Every year for thanksgiving with my family, I am given the task of making the mashed potatoes. Its not because I am particularly fond of the spuds, but rather (I’d like to think) because I have gotten pretty good over the years at perfecting the art of the mashed potato.
I realize some of you may be rolling your eyes, but hold on. Seriously – there is some science behind the old taters. Bear with me if you will, and you will be guaranteed a better batch of mashed.
Here are my tips:
While I generally prefer a waxy potato (like a Yukon Gold), they don’t make the best mashed. They tend to take on a gluey consistency. The best potatoes are a mix of a waxy potato and a starchy potato (like a Idaho or Russet), as the starchy ones give that fluffy texture and really absorb the butter (yes, potatoes require butter. if you disagree, you best leave now).
Start off with salted cold water and evenly peeled (or not peeled, if that’s your thing), diced taters. Don’t ever drop your spuds into hot water, or they won’t cook evenly. Put it all in the pot and let the water and the taters heat together. And yes, salt is necessary. The potatoes absorb it while they cook.
Simmer, don’t boil those taters. Remember, you want them to cook evenly. Not fall apart and turn to mush prematurely.
Once your taters are cooked, you’ll want to drain them and then place them back into a pot on the stove over low heat to dry them. This is a step I learned from the Pioneer Woman a few years ago. It keeps them from being soggy, watery, or mealy. Ick. While they are over the heat, you can start to mash them.
Stick with a good old fashioned hand held, elbow powered potato masher of the metal variety. They produce the best results. Some people may prefer a ricer — I don’t own one, so I have no opinion on that. Whatever you do, don’t reach for an electric mixer. The blades can break down the starches in the potatoes, resulting in a gummy pile. You want fluff, right?
Warm your whole milk (or half and half. or cream. whatever you choose) before adding it to the mashed taters. But wait! Don’t warm your butter. Add cold butter, please. You want it to melt over the potatoes and distribute those fats and milk solids evenly. If you want to go a step further, use a butter from grass-fed, pastured cows (like this one). It’s sweetness is unprecedented…it won’t disappoint.
If you make them ahead of time, I highly recommend placing them in a crockpot/slow cooker and turning them on low to keep them warm, rather than microwaving them.