Potato salad is a classic American side dish. It is a must-have at barbecues, summer get-togethers, potluck dinners, and well, any other time you might decide to have it with your meal. You simply can’t go wrong with serving up a side of potato salad.
The thing is, potato salad can be made in a number of different ways. You can use mustard or you can mayonnaise and then from there, you can put all kinds of different things IN the potato salad.
Potato salad is so versatile because you can make it to your own tastes, or maybe your family has a secret recipe. Or you can just buy a tub and leave the making to the experts. No matter which way you provide potato salad, you’re doing it right.
But can you heat up potato salad? Yes, you can heat up potato salad. You can either bake potato salad in the oven or microwave it. The key to this is the proper storage and being sure not to leave it sitting out in any temperature over 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
We will dive a bit deeper into those details shortly. In this guide, we will talk about everything you should know about potato salad, including how to heat potato salad safely and the precautions you should be aware of when you attempt to heat potato salad.
Keep reading to learn everything you should know about how to heat potato salad.
Potato Salad & What You Should Know
Potato salad can be used for anything. It is one of the most versatile dishes you could possibly make and it is so simple to make. It doesn’t take a lot of work to make potato salad and you ultimately can make it however you want to.
Here is a list of things you might find in potato salad:
- Mustard or mayo (Which one do you use? Both?)
- Potatoes (that one was obvious)
- Ham, bacon, or sausage
- Egg (usually hard-boiled)
- Dill pickle
These are just some examples of the most common things you find in potato salads but ultimately you could add whatever you like, particularly vegetables of your choice, to potato salad and we are quite sure it will still be delicious.
How Potato Salad is Made
The beauty of potato salad is there is really no wrong way to make it. But we thought it was important to cover the basics of how it is made so you can understand what is in potato salad.
Having this knowledge could help you further understand what goes into heating potato salad and why.
While we share basic steps for the making of potato salad, remember that this can be made in multiple ways. This is simply a point of reference for you but this can be changed up however you like it.
What you need to make potato salad:
- Hard-boiled eggs,
- relish or pickles,
- salt and pepper,
- mustard or mayo (or even a combination of both).
How to make potato salad:
- Boil your potatoes first for about 15 minutes. Then drain the potatoes and allow them to cool so you can peel them and chop them. Peeling is optional.
- Chop boiled eggs, celery, onion and pickles to your desired size.
- Combine potatoes, eggs, celery, onion, and pickles in a large bowl and stir together.
- Add in mustard/mayo and mix together well.
- Stir in seasoning to taste – salt, pepper, garlic, etc.
- Mix everything together well.
From this point, you should determine whether you are going to heat your potato salad or serve it chilled. The thing about potato salad is it requires specific storage techniques so that it doesn’t go bad.
Don’t worry, it’s not that complicated but there are some things you should be aware of to ensure your potato salad doesn’t go bad.
Storing Potato Salad
Potato salad is commonly misunderstood but not taking proper care of your potato salad could lead to you getting sick.
Why? Because at a certain temperature, when raw, the ingredients in potato salad can lead to the growth of bacteria. It’s not food poisoning per se, but the bacteria could certainly make you sick.
Storing your potato salad properly is essential to making sure you don’t face issues like this down the road, but many people don’t realize just how careful you should be.
If you go to a BBQ or a gathering, you might see the potato salad sit out on the table for hours and this could be a bad thing.
Here are the steps and recommendations for storing potato salad:
- Don’t leave potato salad out for more than 2 hours, less if possible.
- Potato salad becomes prone to bacteria when its temperature ranges between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended length of time.
- Potato salad should be stored in the refrigerator, sealed well.
- Potato salad will remain fresh with proper storage for up to 7 days, but it is recommended to use within 5 days.
- Toss out potato salad that is not stored properly or that has sat outside or at room temperature for 2 hours or more.
These seem like minimal things to note but they could be the breaking point as to whether your potato salad goes bad or becomes a collection of bacteria that could potentially make you or your family ill.
You can also freeze potato salad to store it longer but you may need to assert some care when you remove it from the freezer as it could potentially get mushy in the thawing process. That is a separate question though.
Heating Potato Salad
Potato salad is most commonly served cold but did you know you can heat it? Heating potato salad puts a new spin on it and it is delicious! There are many recipes that bake potato salad but you can also warm it in the oven.
If you haven’t yet tried warm potato salad, you may want to give it a try. It will just give you another reason to love potato salad while also providing you with an alternative way to enjoy it.
If you remember earlier, we told you that prime time for bacteria to grow on potato salad is between 40 and 140 degrees so the key to heating potato salad is to get it above that temperature if you’re serving it as a dish. If you’re heating a portion in the microwave to eat right away, it’s not as pertinent.
It actually is quite common to serve baked potato salad as a side dish and it’s really rather good. Here are some instructions for heating your potato salad.
Heating Potato Salad in the Oven
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Prepare your potato salad as normal
- Put potato salad into an oven-safe pan
- Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, toppings may start to turn golden brown
- Remove from oven and serve
Baking at 400 degrees will ensure that your potato salad reaches a reasonable temperature to prevent bacteria from spreading right away. As the potato salad cools, you will want to be mindful of how long it sits out. It is essential that it is put away as soon as you are finished with the dish, while it is still warm.
It seems odd not to let it cool before you put it away but that is because the temperature ranges for bacteria growth and your ultimate goal is to prevent it from being in that range for long periods of time.
Heating Potato Salad in the Microwave
- If you are reheating your potato salad, serve up a single serving onto a microwave-safe dish.
- Cover with a damp paper towel
- Heat for 1 minute and 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds.
- If you are heating a large portion in the microwave, you should add some water, cover, and microwave for 9-11 minutes, stirring halfway through.
We hope that you find this guide to be helpful for you in knowing all of the ins and outs regarding heating potato salad and we hope that you feel confident you can give this a try and not be worried!
We’ve put together some common questions and answers as an additional reference for you and we encourage you to check it out.
How Long Should Potato Salad Be Chilled?
If you are serving your potato salad cold, you want to ensure it is chilled long enough to chill the entire dish. Typically, the potato salad can be chilled through after about 30 minutes of chill time. You can also make potato salad ahead and chill it overnight.
How Can You Tell if Potato Salad is Bad?
First, remember the rules of temperature and the recommended time frames that potato salad should be stored within. It should not be at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
But if you are not sure if your potato salad has gone bad, you can smell it. The ingredients take on a strong, rotten odor when they spoil and you will be able to tell it simply doesn’t smell right.