A potato salad is a fabulous side dish and something you should definitely put on your table all year long. It’s also pretty simple to make, as long as you avoid these potato salad mistakes. Which are natural, of course, but pretty much easily avoidable.
Potato salad is delicious when it’s hot or cold, the important thing is that the potato pieces in it are tender when stuck gently with a fork. The onions are crunchy, the eggs bring the big protein in the mix and the herbs have the talent of layering on the flavors over the wonderful textures. But of course, there are some missteps possible in the process. Here are the main potato salad mistakes you might be making.
5 potato salad mistakes to avoid
1. Not using the right type of potatoes
Of course, you know there are plenty of potato varieties out there. But we can group them into three large categories, starchy, waxy, and all-purpose. You can use waxy and all-purpose potatoes for this task, but avoid the starchy ones, which will fall apart during cooking before you even have a chance to say ‘potato salad…’
Go for new potatoes, fingerlings or red bliss. Find out more about potato types here. In a pinch, you can also use all-purpose like white potatoes and Yukon gold. All of these (especially the waxy ones) retain their shape when heat is applied.
2. Throwing the potatoes in the boiling abyss
I’m being a bit dramatic, but a pot of boiling water is an abyss, is it not? Well, even if for any other veggie it’s recommended to start cooking directly in boiling water, it’s not exactly the same for potatoes. Why? Because they might end up overcooked on the surface and undercooked on the inside. It’s not something that’s going to look good in your potato salad bowl.
So how to do this? Put some potatoes in a pot, cover them completely with water and then bring the water to a boil. Once it starts seriously bubbling along, reduce it to a simmer and cook until you can stick them with a fork and find them just right. Which brings us to…
3. Cooking them too much or not enough
What does it mean that the potatoes are cooked just right? When you try them with a fork, they should be tender, but not fall apart. The cooking time depends on the type of potato you’re working with and the size of the cubes you’ve cut them in. But overall, it should fall in the 8-12 minutes bracket.
4. Not seasoning the water
A good potato salad has to be just a tad on the salty side seasoned. But it goes doubly so if you’re planning on serving it cold. Don’t wait to season them when you’re assembling the salad. What does that mean? Before you boil the potatoes, you should add a generous amount of salt to the water. The potatoes absorb salt, which means they’ll be seasoned on the inside, too. And they’ll be full of flavor.
But if you’re a salt fiend, like I am, don’t forget to taste the salad when you toss it with the dressing, to make sure there’s enough sodium there for your tastes.
5. Not being mindful of the dressing type
You can use two types of dressings for this. And using the wrong one is one of the major potato salad mistakes you can make. Let’s look at each of them.
If you want to dress your salad with a vinaigrette, you should do this while the potatoes are still warm. Because that’s when they’ll have the chance of absorbing some of the flavors of the vinaigrette.
But if you’re doing a mayonnaise-based dressing, the heat from the potatoes will make it turn oily and super unappealing to you or your guests. So wait until the boiled potatoes are at room temperature before you toss them with the mayo dressing.