Easy Tips For Better Mashed Potatoes
A cloud of fluffy, light and creamy mashed potatoes may be the simplest dish served at a table full of extraordinary dishes, but it is a staple must-have at most holiday as well as weeknight dinners. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to have the best possible mashed potatoes because, after all, they do deserve our attention.
1. Cut the potatoes into uniform pieces.
This will ensure that all the potatoes cook at the same time. You can choose to peel the potatoes or leave the skin on for a more rustic feel. Since potatoes are typically not the same size, I cut them into uniform pieces.
2. Cover with just enough water to barely cover the potatoes and start with COLD water.
Potatoes cook much better when there isn’t too much water, or else they will become waterlogged. Believe it or not, but they will actually cook faster in less water. If you start the potatoes in warm water, it will come to a boil very quickly and start cooking the outside of the potatoes and the inside will still be raw.
3. Russets and Yukon Gold potatoes are the best for mashed potatoes.
Russet (baking, Idaho) potatoes have a high starch level and low level of water and Yukon Gold potatoes have a medium starch level and medium water level. This means that these potatoes will be fluffy when mashed. Waxy potatoes are more dense and don’t break down as much when they cook, which means it will be hard to achieve fluffy and creamy mashed potatoes. If you don’t mind lumps and a rustic texture, then using waxy potatoes, such as red potatoes, is just fine.
4. Salt the water generously.
Potatoes love salt. Don’t be shy with the salt. If you don’t add enough salt, the potatoes will be bland. It’s surprising that such a simple ingredient would make a big difference, but it will. Adding salt to the cooking water also helps the potatoes could faster and break apart better, resulting in fluffier and creamier mashed potatoes.
5. Cook the potatoes just until fork tender.
If the potatoes are undercooked, you will have lumps in your mashed potatoes.
You can also cook the potatoes in their skin, which is a great idea, because it really helps with keeping the mashed potatoes fluffy and not gluey, but if you wish to serve the mashed potatoes without the skin, you will have to peel them while they are still hot. Also, as I mentioned before it’s hard to find potatoes that are the same size every time you want to make mashed potatoes.
You can also steam the potatoes, but in my opinion, it’s the easiest to just not cook the potatoes too long and I have a really nifty trick next.
6. “Dry” the potatoes before mashing them.
After draining the potatoes, return them to the stove and cook off all the excess water, while shaking the pot. The potatoes will be much drier, which will help a lot in producing fluffy mashed potatoes.
7. Add flavor:
- in a mild way by adding some aromatics to the cooking water, such as bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, garlic, onion, etc. This will give the potatoes a very mild flavor, and they flavor the cooking water as the potatoes simmer. Discard the aromatics before mashing the potatoes.
- in a more assertive way, by adding aromatics to the butter that you will be adding to the potatoes when mashing them. I love to make Garlic Mashed Potatoes by adding some minced garlic to the butter and cooking it until it turns golden brown and then add it to the potatoes when I’m mashing them. Since the garlic will be roasted, it will give a nice garlicky addition to the mashed potatoes, without knocking you over with a harsh garlic taste. You can also add shallots, onions and herbs to the butter.
- by the choice of dairy that you use. Most of the time, I simply use milk, but you can also use heavy cream for really decadent and luscious mashed potatoes, buttermilk to add a slight tang and creaminess to mashed potatoes, as well as cream cheese or sour cream. It’s very important to heat the dairy.
- for the last punch, try adding bacon bits, scallions, chives, parsley, rosemary, grated cheese or even Homemade Ranch dressing to the mashed potatoes.
8. Above all, don’t OVER MIX the mashed potatoes, or they will become gluey.
One of the best tips to keep in mind is to mash the potatoes alone first, before adding the butter, dairy and other ingredients. Mash the potatoes to get all the lumps out and only then add the hot dairy and butter.
Adding warm dairy to the potatoes will keep them hot much longer and will give you a better texture.
There are several ways you can mash the potatoes:
- A simple, standard potato masher
- A potato ricer – this will give you the creamiest and most lump-free mashed potatoes.
- A hand mixer or standing mixer. Be very careful if using this method, since it’s very easy to over mix the potatoes this way, so act fast, mix, add dairy, step away. If you’re using a standing mixer, it’s best to use the whisk attachment.
