Adding Dressing Too Soon When Making Potato Salad
When we think of an incredible potato salad, it’s normally because it has the most perfect texture. It’s a bit creamy, with chunks of potatoes, and a bit of crunch. But if you don’t make your potato salad correctly, you may be ending up with a finished product that’s incredibly watery. And let’s face it, nobody wants to try eating cold potato soup off of their plate during the annual summer cookout.
One of the major ways a potato salad ends up being watery is because your dressing of choice is added to the potatoes too soon. According to Kitchn, it’s important to let your potatoes cool before adding any type of dressing, whether it’s mayonnaise-based or vinegar-based. And if you’re opting for a mayo base, be sure to consider the variety you’re using. The Idaho Potato Commission says lighter versions of mayonnaise have the ability to turn to liquid quicker and easier than regular mayo.
How To Make Potato Salad From Scratch
There is a little bit of prep to making potato salad from scratch, like chopping ingredients and boiling potatoes, but even so this comes together very simply. I recommend preparing boiled eggs a day ahead so they are ready to be peeled and chopped. Maybe even go ahead and chop the celery, onions and pickles while the eggs are boiling so theyre ready the day you make the potato salad, too!
Steps to make potato salad:
for the full recipe ingredients and instructions.
Another time saver is to complete some of the steps while waiting for the potatoes to boil. Peel and chop the eggs at this time, and the other ingredients if you didnt previously.
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Drain And Serve Or Set It Aside
If you think the potatoes are already tender, you can drain them into a strainer, or you can use the slotted spoon for this purpose. You can then serve it to yourself, to your family, or to your friends, depending on who you are with. You can also just set it aside for later while you are still preparing the ingredients that you will be needing for your potato salad.
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The Best Potatoes To Use
Small, waxy, and thin-skinned potatoes are best for potato salad. Small yellow, white or red potatoes are perfect . They are quick-cooking, and since they are already small, theres no need to chop them before cooking them.
Leave the potatoes whole. Whole cooked potatoes maintain more of their flavor and natural sweetness. Were also partial to the texture of potatoes when they are cooked whole compared to chopped.
If you dont have small, waxy potatoes available, other potatoes will work in their place the texture will be slightly different. We try not to use russet potatoes since they tend to fall apart. If thats all you have, dont worry. Chop them before cooking they are much larger and take a long time when cooked whole.
What Potatoes Are Best
The very best potato salad recipe begins and ends with what type of potatoes you use. We love waxy potatoes like Yukon Gold or red potatoes, because they hold their shape as they cook and keep their firm texture in the salad while chopping and tossing with the dressing. However, if you dont have any of those kinds on hand, you can use Russets. Weve used them in this recipe many times and they work fine. Theyre just a bit softer and flakier than red potatoes or Yukon Gold, but taste just as delicious.
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Not Seasoning The Water When You Cook Your Potatoes
When it comes to potato salad, you want a dish that’s packed full of flavor. After all, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Dishing up a bowl of chopped up, boiled potatoes that are lacking in flavor isn’t going to get you very far. And part of adding great flavor to your potato salad requires you to start with your seasonings from the very first steps.
As you’re boiling your cut potatoes, adding salt to your water will make all the difference. Because potatoes are starchy, they tend to suck in salt pretty quickly. The salt is soaked up by the potatoes throughout the boiling process, so making sure you’re adding plenty of salt to the water for the flavor to follow-through is crucial. This will help to keep the seasoning intact throughout the boiling process and will perfectly complement the rest of your ingredients as you prepare your dish.
How To Make Potato Salad:
Heres how to make the best potato salad recipe its so easy!
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How Long To Boil Potatoes For Potato Salad
Given that the potatoes are cut into 2 cubes and are all the same size, that you are using Russet or Idaho potatoes and potatoes are peeled, then you will want to cook them for 10-15 minutes over medium high heat. You will know the potato is done when a fork easily pierces the flesh when poked.
If you are cooking with the skin on, a larger potato or a different kind of potato, it may take a different length of time.
That said, potatoes are ready when a fork pierces the potato easily
When To Use Waxy Potatoes For Potato Salad
Waxy potatoes such as red potatoes, fingerling potatoes and new potatoes, have less starch than other potatoes. This means you can cut them before cooking and gently simmer them in salted water and they wont fall apart. Many potato salads call for potatoes to be sliced before cookingGerman Potato Salad and the potato portion of a classic Salad Nicoise are two examples.
