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Secret to making great mashed potatoes?

Better to bake them and use a ricer? or a food mill? Better to boil? Mine have never been quite right. Please advise.

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  1. I peel them, cut them into one inch think rounds, boil them until easily pierced with a fork, drain them. I then return them to the now empty pot they boiled in and heat for one minute to dry them out a bit. I smash them with a ricer and mix in scalded cream, nutmeg, salt and melted butter with a spoon. Don't over-mix.

    Things that ruin mashed potatoes: Not cooking the potatoes enough = lumps. Overcooking the potatoes = watery and poor tasting. Mixing too much = glue. Adding cold milk/cream/butter: room temperature potatoes. Using the peels in mashed potatoes = ew, you've ruined the lovely texture of the mashed potatoes and it looks ugly as all get out and people say they do it because they want to "keep the most nutritious part of the potato", but they just couldn't find a ten-year-old to peel the potatoes for them.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MollyGee

      I agree with everything except the peels part. Sometimes I peel the potatoes, sometimes I don't, depending on what I am serving them with and what flavours I am looking for. I like mashed potatoes with peels in them. They taste very good, add to the texture and look.

      1. re: Sooeygun

        I also like the peels in my everyday mashed potatoes. However, I usually peel them at Thanksgiving because I've got some Seniors to feed and they seem to like it without. It's a compromise I'll make once a year.

        I mash my potatoes by hand because I like a rougher texture. I don't care for "whipped" potatoes.

        Butter, hot cream, white pepper and more butter are all I add.

        1. re: bkhuna

          This is exactly how I like mine.

      2. re: MollyGee

        I follow all of these steps, with great success, but I'll add one more: I give my prepped potatoes a soak in salt water and rinse until the water is clear to remove as much starch as possible, which gives them even less opportunity to be gummy. I learned the trick of heating them after cooking from Julia Child, and it is a terrific tip. I used to mircowave the milk or cream before addind. Now when I'm doing weeknight mashed potatoes I just add the milk to the bottom of the pan after I have finished drying them on the eye and leave them for a minute longer (along with butter), and then add a little more as needed as I am mashing them.

      3. I wouldn't bake them, since I find the taste of the potato is a bit different than when they're boiled. I've used a ricer before and think it works great to take out all the lumps. But, if you like some lumps to it, then use the masher. To me, using cream or whole milk and real butter makes a world of difference. I also make sure to try and remove as much moisture from the potatoes by first draining them, then putting them back on the burner for a few minutes. The burner should be turned off so the potatoes don't burn. I also find that adding more milk or cream upfront helps make them more creamy. Another idea, is to cook the sliced potatoes in cream, until they're done. That is purely decadent but delicious. Also, use cold butter. Sometimes I use olive oil. And I prefer white pepper to black pepper.

        1. Boiled, drained and thoroughly dried out before mashing are the basics to making good mashed potatoes. And while I like Yukon golds for mashed potatoes, they can sometimes come out pasty. So just regular white potatoes for me.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jeanmarieok

            yukon golds are the only potato i use any more. their inherent buttery flavor is perfect for mashed potatoes.

          2. Experiment. It's all a matter of personal taste. Some people like them with lumps, others don't. Some like them with garlic mixed in others don't. There's no correct way.

            1. Adding a little cream cheese adds a depth of flavor that is lucious. Try it. Really...any type of cheese, even blue.

              1. I've heard that adding the butter first is better than adding the cream first. Any thoughts?

                2 Replies
                1. re: dockhl

                  After the drying on the stove I put the butter in and the cover back on, when the butter is melted I add the warm cream. On occasion I also add a little bit of sour cream for a different tase.

                  1. re: dockhl

                    I scald the cream and butter together.

                  2. Can you tell us more about the results you're getting & how you want them to turn out?
                    I usually use Yukon Golds, cut into halves or quarters depending on how large the potatoes are (assuming a palm-sized potato). I think you get more even cooking when the pieces aren't too large.
                    After that, I just add a good amount of butter, heated milk (go easy- you can always add more), and season with salt & pepper. I use a hand masher because I don't like my potatoes absolutely smooth (and I don't peel, since Yukon Golds have a thin, tender peel) and I can control the texture better. I recently added buttermilk in place of half my milk and it gave a really nice flavor.

