Microwaved potatoes for potato salad is a favorite Cheater Chef kitchen method.
In the 1970s our mothers got their first microwave ovens. They were a big deal and promised revolutions in home cooking. Moms everywhere poured through new cookbooks and manuals showing off entire meals microed in minutes. Everything went into the microwave, but not everything turned out like the picture. We created gray hamburger meat and some pretty sickly tough chicken breasts. It was space-age fun even before the popcorn bags arrived.
Now we know what a microwave does best. It heats up lukewarm coffee, last night’s supper, and gently melts chocolate and butter.
Even better, it steam cooks vegetables really well, keeping nutrients and flavor intact. And right now your microwave is the perfect tool for potato salad. The only challenge to good potato salad (which doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult) is cooking the potatoes so they’re firm and tender.
Potatoes are easy to overcook in a pot of boiling water. With a microwave, all you have to do is dice up the potatoes and nuke them in a covered dish (without added water) for about 8 minutes. Drain the water from the dish and let them sit covered for 5 or 10 minutes. Since microwave wattages vary, do a test batch or two and you’ll dial in your times. Timing also depends on how many potatoes you do. It’s better to do two smaller batches than one giant one. Start with waxy potatoes like red, all-purpose white, or Yukon gold. These varieties hold their shapes well when cooked. No starchy russets or bakers which will break down like mashed potatoes.
What’s good potato salad anyway? Once you’ve got your perfectly nuked potatoes, now the fun begins. Toss them with a balance of tangy, crunchy, and creamy. Mayonnaise, mustard, and vinaigrette combinations are all great and you probably have a family favorite so make it the way you like. Use celery, parsley, bell pepper, onion, no onion, yellow mustard, fancy mustard, pickle relish, hard-cooked egg…
This one is pure potato salad only dressed with parsley, onion, celery, mayo, salt, and pepper. Watercress makes a superb green accompaniment.
- 4 medium red, white or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces just shy of 1-inch (about 4 cups)
- Salt, to taste
Place the potatoes in a 1 ½ or 2-quart glass casserole with a lid. Sprinkle with salt.
Cover and microwave on high for 8 minutes. (This time varies a minute or two according to the power of your oven.)
Let sit for 5 minutes. Drain any water from the dish, uncover and let the potatoes cool and air dry.
Toss with your potato salad recipe ingredients.
Chill the salad before serving. Makes about 5 cups.
Potato Salad Variations: Creamy Potato Salad Variations Pure White—Simple yes, but not at all plain. Good choice to pair with grilled meats and seafood. Toss with a splash of vinegar, mayonnaise, sliced celery, chopped fresh parsley, finely chopped red or green onions, salt and pepper. Yellow Mustard—This one is classic for a casual hamburger and hot dog picnic. Toss with mayonnaise, a generous spoonful of yellow mustard, chopped hard-cooked egg, dill or sweet pickle relish, salt, and pepper. French Dijon—Choose this when serving a mixed grill of sausages and shrimp. Toss with mayonnaise, a generous spoonful of Dijon mustard, sliced celery, chopped fresh parsley, and tarragon, salt and pepper