How to cook potatoes for the best potato salad
Richard Drury / DigitalVision (Getty)

How to Cook Potatoes For the Best Potato Salad

The most important side dish should be done right
How to cook potatoes for the best potato salad
Richard Drury / DigitalVision (Getty)

It’s hard to beat potato salad. It’s hearty, comforting and pairs perfectly with burgers, chicken and other great grilled recipes. But it can be hard to get the consistency of potatoes just right when cooking them for potato salad — they can easily get mushy or fall apart. Next time you want to bring this classic dish to a cookout, try this reliable method.

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First, you need to choose the best potatoes for potato salad. There are strong feelings about this and in the end it all depends on how you prefer the final texture. Generally, waxy potatoes such as Yukon gold, red or new potatoes are preferred since they hold their shape well and don't get mushy.

However, there is a strong camp in favor of spud varieties like Idaho and russet since they do a great job at absorbing flavors, which can lead to a more robust potato salad.

Whichever type of potato you choose, it's all about how you cook them. 

After cutting the potatoes into even pieces, place them into a large pot of cold water. This prevents the outside of the potato from cooking too quickly.

Once you’ve filled the pot with water and the potatoes, generously add salt — a secret every home cook should know — and bring the water to a boil.

You should use your fork to see if the potatoes are done. If it’s hard to pierce the potatoes, then they likely need a little extra time to cook. If you can slide your fork in with minimal resistance, then remove the potatoes from the boiling water. This should take about 20 minutes.

You’ll want to make sure the potatoes don’t get too soft, because when it comes time to dress the salad, they will get mushy and likely fall apart. Think al dente like when you're cooking the perfect pasta.

Once the potatoes are done, add in some red onion, celery, ranch dressing and spicy brown mustard. Or just go classic with some mayo or vinegar. Serve the potato salad as a side with a delicious hot dog, burger and other cookout foods. Now that you know how to prepare your potatoes, it's time for you to put them to use with our 13 best potato salad recipes