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The Best Potato Salad Recipe Ever
My moms potato salad is better than your moms potato salad.
There, I said it and Im not taking it back! *wink*
Seriously though, my mother has magical abilities in the art of potato salad making. My mom makes traditional mustard, pickle, and hard-boiled egg potato salad. Its simple, but I have never made or tasted another potato salad better than her version And Im not the only person to think so.
Over the years Ive watched countless relatives and friends swoon over her classic potato salad.
The problem is, when you ask her for the recipe she has a hard time sharing it, because she doesnt actually have a recipe written down. She makes it by feel.
Its taken years of watching, assisting her, and asking questions to come up with what I consider to be her recipe.
Want to know moms secrets?
How To Cook The Potatoes
We simmer potatoes whole in salted water when making potato salad. Here are our top tips for doing it:
Salt the cooking water. Its important to add a generous amount of salt to the cooking water. By salting the water, the flavor of the potatoes comes out. They wont taste salty, only like excellent potatoes.
Simmer, dont boil. When it comes to cooking potatoes for potato salad, theres no need to boil. When you do they violently bash against each other. Instead, bring the water with potatoes to a boil then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. The potatoes cook just as quickly.
Potatoes are cooked when you can push a fork through the center. When they are done, drain the potatoes and add them to an ice bath, which stops them from cooking. After 2 to 3 minutes they are cool enough to handle.
While I love using skin-on potatoes for mashed potatoes, I like to remove the peel from the potatoes for this. Since I use small potatoes, peeling them before cooking would be a frustrating task. Instead, I cook my potatoes with the peel on, let them cool, and then peel. Since the potatoes are cooked, the peel comes off easily .
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What Is The Best Type Of Potato For Potato Salad
Waxy potatoes, such as Red Bliss, New, or Fingerling, have the least amount of starch and will retain their shape while boiling, giving you a pretty bowl of potato salad. All-purpose potatoes like Yukon Gold can be substituted for both starchy and waxy varieties. Remember: for potato salads, choose a waxy potato.
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How To Make Southern Potato Salad
Southern potato salad is pretty similar to classic American potato salad, with the addition of chopped sweet pickles or pickle relish, giving it a sweet-tart flavor and a bright yellow color. Simply follow the instructions for making classic American potato salad, then add relish or chopped sweet pickle relish to taste.
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Back To The Sweet Potatoes
But hang on a minute. I still hadn’t addressed the issue of the sweetness in those Austrian potatoes. Sometimes finding the solution to problems like this requires hard work and critical thinking. In this case, all it required was a bit of laziness and some post facto research. While testing, I’d bought a big ol’ 25-pound bag of potatoes to work with, many pounds of which ended up accidentally left in the bottom drawer of my fridge for several weeks before I finally rediscovered them.
Imagine my surprise when, after boiling them, I found that they were noticeably sweeter and creamier in texture than the exact same potatoes pre-storage!
It shouldn’t have surprised me too much. Some years back, when I was doing research for my French fry recipe, I’d learned that one of the banes of the French fry industry is an effect known as cold-induced sweetening . This is the accumulation of reducing sugars in potatoes as they sit at fridge temperatures, and it’s caused by enzymatic breakdown of starch molecules. It’s a bad thing in French fries or roast potatoes, which can come out unpalatably dark, but in the case of this potato salad, it was exactly what I needed to give those potatoes the right level of natural sweetness.
What I’m saying is that if you want the ideal Austrian-style potato salad, you’re gonna have to do a bit of advance planning and let your potatoes just sit in the fridge for a couple weeks before cooking them.
Let The Water Evaporate
No one loves a watery potato salad, so save yourself from that fate by letting the water evaporate before mixing the ingredients. After tossing the potatoes in vinegar, let them cool completely in a single layer on a baking sheet. The water will escape, giving the dressing a better chance to cling to the potatoes.
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The Best Potatoes For Potato Salad
Are you using the right kind?
Raw potatoes close up on a wooden table
Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.
Surprise, all kinds of potatoes can be used for potato salad. Which variety you use depends a which kind of potato salad you’re making. Below, we walk you through when to use each type of potato, plus how to boil each. And for a complete guide to making potato salad, check out our story How to Make Potato Salad.
The Best Way To Cook Potatoes For Potato Salad
Waxy potatoes and all-purpose potatoes can be boiled whole or cut starchy potatoes must always be boiled whole.
