Q: I am planning on making a potato salad for a family picnic. What kind of potato should I use?
- Elizabeth C., New York City
A: You know the old saying, "You can't tell a book by its cover? Well this most certainly doesn't apply to potatoes. To determine whether those potatoes in your shopping cart will work well in your favorite potato salad recipe, just take a look at their skins.
In general, potatoes are broken up into two categories: baking potatoes and boiling potatoes. The former, which include russets (Idaho potatoes), have rough, dull-looking skins and are most commonly used for — you guessed it — baking. The latter, which include all varieties of new potatoes, have smooth, waxy skins. These are what you should be looking for to make the perfect potato salad.
Boiling potatoes are ideal for salads, soups and stews because, when cooked, they hold their shape better than baking potatoes. The secret is in their starch content — baking potatoes have high starch content, while boiling potatoes have very little starch. Try this culinary experiment: cut a Russet potato and a new potato into cubes and boil them. You'll find that the Russet cubes will break down in the water while the new potato cubes will stay relatively firm. Now you?re ready to make potato salad!