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How To Prevent Watery Potato Salad

Source: marzbars via flickr

One of the summer-time staples of a lot of outdoor barbecues and picnics is the simple Potato Salad.   And while recipes for Potato Salad vary in quality and ingredients, most fight one battle:  Preventing them from getting watery after they’ve been made.

The problem –  unfortunately – is with the ingredients.  The three ingredients at the heart of the recipe – potatoes, onions, and celery – contain a lot of trapped water.   Compounding the problem is the fact that salt – another primary ingredient in Potato Salad – wicks that water content from the vegetables, leaving you with a watery-mess that’s unappetizing.

So, what can you do about it?    Here are my tips:

  • First, make your salad and eat it the same day.  Time is the enemy in this case and by making the Potato Salad days in advance, you’re only asking for trouble.  Boil your potatoes in the morning, mix the salad, provide some time for it to chill, and enjoy it that night.  Need it for a lunchtime picnic, prepare it the evening before.
  • Work with warm potatoes.  Some people like to wait for the potatoes to fully-cool down before they start mixing mayo or salad dressing into the salad.  I would only let the potatoes cool slightly – just enough to prevent you from burning yourself on them.  Then, I would mix in that mayo or salad dressing into the still-warm potatoes.   This process allows for the warm-potatoes to “soak-IN” the dressing, instead of repelling it.
  • Cut the salt.  Not only is a lower sodium level better for your health, but it will help prevent a lot of the excess moisture.  If people want more salt on their salad, they can always add it from a shaker at the table.


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