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6 Mistakes You Must Avoid To Make Delicious Potato Salad

6 Mistakes You Must Avoid To Make Delicious Potato Salad

We’re now knee-deep into summer, which means barbecues, family get-togethers, and picnics galore. What do those three things have in common? Lots and lots of food. And if there’s one dish that’s ubiquitous when it comes to summer eating, it’s the good old potato salad.

Indeed, whether you’re cooking up burgers, frying up hot dogs, or crafting a mouth-watering sandwich, nothing goes better on the side during the sweltering summer months than a cool and crisp potato salad.

There’s only one problem: plenty of people manage to prepare it incorrectly, despite their best intentions. Here, I’ll tell you what some of the most common mistakes are, and how to avoid them.

1. Picking the wrong kinds of potatoes.

There are multiple types of potatoes, and each has unique strengths and weaknesses. For example, some are better for boiling and mashing, while others are meant to be sliced, diced, and fried. For potato salad, your goal should be to find potatoes that aren’t starchy, as those are more prone to breaking up while you’re preparing your dish.

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What to do instead:

Instead of picking a starchy potato (like the Russet Burbank potato), go with ‘waxy’ varieties, like Fingerling or Red Bliss potatoes. These are sturdier and more suited to being tossed around and mixed into a salad.

2. Under-seasoning your potatoes.

Many folks forget to season their pot of water with salt before boiling their potatoes. It’s important that you don’t overlook this step, as seasoning your potatoes after boiling them will prevent them from reaching their true flavor potential.

What to do instead:

Preparing potatoes destined for a potato salad is almost like prepping pasta. All you need to do is put a dash of salt in your pot of water before you put your potatoes in.

3. Overheating your potatoes.

It would be a major mistake to dump your potatoes straight into a pot of boiling salty water, as that would leave them spongy on the outside and hard on the inside.

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What to do instead:

The trick is to start with cold, salty water. Put your potatoes in that, and then slowly bring it all to a boil. This way, your spuds cook evenly, which is exactly what you need for a good potato salad.

4. Cooking your potatoes for too long.

Potatoes used in potato salad tread a fine line- they can’t be crunchy, and they can’t be mushy. They need to be somewhere in the middle. Most people overcook in order to err on the side of caution, which leaves them with potatoes that have nearly the same consistency as mashed potatoes.

What to do instead:

In order to get that chunky and soft texture potato salad is famous for, you’ll want to cook them until they are soft enough to be easily penetrated by a fork. You know you’ve overcooked them if your fork causes the potato to break apart. Reaching this sweet spot usually takes anywhere from 8-12 minutes, so you’ll need to monitor your potatoes closely when they reach that threshold.

5. Cutting your potatoes into vastly different shapes and sizes.

When making potato salad, many people get a bit crazy with their knife and chop their potatoes into uneven cubes of varying sizes. This is a huge mistake, as different sized potato cubes cook at different speeds. If all of your cubes are a different size, then you’ll have a potato salad that’s half overcooked and half undercooked.

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What to do instead:

Take the time to cut your potatoes as uniformly as possible. This will make the cooking process much easier, as you’ll be able to tell if all of the cubes are cooked by testing just one of them.

6. Applying the finishing touches at the wrong time.

And by finishing touches, I’m talking about the salad dressing. A common mistake folks make is applying their mayo-based dressing right after the potatoes are done cooking, which warms the mayo up, causing it to melt and lose its texture.

On the flip side, those who use vinaigrette-based dressings often make the mistake of waiting for the potatoes to cool, which makes it harder for them to absorb the flavor.

What to do instead:

If you are using a standard mayo-based dressing, cool down your spuds for about half an hour first and then toss it into your salad. For those opting for a vinaigrette-based dressing, toss it in while your potatoes are still warm, as this will allow the dressing to marinate more effectively, making your salad tastier as a result!

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Did you learn anything here that you plan on applying to your next picnic or family outing? Let me know in the comments below!

Featured photo credit: Potato Salad/James via flic.kr

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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