How To Take Your Potato Salad To The Next Level, According To Bobby Flay

As the weather starts to warm up with spring's arrival, you may find yourself thinking ahead to summer cookouts and all the occasions where you want simple, tasty food guaranteed to please a crowd. No outdoor party is complete without a big bowl of potato salad — there's just something about the mixture that pairs so well with grilled meats.

There are endless versions of potato salad recipes out there, with seemingly everyone having their own secret additions and twists that take their potato salad to the next level. That includes chef and television personality Bobby Flay — although his tip doesn't actually have to do with the ingredients, but rather with how it's prepared.

The tip was something Flay shared on a cooking show back in the '90s, as Cup of Jo recalled, and it couldn't be simpler. Toss your potatoes in the dressing of choice, whether you've gone with a creamy mayo-based version or a lighter vinaigrette, while they're still warm. This apparently helps those starchy superstars absorb the dressing a little bit better, as The Kitchn explains, and will allow you to level up the overall flavor in your dish.

A few more tips for perfect potato salad

If you're looking for guidance on the dressing to use in your potato salad, Bobby Flay has you covered. He's shared the recipe for the Southwestern style potato salad that he serves up at his restaurant Mesa Grill, which includes a classic combination of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and scallions, as well as a bit of extra flavor from lime juice, chipotle pepper puree, and cilantro. Or, if you prefer something vinaigrette-based, Flay also has a German potato salad recipe that dresses the warm potatoes with cider vinegar, mustard, and oil.

As for more general tips, there are a few rules of thumb regarding potato salad. First of all, because potatoes are the star ingredient of any potato salad, you want to be mindful of which type you use. Ultimately, as Good Housekeeping highlights, it depends on what texture you want your potatoes to have. And you want to ensure your potatoes are cooked just right — both overcooked and undercooked spuds make for a less-than-ideal potato salad.

And as Flay's recipes showcase, you shouldn't be afraid to add your own twist to your potato salad. Taste of Home suggests a wide variety of potential mix-ins, including classics like bacon as well as leveled-up protein additions such as smoked salmon. Or, you can make the most of whatever produce and herbs are in season, tossing in ingredients like jalapeños, fennel, and fresh herbs.

Ensuring your potatoes are perfectly cooked

One of the toughest parts of making potato salad is ensuring your potatoes are cooked exactly the way you want them. After all, no matter how incredible your dressing is, your potato salad will be a lot less appetizing if your potatoes turn into mush.

While you certainly can use any type of potatoes, be mindful of what you want the end result to be. While starchy options such as russet potatoes may be your go-to for dishes like baked or mashed potatoes, they can often lose their shape, as EatingWell explains. If your preferred potato salad is a bit mushier, then proceed with these. If you like having distinct potato pieces that hold their shape, though, you'll want to reach for waxy potatoes such as fingerling or red potatoes.

When prepping your potatoes, make sure that you're dicing them into equally-sized pieces, HuffPost notes. This way, they'll all cook evenly and you won't run the risk of some pieces being underdone while others have turned to mush.

In terms of actually cooking the potatoes, there are two things to consider. As Food Network advises, you'll want to add your potatoes to cold water, not boiling water. You should also make sure your cooking water is properly salted, which will ensure your potatoes are thoroughly seasoned, rather than the salt just sticking to the exterior during the dressing stage (per Southern Living).

Refining the dressing

If you love a creamy-style potato salad, but don't love the nutritional content of large quantities of mayo, EatingWell suggests incorporating some low-fat yogurt to cut back on some of the fat content while still keeping things creamy. Other great flavor additions for those looking for a more calorie-conscious recipe include vegetables like celery and bell peppers as well as fresh herbs. Also, in terms of flavoring, even if you've gone for a creamy potato salad, you'll still want to add in a splash of vinegar for a little zest, as Food Network suggests.

There is one caveat to Flay's tip of tossing your potatoes in dressing while they're still hot — you'll want to gauge the appropriate temperature for the type of dressing you're using. When it comes to vinegar-based dressings, the steamier the better, as the heat will help those potatoes absorb that dressing (via The Kitchn).

However, if you're going for a classic mayo-based dressing, you'll want to be careful, as Southern Living explains, you run the risk of the salad becoming a bit oily if the mayonnaise melts. Thus, if you're using a creamy dressing, you want to wait until the potatoes have cooled down a bit, approximately 20 to 30 minutes should do the trick. This will ensure they are warm enough to absorb some of those flavors, but not so hot that the mayo will melt. Place in the refrigerator for a few hours for best results.