Potatoes with a lower starch content hold up better to the rigors of cooking, slicing and dicing than high-starch varieties. Use them when you want flavorful and tender pieces that won't fall apart in a potato salad. Enhance the flavor of potato salad by scrubbing the potatoes and cooking them in salted water with the skin on until they are just tender enough to pierce with a fork. Dress warm potatoes with vinegar-based dressings, but wait until the potatoes are cool before tossing them in a creamy concoction.
Waxy Varieties Hold Their Shape
Hands down, the best potatoes to use in a salad are waxy, low-starch varieties, which have a more tightly knit cellular structure than other types of potatoes. Waxy potatoes hold their shape after being cooked and sliced or diced, giving you the best texture for a potato salad. If you're using red potatoes, look for smaller potatoes, which have less starch than larger and more mature kinds. New potatoes have a thin skin that you don't even need to peel for a salad, and Austrian Crescents, an heirloom potato with yellow-tan skin and slightly yellow flesh, are ideal, too.
Fingerling potatoes, named after their elongated finger-like shape, also have an appealing low starch content. Like waxy potatoes, these gems hold their shape well after cooking, giving you the ideal consistency for potato salad. Look for Ruby Crescents, which have thin red-brown skin and a finely textured flesh. Russian Banana fingerlings have yellow flesh and pale yellow skin, while Rose Finn Apple potatoes have pinkish skin and golden, earthy-flavored flesh.
All-purpose potato varieties include standard white, purple potatoes and buttery-fleshed Yukon Golds. Although these potatoes have more starch than waxy or fingerling potatoes, medium-starch varieties have moister flesh that holds its shape well after cooking. Their versatility means that you can buy a 5-pound bag, make only a small batch of potato salad but not worry about wasting the rest of the potatoes. They’re also well-suited for roasting, steaming or using in a gratin. "Fine Cooking" recommends Yellow Finns for the best flavor among all-purpose potatoes.
For an appetizing potato salad, skip high-starch spuds such as russets. The cells in russets separate when they are cooked. Their high starch content makes them ideal for fluffy baked potatoes or airy mashed potatoes, but it prevents them from holding their shape after cooking. The result is mushy, crumbly potato salad.