Mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. We all love them, don’t we? I get asked often for cooking tips, but when people taste my mashed potatoes, they always want to know my tip for making them. So…drum roll… Here we go: How to make the perfect mashed potatoes, step by step.
For me, the ultimate comfort food is a generous helping of mashed potatoes. When I was a child, I used to make volcanos of them and pour on the gravy, and every time I make them now, I think of those days. (and am even tempted to make volcanoes again!)
Everyone can make mashed potatoes, right? Well, “sort of” is the short answer. Yes, we can all combine potatoes, butter and milk and mash them together and put them on the table, but there is more to perfect mashed potatoes than this.
In my quest for the perfect mashed potatoes, I’ve tried just about every recipe out there. But quite honestly, the “Perfect” part is not about the recipe, so much as it is the technique. Here are some of my tips for making fluffy and creamy mashed potatoes that will cry out “comfort food” every time you put them on the table.
These things are important if you want to make perfect mashed potatoes.
The potato matters. Be sure to use the right kind of potato. There are three kinds of potatoes, starchy, waxy and all purpose. To make the best mashed potatoes, you will want a potato from the first type, such as a Russet, or from the last type, such as a Yukon gold. Never use waxy potatoes such as red bliss or fingerlings. Starchy potatoes break down better, and this will mean a more creamy mashed potato when you are done.
Even sizes are important. Cut your potatoes into even sized pieces before cooking them. If you use some large and some small pieces, you will end up with some overcooked and some under cooked. This doesn’t give you a good texture to the mash.
Mashing 101. Now for the mashing. Into the blender or food processor or mixer to make it easy, right? WRONG…over blending does not work with starch. If you beat it too much, you will break down the starch and then the mixture will tighten up. You want mashed potatoes to be light and fluffy, not hard and sticky. Get out the potato masher and mash them by hand. And even with a potato masher, go lightly. Light and fluffy, remember?
Brr, it’s cold outside. Now for the butter and cream. If you take these out of the fridge and add them into the hot potatoes, they will not absorb as well. Bring them to room temperature for best results. And while we are talking about cream, go lightly. We want fluffy mashed potatoes, not potato soup!
Don’t skimp on the butter. For the tastiest mashed potatoes, you just can’t go lightly on the butter. Yes, it will save calories, but you won’t end up with the perfect mashed potato, just some imitation of it. If you are having a big heaping pile of mashed potatoes, you aren’t exactly dieting anyway, so add the extra butter, just this once and be like Paula Deen.
And here it is folks. My printable recipe for the perfect mashed potatoes every time. The ultimate in winter comforts!
- 1 pound or russet, Yukon gold or all purpose potatoes (don't use fingerlings or red bliss or other waxy potatoes)
- 1½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
- ⅛ cup milk
- ⅛ cup of cream
- 3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- pinch of freshly ground cracked black pepper
- pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
- Take out the milk, cream and butter so that they will be at room temperature when you are ready to use them.
- Peel and cut potatoes into evenly sized pieces. Place them in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water; add ¾ tsp salt. and bring to a simmer. Raise the heat to medium and cook until a knife slips in and out easily. Drain the potatoes in a colander.
- Mash the potatoes until they are light and fluffy with a potato masher.
- Using a whisk, incorporate the butter. Drizzle in the milk and cream, whisking continuously. Add the pepper, nutmeg, and salt to taste; whisk to combine. Serve immediately.