How to Make Perfect Mashed Potatoes
You’re ten tips away from the best mashed potatoes ever!
Mashed potatoes should be three things: creamy, lump-free and seasoned to perfection. Follow these ten tips to bring your spuds from school cafeteria slop to 5 star restaurant quality.
1. Easy-Peasy Peeling
Potato peels can be oh-so messy. To prevent skin and dirt getting all over your cutting board, place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the board. Peel your potatoes onto the plastic wrap and once the potatoes are all peeled, grab the plastic by the corners and bring them together, catching all the peels and disposing of them. Rinse the potatoes after peeling to make sure there is no residual bits of grainy dirt. You don’t want that in your mash.
2. Dunk Those Potatoes
As you cut the potatoes, put them in a pot or bowl of cool water to prevent browning. If the water seems to be getting brown, discard the water and refill the bowl with clean water.
3. Cool, Cool Water
Cooking potatoes is different from cooking carrots. For instance, you can drop carrots into boiling water and they will cook rather quickly. However, if you dropped diced potatoes into boiling water the outside can become mushy before the middle is anywhere near cooked. Yuck, right?
Instead, start potatoes off in cold water and bring it to a simmer. This allows for a more gradual cooking, which penetrates to the center of the potato before the outside has a chance to get mushy.
4. Salty Like the Sea
There has been a debate on whether to add salt to the beginning with the cold water or once the water has started boiling. Personally I like to salt it in the beginning just because it’s a lot easier to remember than adding the potatoes, waiting for the water to boil and then adding salt. Plus, this way the potatoes are seasoned right through the cooking process, making it more even and flavorful.
5. Potato, pohtaato
While there are bushels of potato types to pick from, we suggest using starchy potatoes if you are planning on mashing them. The starch breaks down more easily, thus creating creamier mashed potatoes. Look for Idaho and Russets in particular.
6. Slice and Dice
The best way to make sure your potatoes cook evenly is to cut them into uniform sizes. We like to cut ours into a 1/2-2/3 inch dice. Small enough so they cook fast but not too small that it takes forever to chop.
7. Dry ’em Out
After draining the cooked potatoes put the potatoes back in the pot, turn the heat to medium, and stir occasionally letting the potatoes dry out for a few minutes. This leads to more flavorful and less waterlogged potatoes. You can tell the potatoes are fully dry when the bottom of the pan looks starchy, kind of like white flour on the bottom.
8. Heat Up The Dairy
Before adding milk or cream to your potatoes, pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds to heat it up. The added heat not only absorbs better into the potatoes, but keeps your potatoes nice and warm.
9. Mash Them Up
Stick to the basics; a potato masher and some arm strength. Looking for something absolutely lump-free? Try a potato ricer! Although, sometimes I like the lumps because it reminds me of my Mom’s potatoes. Also, if they’re a touch lumpy it means they’re not gluey. Too much mashing can turn into a gluey mess. If you don’t have a potato ricer and want smooth potatoes without the glue, try using a handheld mixer. Just do a little bit at at time though so that the glue thing doesn’t start happening.
10. Keep Them Hot
Potatoes keep warm very well! You can make your mashed potatoes twenty minutes in advance. Place the mashed potatoes in a warm bowl and cover with foil. They’ll still be steaming hot when you bring them to the table.
The Best Mashed Potatoes
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings
- 2 1/2 lbs. Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2–3/4 inch dice
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1/4 cup milk, heated
- Place cut potatoes in pot filled with cold water. Add salt. Turn heat to high and cover slightly. Once boiling uncover and drop heat to a simmer. Cook until you can pierce potatoes easily with a fork, about 15 minutes.
- Strain potatoes and place back into the pot. Cook over medium heat while stirring until the potatoes are dry, about 1-2 minutes. Take off heat.
- Add butter and mash. Once mashed stir in heated milk. Taste and season with salt.
- Serve immediately or cover with foil to keep warm.
This post originally appeared in March, 2016 and was revised and republished in March, 2018.