From wedges to chips: the definitive ranking of potato in all its forms

Like catnip to Gobbledoks.
Like catnip to Gobbledoks. Photo: Shutterstock

Five-year-olds around the country, rejoice. Last week, McCain Foods announced it was bowing to customer pressure and Potato Smiles would be making a comeback.

"McCain has seen a constant stream of requests from consumers to bring the childhood classic back to Aussie supermarket shelves," said a spokesperson for the frozen-food company.

For the uninitiated, McCain's spud smiley is a grinning puck of potato mash which enjoyed popularity in the 1990s. In a "2020 twist", Potato Smiles have been rebranded as EmotiBites to resemble different face emojis. (Although if it really wants to keep up with the times, McCain might consider renaming its line of "Man Size" meals instead.)  

Like the majority of supermarket potato snacks designed to be oven-baked, EmotiBites taste how paper smells, existing only to feed children so fussy they won't touch bog-standard chips. They certainly don't warrant a mention in the top 20 ways a potato can be cooked, ranked here, definitively, for all time.

Nope. Jacket potato loaded with baked beans and cheese.

Nope. Jacket potato loaded with baked beans and cheese. Photo: iStock

20. Loaded jacket 

Agreeable enough topped with bacon and chives but deadset gross slopped with cold baked beans. There's a reason why most "loaded" potato joints left food courts when Burgo's Catch Phrase was still on the air.

19. Wedges

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Bolstering the sweet-chilli sauce industry for the past 30 years, wedges are only worth the kilojoules when you're four beers deep at the pub and it's too early for schnitzel.

There are more exciting things in life than tater tots with ketchup.

There are more exciting things in life than tater tots with ketchup. Photo: iStock

18. Potato gems AKA tater tots

Landing somewhere between a chip that's let itself go and a hash brown that never made it, repeats of The Sullivans are more exciting than these spud nubs.

17. Croquetas

A reliable choice at tapas joints where sangria is $2 a glass, however patatas bravas are a safer bet again.

Adam Liaw's proper potato rosti.

Adam Liaw's proper potato rosti. Photo: William Meppem

16. Rosti

A grated potato cake vying with fondue to be the national dish of Switzerland. In the alpine country it's delicious, particularly when topped with nutty local cheese. It's a shame that 90 per cent of non-Swiss restaurants serve rosti with a greasy, raw middle and overcooked exterior.

15. Dauphine

The French sure know their way around a tuber. Not to be confused with pommes a la dauphinoise, these doughnut-like puffs mix mashed potato with choux pastry for feather-light textures. Brilliant dipped in mustard.

14. Boiled and tossed with butter and a fair whack of parsley

Throw a few capers in there too and open the riesling. Whole-roasted snapper seems like the right idea while you're at it, or at least a picnic rug and no other plans for the afternoon. 

Salty potato skins are the perfect foil for sour cream.

Salty potato skins are the perfect foil for sour cream. Photo: Edwina Pickles

13. Potato skins

Any Sizzler aficionado will tell you the thing they miss most about the all-you-can-eat restaurant is these moreish slivers. Potato skins are easier to replicate at home than pan-bread too: Prick a few King Edwards all over with a fork, season, and roast for an hour at 200 degrees. Scoop out most of the flesh (save it for mash), brush the skins with olive oil and place under the grill until golden. Serve with caviar and creme fraiche if you're feeling frou-frou. 

12. Gnocchi

Semolina and ricotta gnocchi are all well and good, but few things are more comforting than scoffing pudgy little potato knobs in front of the telly. See also: dumplings.

11. Hash browns

To heck with the Bloody Mary, hash browns are the best hangover cure out there. A pox on all hotel breakfast buffets featuring kipflers in the bain-marie instead.

Roasted leek, potato and bacon soup with crispy caramelised prosciutto.

Roasted leek, potato and bacon soup with crispy caramelised prosciutto. Photo: Katrina Meynink

10. Soup

Yeah, that's right, it's winter. Time to fire up the bar heater, wear hiking socks in the kitchen, and huff down a bowl of potato soup the size of your head. Preferably one that's leeky, cheesy and all kinds of creamy.

9. Batata vada

A popular Mumbai street food, batata vada are tennis ball-sized fritters of mash potato mixed with green chilli, herbs and spices, and cooked in chickpea batter. Perfect with crisp lager and weather that doesn't know what it's doing.

Irish boxty pancakes are a brilliant accompaniment to soup.

Irish boxty pancakes are a brilliant accompaniment to soup. Photo: iStock

8. Boxty

Sitting somewhere between flatbread and the pancake, Ireland's gift to the potato gods is a versatile treat. While Irish pubs have a penchant for boxty quesadillas, the starchy staple is in its element with Scottish fish soup cullen skink.

7. Scallops-slash-cakes

Victoria loves its potato cakes while NSW is all about the scallop. Whatever you want to call it (granted "cake" is less confusing) the blistered disc of deliciousness provides joy to millions of Australians on the way home from the beach every summer. Pass the chicken salt, please.

Look for chips fried in beef fat for maximum flavour.

Look for chips fried in beef fat for maximum flavour. Photo: Justin McManus

6. Chips-slash-fries

A category deserving of its own ranking, which goes like this: Twice-cooked and thick-cut; French; crinkle; waffle; oven-baked; microwavable; curly. Look for a fish-and-chipper still frying in beef tallow for maximum flavour. (Gosh, the chip butty is a good sandwich, isn't it?) 

5. Crisps-slash-chips

The Gobbledok knows what time it is. A subset even longer than fries, but at least we can all agree Atomic Tomato is the number one flavour and Ruffles need to make a comeback.

Latkes for life.

Latkes for life. Photo: iStock

4. Latkes

Everyone needs a Jewish grandmother who loves frying a grated potato and egg mix in chicken fat until it's on the right side of brown. Serve with sour cream and apple sauce and eat, eat, eat.

3. Roasted

Desiree or King Edward? Duck fat or olive oil? Whole or slightly smashed? No matter your choice of preparation, a Sunday roast without crisp, golden potatoes is like a kid's party without Cheezels. Note that as per Part VI, Division 4, Section 91A of the Marriage Act 1961, if the in-laws are coming for dinner, roast potatoes must be prepared hasselback.

2. Mashed

Angels don't sleep on goose down in heaven, they make pillows of mashed potato and dream of gravy and fried chicken and wonder how much butter is too much. There's no such thing as a too-buttery mash, of course, whether it's bolstering bangers, filling pierogi or topping shepherd's pie.

Pommes dauphinoise (AKA au gratin).

Pommes dauphinoise, AKA au gratin. Photo: Supplied.

1. Dauphinoise

You say dauphinoise, we all say potato bake. Sure, you could make a galette if you want to serve something pretty, but we all know which layered potato dish will taste better after a night in the fridge. What's not to love here? There's potatoes, there's cream and there's garlic. Most importantly, there are the deeply savoury edge bits with a texture more satisfying than popping all the world's bubble wrap. Need more convincing? Try this recipe.