Mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food and a versatile side dish. Their mild flavor goes with just about everything, including pork roast, steak, meatloaf, baked chicken, salmon, and of course roast turkey.
The fluffy texture of mashed potatoes provides the perfect bed for gravy, and makes scooping peas and corn off the plate much easier.
Tips for Achieving Fluffy Mashed Potatoes
You would think that a classic side dish like mashed potatoes would be easy. It’s all about getting the perfect texture. Mashed potatoes should be light, fluffy, and smooth. Here are some tips for achieving light and fluffy mashed potatoes:
Types of Potatoes Best for Mashing
For fluffy mashed potatoes, select high-starch and low-moisture potatoes that are ideal for mashing. You can’t go wrong with Russet, Yukon Gold, or a combination of the two.
Russets, such as Burbank Russet, Caribou Russet, Idaho Russet, and Norkotah Russet all have a dry and flaky texture perfect for light and fluffy mashed potatoes. Yukon Gold and Yukon Gem potatoes have a smooth, light yellow flesh, and a naturally buttery flavor.
Start Cooking in Cold Water
Don’t add potatoes to boiling water like pasta. Instead, start cooking potatoes in cold water, bring to a boil, and then simmer until cooked. This allows the potatoes to heat up slowly and it is the best way to cook them evenly.
Use the Correct Mashing Tool
A mashing tool should break up the cooked potatoes quickly and easily so you won’t overwork them. You can achieve fluffy potatoes from using a masher or ricer. Potato mashers and ricers produce mashed potatoes with different textures. Here is how these tools differ:
- Potato Masher: My favorite tool for mashing potatoes is a simple, old-fashioned straight handle potato masher. Use the ones with the waffle grid holes, and not the wavy patterned one. The grid-patterned holes push through the cooked potatoes quickly and easily and leave behind some small chunks for texture. This U-shaped ergonomic handled Oxo potato masher is also highly recommended and doesn’t take up much storage space.
- Potato Ricer: If you like silky-smooth textured and completely lump free mashed potatoes, a potato ricer is the best way to achieve this. It works by pushing cooked potatoes through small holes in a perforated basket. The fluffy potato pieces look like rice (hence the name).
Skip the food processor and mixer for mashing because they release too much starch, and you may end up with potatoes that are overworked and gummy in texture.
Don’t Overwork the Potatoes
Even if you are using a potato that is great for mashing, and the right mashing tools, the longer you work the potatoes, the more starch is released. If too much starch is released, the potatoes will turn gummy and gluey.
Mash the potatoes quickly after cooking, add your flavorings, and continue mashing until combined.
Use Warm Milk and Butter
Mashing with cold milk and butter straight from the fridge will not only cool your potatoes, but won’t absorb well, and require more work to distribute. Using room temperature butter and milk will be easier to combine and mix in without overworking the potatoes.
How to Make Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are a simple, delicious side dish made by boiling potatoes until they are soft, and then mashing them with butter, milk, and salt and pepper. The mild flavor pairs well with meats, vegetables, and topped with gravy.
A printable recipe with full ingredients and instructions can be found at the bottom of the page, but here are the illustrated tips for making mashed potatoes.
Step 1: Prepare the Potatoes
Rinse the potatoes under clean, running water and air-dry on a kitchen towel. Peel and cut potatoes into even sized chunks. Aim for about 1 to 2-inches. Don’t cut your potatoes too small or they will absorb too much water during cooking.
Place the cut potatoes into a medium saucepan, and fill with water until it covers the potatoes by 2 inches. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt to infuse flavor.
Step 2: Boil the Potatoes
Bring the saucepan to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to medium-high, and cook the potatoes until they are tender when poked with a fork, about 15 to 20 minutes. The time will vary depending on the size of the potato pieces. Your fork should pierce the potato pieces easily and break them apart.
Step 3: Drain the Potatoes
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain completely in a colander, and then return to the hot pot. The heat from the pot will evaporate extra water and help prevent your mashed potatoes from getting soupy.
Step 4: Mash the Potatoes
Mash the potatoes once they are cooked so they don’t soak up too much moisture. Don’t leave them sitting in water or let the potatoes cool before mashing, you want to start mashing as soon as they are drained.
Add the warm butter, drizzle in some of the milk, and begin mashing. Don’t add all the milk at once. Instead, add the milk gradually as your mash until your potatoes are moist, but not runny. You may need to use more or less milk depending on how dry your potatoes are.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, and continue mashing and stirring until the potatoes are light and fluffy. Serve warm.
Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Follow the recipe, cool completely, cover, and refrigerate.
To Reheat: Place the mashed potatoes in a covered casserole dish, and heat in the oven until hot, about 30 minutes. Stir in a little warm milk, if the potatoes are dry.
- 1 pound potatoes Russet or Yukon Gold
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons butter room temperature
- 1/2 cup milk room temperature
- Salt and pepper to taste
Wash potatoes well under running water and dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Peel and cut potatoes into 1 to 2-inch chunks, add them to a medium saucepan, add salt, and fill with water until it covers the potatoes by 1-2-inches.
Bring the saucepan to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to medium-high and boil until the potatoes are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Test by spearing with a fork. It should poke through easily.
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain, and mash with a potato masher.
Add the butter, and drizzle in milk gradually while mashing until the potatoes are moist. You may need to use more or less milk depending on how dry your potatoes are.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and continue mashing and stirring until the potatoes are light and fluffy. Serve warm. Makes 4 servings.
Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes: Mashed potatoes can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Follow the recipe, cool completely, cover, and refrigerate. To Reheat: Place the mashed potatoes in a covered casserole dish, and heat in the oven until hot, about 30 minutes. Stir in a little warm milk, if the potatoes are dry.
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