The russet -- a high-starch potato -- has a low moisture content. This means that russet potatoes crumble more readily when cooked and tend to absorb liquids more than waxy or multipurpose potatoes. Because of these characteristics, russet potatoes are best suited for rustic potato salads, ones that have larger potato pieces and that do not need to be very creamy when finished. Another option is to use russet potatoes with a mix of other potato varieties, such as a waxy Yukon Gold or a multipurpose redskin potato, for a salad that is more classic in texture.
Cook russets whole or halved, as cut russets will disintegrate easily during the cooking process. Stab russet potatoes with a fork several times before cooking to prevent split skins. Cook the potatoes in the microwave or in boiling water.
If you are baking russets, they make an excellent baked potato -- cook a few extra and store in your fridge, upwards of three to five days, for later use.
Cutting to Size
Peel russet potatoes after cooking them -- the skins will slip off easily. Peeling before cooking will lead to mushy potatoes that absorb too much of the cooking liquid. You can also leave the skins on, although the chewiness may be off-putting to some people. Cut the russets into larger pieces -- at least 1 1/2 inches in size. This will reduce the amount of crumbling that occurs during mixing, giving your russet potato salad heft and shape.
Keeping It Creamy
Russet potatoes absorb more moisture, so keeping the salad creamy can be difficult. Use extra oil for mustard-based dressings, such as in a German potato salad, to reduce the amount of liquid absorbed by the potatoes. Add an extra tablespoon or two of olive or canola oil to make stirring easier and to ensure that there is enough dressing to thoroughly coat and dress all potato pieces. For mayonnaise- or sour cream-based dressings, thin the dressing with extra mayonnaise, sour cream, oil or even water to compensate for the amount of moisture absorbed by the potatoes. Additional ingredients, such as chopped onions, celery or a spoonful or two of relish, can be incorporated into the dressing for a russet potato salad as you would for any other potato salad.
Mixing It Up
Stir russet potato salads gently to avoid breaking the pieces. Mix your dressing thoroughly before pouring it evenly over the cooked potatoes. The easiest way to keep russets from breaking down too much while mixing in the dressing is to mix only once -- and only with your hands. Once all of the ingredients and dressing have been added to a large bowl containing the cut potato pieces, use both hands to carefully turn and mix the potatoes until the ingredients and dressing have been fully incorporated. Let the salad sit for 5 minutes before serving it to allow the flavors time to absorb.
Cynthia Au has studied at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and currently works as a chef instructor specializing in food styling. She has worked as a writer and editor with a focus on food and food science since 2007 and regularly teaches both adults and young children about the joys of home cooking.