A food processor is a big NO-N0. Seriously. Food processor+potatoes= GLUEY potatoes that you can’t fix.
9. To keep potatoes warm:
You can keep them stored in the hot pot, wrapped in a thick towel or blanket. This method will keep the potatoes warm for quite a long time. Of course, they won’t stay warm forever. Another great option is to keep them warm in a slow cooker, on the “warm” setting.
To reheat the potatoes, I really like heating them up with a bit of butter over medium heat in a skillet. You can also reheat the potatoes in a double boiler.
If you made the mashed potatoes the day before, you may wish to add a bit more warm dairy to loosen the potatoes, since they will become harder as the longer they stand.
10. Here are a few creative ideas how you can use up leftover mashed potatoes:
Cook your potatoes into little patties with different fillings, or simply dredged in some breadcrumbs . One of my favorites are, Potato Pampushki with a cheese filling.
Make a casserole and top it with mashed potatoes and cheese, such as the Sausage, Mushroom and Potato Dinner or the classic Shepherd’s Pie.
- Add mashed potatoes to soup to create a thicker texture.
After mashing the potatoes, I usually whip them using a blender. Love how fluffy and smooth they taste. 🙂
I like the idea of adding garlic to the cooking water, I am going to try this next time I am making mashed potatoes. Thanx for the tip!
I agree the best mashed potatoes are made with yellow kinds of potatoes, but usually I substitute about 1/3 or even half with white potatoes, which are a lot cheaper, especially when I am cooking for a large party, and they still taste great and have that nice yellow buttery color. I like to add a little heavy cream, some butter and some milk, mash them and whip them up just a bit. They are great every time 🙂
Hi Katia! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and happy Thanksgiving:).
Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!!! 🙂
Olga Halas Ade
I cook my potatoes with a parsnip and mash it in with the potatoes. I do get a lot of compliments and am always asked what my secret is. 😉
That’s a great idea, Olga. Celery root is another great addition to mashed potatoes.
Olga hi. My ? Is do you cover potatoes while cooking them? Thanks!
Yep, I keep the potatoes covered while they are cooking. First of all, the water will boil faster and the potatoes will cook faster also. The covered pot also creates a somewhat steaming effect as well.
Thank you so much for replying. Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!
Great post especially last lines- AFTER ALL, THE BEST FOOD IS GREAT INGREDIENTS COOKED CORRECTLY, WITH A DASH OF CREATIVITY. ELEVATE THE. HUMBLE SPUD TO A PLACE OF HONOR.
How is new Mommy doing? I can imagine how busy you might be…but I know you r smart enough to handle kid, job n home. May God bless u n give u strength. Give two kisses to your son on both the cheeks from my side..
Thank you 🙂 Everyone loved mashed potatoes this way and turkey were a hit 🙂 keep on the good work
Yay! I’m so happy to hear that, Olga!
This is a great article! It’s rarely mentioned how beneficial it is to ‘dry’ the potatoes before mashing. Thanks for sharing 🙂
I think this small, extra step makes a difference:).
i always see russian moms adding cold butter, cold milk to their potatoes and iv been doing it as well, but now im going to try to warm everything up and show them how its done 🙂 thanks olga
Olga, Thanks for this post! What brand of pots are you using?
Look in my Shop under Cookware to see all the pots and pans that I use.
Thank you for this post! Great tips! The first time I made mashed potatoes after getting married, I used an immersion hand blender in a non stick pot. You can imagine how that went. Pretty much gluey….Now I only use a very big potato masher.
Oops! Yep, I can certainly imagine:).
My mom adds ~1/8 cup or less of onion to a big pot of potatoes. She dices it into tiny pieces and throws it in. Soooo good!
That’s a great idea, Tanya. I already add onion to pretty much everything I cook, so this is brilliant:).
Privet Olga, Happy New Year!!! I hope you’re enjoying that beautiful baby boy:)
I will be making these for a party this weekend, I plan on infusing the water with rosemary & thyme.
keep up the good work.
That sounds delicious, Markeeta. The herbs will give great flavor to the potatoes.
Thank you so much for your kind words.
Constance Grace Bohannon
I haven;t made mashed potatoes for a long time. these potatoes that my daughter left were red. I boiled them and added milk, butter, salt and pepper. They still don’t taste right. I’m going to try blending them so they will be creamy.