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perfect mashed potatoes

Mine seem to come out lumpy half the time. Need to make perfect mashed potatoes on Saturday for the relatives. What's the trick?

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  1. Pass the potatoes through a ricer.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Philly Ray

      This is a good suggestion and I agree with the recommendation.....but if you don't have one and intend to purchase another kitchen tool, consider purchasing a food mill. It achieves the same results, but also work great for other tasks like crushing and seeding tomatoes. The one shown in the picture I picked up at a thrift store for less than 3 bucks.

      I would also recommend using cream and butter....heated before mixing in with the potatoes. I do so by keeping the cream and butter in a stainless steel mixing bowl over the potatoes being cooked or kept warm in water over the pot the potatoes are in.

      If you really like fluffy mashed, then break out the stand mixer or hand held mixer for whipped potatoes. ...but no matter which method you choose, make sure your potatoes are cooked through. I boil the potatoes in the skins, but you may want to try baking them as an alternative.

    2. I don't use a ricer, just an old-fashioned masher, but mine aren't lumpy. I drain off the water, leaving the potatoes in the pot. Then shake the pot over a low flame until the remaining moisture evaporates. The potatoes get dry and fluffy enough that my masher does a good job of getting them ready for the half & half / butter (mostly butter for me!) mixture. Then a good workout with a strong wooden spoon. Et voila!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Violatp

        After she drained her boiled potatoes well, my German grandmother folded up a dish towel, placed it on the pot, replaced the lid, and put the pot back on the (now turned off burner) for 15 minutes or so. The residual heat from the pan and the burner really dries out the spuds, and you'll notice quite a bit of moisture in the towel. Been doing it this way for 40 years. Only other thing I'd mention is to have your water well-salted.

        1. re: Violatp

          I make mine just like violatp and people rave about them.

          I've tried the ricer and food mill but much prefer the old fashioned potato masher.

          Get the spuds dry, add the butter and mash it in. Keep mashing add salt and warm milk or half and half. Use a rubber scraper to get the edges mixed in.

          Just a little elbow grease!

          1. re: Violatp

            Yes! This is my method, except I leave the peels on and I like a dollop of yogurt in them along with the butter and a tiny spot of milk.

            If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, you can beat or whip them smooth. But run hot water in the stainless bowl first to heat the bowl. I don't like doing that though.

            Also, use bakers or possibly Yukon Golds. Don't mash reds because they go gummy.

          2. Cooking potatoes properly is the answer mostly.

            I bring potatoes to boil in a large pot with lots of cold, salted water. Then turn them way down to a low simmer. After ten minutes, take a thin bladed knife and pierce one of the potatoes. I know they won't be done at this point, but I keep checking them the same way every couple of minutes. Once my knife pierces a few potatoes, sliding easily through, drain well. Put them back on the stove on low, until you see they are dry. Turn off burner. Mash well with a potato masher, Add butter, salt and pepper, taste. Then add 1/4 - 1/2 cup of warm milk, and stir well.


            1 Reply
            1. re: mcel215

              All of this. Get the butter fully incorporated before adding any liquid (I use cream). And be generous with the butter. Finally, I prefer Yukon Golds to russets or Idahos. They too are mealy and they have a slightly buttery taste. I talked my sister through this method last T-giving when she was responsible for mashed for 30 and she was a wreck, and they came out perfect.

            2. What kind of potatoes are you using? And how are you cooking them?

              The right answers to both questions for smooth as a baby's butt mashed potatoes are: (1) Idaho or russet and (2) steaming.


              If you want smooth mashed potatoes, start with mealy potatoes and stay away from waxy potatoes.

              That means use Idaho and russet potatoes, which have a higher starch content and lower moisture and will result in a mealier texture when cooked.

              Also, because of their higher starch content Idaho and russets will absorb more moisture when cooked and tend to fall apart when boiled. So if you prefer a smoother texture, use mealy potatoes like Idahos and russets but *steam* rather than boil.

              1. I agree with what others have said, start with a russet, cook the potato through, drain and let them evaporate a bit to dry out.
                A ricer or food mill does a great job of making a smooth mashed potato without over working it, then stir in warm milk, a touch of half-n-half, butter, s&p.
                Don't over beat a mashed potato, you don't want them to get gluey.
                I usually use a plain potato masher.
                Make sure the potato is cooked in salted water.

