The 5 Commandments of Potato Salad Perfection
Plus six delicious potato salad recipes to try this summer.
It’s a summer staple for a reason. Potato salad is one of the best barbecue-slash-picnic side dishes, and forgetting to serve it—or worse, screwing up the recipe—is punishable by law (we wish). Creamy, fork-tender potatoes plus a tangy mayo- or vinaigrette-based dressing and some crunchy veggies, all served alongside your favorite barbecue fare = peak summer meal perfection. Follow these five simple steps to nail your potato salad recipe once and for all.
Choose the right type of potato.
This depends on your personal preference. If you like your salad with contrasting textures—think firm potatoes and creamy dressing—go for waxy potatoes like Yukon gold or red potatoes. These will hold their shape better after they’re boiled. If you prefer creamier, starchier potatoes that will absorb more dressing (and you don’t mind if they fall apart in your final product), Russets are where it’s at.
Season the water.
Heavily salting the water that you’ll be boiling your potatoes in will help infuse them from the inside out with seasoning. Skip this step and your spuds will be bland, as they’ll only be salted on their outsides.
Don’t overcook; don’t undercook.
Speaking of which. The only thing worse than a mashed potato salad is a crunchy one. To avoid undercooking your potatoes, make sure you start boiling them in cold water. Why? Because dropping raw spuds in boiling water allows their outsides to get mushy before the insides are cooked through (more often than not, they’ll still be raw). On the flip side, to make sure you don’t overcook them, remove your potatoes from the boiling water when they’re al dente, meaning just fork tender.
Cut them evenly.
This is key to maintaining a consistent texture throughout. If your spuds vary in size, some will be overcooked; others will be raw. Take your time when slicing and dicing—the final results will be well worth it.
Dress them at the right time.
If you’ll be making a mayonnaise-based dressing, allow the potatoes to cool completely before you mix the ingredients together to avoid melting the mayo (this will result in an overly oily dish). However, if you’re going with a vinegar-based dressing, you should mix the potato chunks in with the vinaigrette while they’re still warm to fully infuse the flavors.