper into the complex world of potatoes, why is the russet potato so much more notable and well-rounded than the many other types of potatoes? The simple answer is, once again, versatility. Don’t get me wrong, I too enjoy a nice Yukon Gold from time to time. On occasion, I even enjoy a tastefully done kennebec, but these potatoes are much more specialized. For example, people will often claim that the kennebec is the best potato for frying and chipping, and while I don’t disagree, can we really call a potato the best if it only has one or two uses? The hallmark of a top-notch potato is its ability to be molded into anything. I would argue that a potato is nothing more than a piece of clay, and the chef is quite obviously the sculptor. The best clay is the one that is easily worked with and can be molded in countless different ways without breaking. The russet is the perfect piece of clay.

Because it is excellent for mashing, frying and baking, the russet potato meets all of the most sought-after criteria. Personally speaking, the baked potato, the mashed potato and the french fry are the three most enjoyable methods of consuming a potato. If you like your mashed potatoes fluffy, your baked potato smooth and absorbent, and your french fries long yet stable, the russet is a no-brainer.