                1. This doesn't really address your question, but thought you may like to read this.


                  Personally, I prefer the Colorado based Mountain King label for my russets.



                  1. More questions. Do you peel and cube the potatoes before cooking them. Cook them whole with the skins and peel later or cook them whole w/o the skins?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: shaebones

                      I've done both, but usually peel and quarter the potatoes.

                      1. re: wyogal

                        Have done both here too! ~~ I prefer quartered, peel on, and just smashed with a potato smasher. A few lumps is fine with me. Actually prefer the more rustic lumps and peel than the riced texture. ~~ To be completely honest, I prefer rice to mashed potatoes. Whatever. Pass the gravy please.

                      2. re: shaebones

                        If they're small you can leave them whole but if big it can lead to uneven cooking. It's actually easier to peel the potatoes after boiling if you leave them whole.

                        The other thing I would add (in addition to using a ricer, not overcooking, and heating the butter & liquid) is to not use too much water when boiling.

                      3. I really do want to reiterate how important I think evaporating out any remaining moisture is. Any remaining liquid takes up space that the cream & butter can't get to!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Violatp


                          And I think mashing the butter in at the beginning helps too. Mash first then add liquid.

                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            There's a French home-cooking bible I'm wanting to get (La Bonne Cuisine …) that advises never to add any milk or other liquid to your mashed potatoes until all the butter has been worked. The only thing I find wrong with that is I tend always to decide, upon tasting, that they could use some more butter …

                        2. Bake whole russets jacket on 'low and slow' 200 F until very soft inside. Russet's are moisture sponges. Never boil them. When you can handle them cut in half and scoop out flesh into a pot. In a separate pot you have brought milk.....not cream just to a boil with a good amount of CLARIFIED butter and roasted garlics (optional) and a grind of nutmeg (not optional). The milk solids in regular butter changes the taste/texture not in a good way. Add the milk/butter all at once and stir stir stir! Don't drizzle the milk in or you will get wall paper paste. The amount of milk/butter/garlic you'll have to experiment with. For six big russets I'd make at least half a quart of the milk/butter liquid. Pour half onto the potatoes all at once and be ready to add more quickly if the potatoes seem to be not thin enough. Stir stir stir! S&P to taste.
                          That's a start.

                          1. My advice would be

                            1. Use the correct potatoes. i use Maris Piper or King Edward
                            2. Don't cut up your potatoes too small when you boil them.
                            3. After draining put them back in the pan on a low heat to get rid of excess moisture.
                            4. Make sure the milk and butter are warm when you add them.
                            5. Use a ricer.
                            6. Don't skimp on the butter.

                            1. A lot of similar answers here, but here's my two cents' worth:

                              1. Use russet potatoes.
                              2. BAKE, do not boil. Second choice is steaming.
                              3. Rice them. No need to peel the baked potatoes first, just cut them in half and rice the halves one at a time, flesh side down, removing the skins in between each one.
                              4. Rice them directly into a casserole dish of warm cream and salt. After mixing, taste and adjust the salt.
                              5. I don't mix in any butter. Read a scientific article years ago about how the starch in potatoes absorbs/surrounds the butter and renders it untasteable. Since then, I generously TOP the hot potatoes with pats of melting butter for serving. They look so yummy with all of that butter on top.
                              6. Extras: Other veg are good riced along with, such as rhutabagas and cauliflower. Also, you can change out some of your dairy, using sour cream, buttermilk, cream cheese, etc. Some people like freshly ground pepper, others not so much. If you want garlic, here's a quick tip: Just boil a fresh clove or two in a dab of water for about 15 minutes or until soft, then rice them along with the potatoes. The boil takes out the bite from the garlic, without going to the trouble of roasting it. (Boiled garlic also makes GREAT garlic butter when mashed and folded into butter that has been whipped and salted.)

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: sandylc

                                "I don't mix in any butter. Read a scientific article years ago about how the starch in potatoes absorbs/surrounds the butter and renders it untasteable. "

                                I have heard this before also but secondhand. Do you remember where you read this? I've tried a google search but my google skills were lacking. I am intrigued by this phenomenon!