                    1. "Good" mashed potatoes are related to beauty, it's all in the eyes of the beholder. Or diner. You question reminds me of a short story I read some fifty years ago about the young bride who was driving herself crazy trying to make mashed potatoes her husband would not complain over, saying his mother makes the best mashed potatoes in the world. She kept trying and trying, mashing, pureeing, ricing, baking then mashing. Nothin measured up. Then they went to visit his mother. She made really lumpy and not very good mashed potatoes. Her husband had grown up as the child of a single working mother, and the flavoring in his mom's mashed potatoes was loving him enough to come home and cook after a hard day's work. The point is that what the diner thinks is good may be something you can't compete with. '-)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Caroline1

                        I must agree with Caroline1's remarks. Our daughter, at about age 5, embarrassed a neighbor by telling her how much she enjoyed her mashed potatoes because they had "nice lumps" in them. She was sincere, but the neighbor wasn't ready for the "compliment".
                        Some people like "mashed potatoes" creamed, some whipped, some must mashed to the "there ain't no lumps" stage, some with bits of potato lumps. If you want them mashed, use only a potato masher; one of those "curly" varieties. If you want them smoother, try mashing with a potato masher that is designed as a flat plate with holes in it, or if you want them even smoother, try beating them slightly with an electric mixer. The amount of milk, cream , butter, or other ingredient(s) can also make a big difference in how they mash.

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          I agree with Caroline. Having an Irish household growing up, we had "whipped potatoes", done with a hand mixer adding butter and milk. They were airy and light and not a lump to be found. That's how I continued when my kids were growing up. One night at my son's home, my dear DIL said that her new husband (my son), had complained about her lumpy mashed potatoes!
                          I've actually learned a thiing or two from Julia & Jacques Peppin. I now prepare mine through a ricer, lol. I like the more dense flavor, rather than the almost "whipped cream" ones my mother made years ago.
                          Or perhaps, we just have better potatoes than our parents had to choose from?

                        2. What makes for a great mashed potato?

                          The gravy. :-)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Well, of course... gravy makes anything better except strawberry shortcake.

                          2. Cooks illustrated did a thing last thanksgiving...and they "concluded" that steaming them (skin on cut in half i believe) then ricing them was the ticket.

                            IMO. LOTS of butter, its really an emulsion,....so as much butter as it can take! haha.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: RPMcMurphy

                              Yeah, steamed with the skins on, then peeled and riced is how I like them. Fluffy and light -- if you like that style, this is the technique for you. I don't agree about too much butter, though. I use good potatoes and steam them partly because I want to taste the potato.

                            2. It's probably already been said but use a food processor.

                              Superb texture.


                              1. i peel mine, cook with a combination of chicken broth and water, smashed garlic and rosemary. Because i'm allergic to dairy I smash them with margerine, some of the cooking liquid and soy sour cream. (I take the rosemary sprigs out tho) My MIL said they were some of the best potatoes she'd ever had. :)

                                1. I steam or boil them (in heavily salted water) unpeeled. Let them dry, Rice them (using a ricer produces a better texture than a food mill or hand masher or food processer and, as a bonus, eliminates the need to peel since it takes care of it for you, leaving the peel in the hopper). Blend in melted butter before any liquid (like milk or stock) - it's important to coat the starch with fat first.

                                  1. A bit of chicken broth gives the potatoes a layer and depth of flavor that salt, butter, and heavy cream can't. I don't know why it works, but it does.
                                    I also prefer Yukon Golds for my mashed potatoes...and extra buttery taste and feeling. I also leave the skins on for some change in texture.

                                    1. It's all a matter of taste, but I have found that with Yukon Golds, you can never add too much butter or fresh ground black pepper.

                                      With red potatoes, just add large amounts of whatever savory herbs you like; parsley, thyme, and rosemary are my picks, but tarragon and marjoram are fine, and a litle citrus zest can add a real nice perk-up to the potatoes.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: nickblesch

                                        Nutmeg. A bit of freshly grated nutmeg enhances most things.

                                      2. Julia Child's recipe in Mastering the Art.....beautiful every time.