When cooking any potatoes, add them to a pot, cover them with cold water by an inch, add a big pinch of salt and turn the heat to high. When the water boils, reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until they are firm but tender when pierced with a fork or paring knife. Test cut potatoes as soon as the water comes to a boil, it doesnt take long to cook small pieces of potato, especially if theyre slices. Whole Russet potatoes will take longer to test, remove one from the pot with tongs and pierce it with a paring knife, which should slide into the center of the potato easily. For a step-by-step guide complete with photos, head over to our story, How to Boil Potatoes.
To peel the skin from potatoes, use a paring knife and gently tug off large pieces. The hotter the potatoes are, the easier they are to peel we suggest wearing 2 pairs of disposable gloves to protect your hands from the heat. After peeling, cut the potatoes in cubes.
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How To Cook Potatoes For Potato Salad
One of the biggest potato salad controversies is do you cut potatoes before boiling for potato salad? My mom says, no.
My mom cooks her potatoes whole with the skin on. I follow her lead, or will quarter them before cooking. The other method to cooking the potatoes is peeling and cutting the potatoes before cooking as suggested in the comments below. But, my mom says that method allows the potatoes to absorb more water, and so I do what mama says.
To cook the potatoes, add them to cold water and bring to a boil and reduce to medium heat, rather than adding the potatoes to hot, boiling water. Boil the potatoes until fork tender and the skin just begins to crack, about 20-25 minutes.
Another cooking method a reader suggests is steaming the potatoes in 1 inch of water for 30 minutes, which works too. Just be sure to watch you dont boil your water away and burn the pan.
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Secrets To Making The Perfect Potato Salad
Picking the right type of potato is crucial in the success of your potato salad.
1. Pick the Right Type of Potato:
When making potato salad chose a waxy variety such as red, new or fingerling potatoes. These potatoes have a thin skin and hold up their texture when boiled to fork tender. You can also use an all-purpose variety such as Yukon Gold which is commonly found in most kitchens. Russet potatoes are not a good choice for potato salad as they are too starchy and have a thick skin.
2. The Right Way To Boil Potatoes:
As soon as your potatoes are fork tender, place them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
The key to boiling potatoes is to start them in cold water. Just place the quartered potatoes in a pot and cover them with the cold water. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil. If you place potatoes directly in boiling water, the result will be uneven cooking, with the outside being overcooked and the inside being undercooked. Dont forget to season the potatoes as they boil. A little salt will add a lot of flavor! And just as important as it is to boil the potatoes the correct way, you must stop the cooking process by placing the potatoes in an ice water bath as soon as they are fork tender. Otherwise, the potatoes will continue to cook and become mushy.
Soaking raw onions in water will help take the bite out the onions.
3. Soak Raw Onions Before Adding Them To Your Potato Salad:
4. Skip the Vinegar Use Pickle Juice:
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How To Cook And Handle Them:
Whether you like to leave the skin on or peel it off, its absolutely worth taking the time to cut carefully, so all your potato pieces are about the same sizeso they all cook evenly. Youll want to start the potatoes in a pot of cold, seasoned water , and check often to ensure they dont get too soft.
Another trick: add not only salt, but a little vinegar to your cooking water, on the order of about a tablespoon per quart of water . This helps flavor the potatoes all the way through , and it also helps prevent overcooking, thanks to the vinegars interaction with the potatoes pectin. The pieces should be easily pierced with a fork, neither still crunchy nor yet mushy. Pull them off the heat at the moment of perfection and drain.
Then, just dont mix them too aggressively and there should be no issues with gluey, disintegrating potatoes, although a little fluffy-roughness around the edges is a good thing.
While you may have heard its best to dress potatoes while theyre hot, this is only partly true. They will soak up more flavor when warm, but if too hot, they can also make mayonnaise melt and separate. So, feel free to toss warm potatoes with vinegar-based dressings, and if youre going mayo-based, toss the warm spuds with all of the other non-mayonnaise ingredients while theyre warm, then fold in the mayo once theyve cooled down a bit, say 30 minutes later.
Add Acid To Bring Out The Best Potato Flavor
Theres one simple step that will guarantee your potato salad is better than anyone elses at a potluck. No matter which type of potato you choose, tossing them with a splash of vinegar or vinegar and oil will give the potatoes a pop of brightness that brings out the pure potato flavor. You should add the acid right after you cut the potatoes so it penetrates them.
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