                                1. re: seamunky

                                  Tell that to Joel Robuchon! His legendary mashed potatoes are 50/50,butter and potatoes.

                                  1. re: Gloriaa

                                    I just had a mild heart attack reading that. Sounds wonderful though.

                                  2. re: seamunky

                                    Argh.... I just tried a brief search and didn't come up with it, either. It has been quite a few years, but I'm sure it was from a reputable source or I wouldn't have given it enough credence to actually remember it for all this time.

                                    I do know that people love the mashed potatoes with puddles of melted butter on top and never guess that there isn't any mixed in.

                                    1. re: sandylc


                                      Is that it? That is potato to butter ratio of 2:1. Hmmm I'm super curious about it so ill try it but with just one serving of potatoes and I'll share it with someone so I don't destroy my arteries.

                                      1. re: youareabunny

                                        That doesn't look like mashed potatoes--that looks like baby food!

                                        1. re: cwitzke

                                          Lol. It's called potato purée. Not only rich in butter but mashed and strained through a sieve 3 times. I imagine baby food is made similarly, minus the butter.

                                  3. re: sandylc

                                    I don't care for the taste of mashed baked potato except as twice-baked stuffed ones. My mom always baked extra potatoes and used the leftovers to make her creamed potatoes with cheese; I loved the dish, but hated how the potatoes tasted.

                                    And science be damned, I can certainly taste butter or its lack in any potatoes. I'm thinking perhaps if one is using a mixer - a dreadful practice! - then yes, the developed gluey starch will destroy any flavor. But I rice them into a bowl, and then stir in butter with a cooking fork, and then a little hot milk.

                                  4. Just a note: When I tasted my mother's boiled-in-saltwater mashed potatoes after eating my baked and riced ones, the cooked-in salt thing made them taste old/stale to me. I know it is common advice to cook in salted water, but it REALLY does taste better to bake the potatoes and salt when ricing/mashing.

                                    1. Reading through this thread, I realize how very wrong I am doing it. I boil scrubbed and unpeeled potatoes, usually white or yellow spuds, then mash half heartedly with butter, a bit of liquid (broth, milk), S&P, roasted garlic, sometimes a little sour cream. They are rich, lumpy/full of texture, and really really delicious.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: tcamp

                                        Your way is how I like them best, tcamp, and how I make them for myself.

                                        For the SO and for guests, who expect smooth, I've been successful with the coarse disc of a food mill (after boiling and draining/drying), adding creme fraiche for dairy/fat, plus salt & pepper and any other flavorings (roasted garlic, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions...)

                                      2. I like Yukon gold better than russet so I think it is definitely a personal thing. I boil in salted water, drain, dry and rice. I love to infuse my cream with garlic, peppercorns, onion and a bay leaf, a little goes a long way. I carefully fold in hot cream and add cold butter. Be careful when whipping potatoes, you don't want them to get gluey unless, of course, you are making aligot potatoes- whipped potatoes with lots and lots of cheese. Then there are smashed potatoes...lots of choices!

                                        1. This is like the threads on how to cook a steak - who knew there were so many ways to make mash?

                                          I am not sure why you are getting lumpy mash - do you boil them whole or cut up? If they are whole, perhaps the interior is not fully cooked, leaving you with limps.
                                          I check to see if they are done with a fork, instead of a knife, after reading somewhere (probably here on CH) that it gives you a better sense of when they are fully cooked.

                                          For my spuds - I boil Yukon Golds until cooked and then mash them with a potato masher, adding lots o' butter, salt and 1/2 & 1/2, and I never heat up the cream or butter. If I am using store-bought potatoes, I peel them before cooking. But when I pick up new potatoes at the farms, I just scrub the skins well and cook them skin on.

                                          1. Now that the relatives have gone, go back and do what EM23 said--Yukon gold or other waxy, peel & boil (big cubes), mash by hand, leave lumps. It gives the mash some texture. My adult children love them that way. Butter, salt & pepper, maybe roasted garlic are all that''s needed

                                            IMO russets give a grainy mash that must be gussied-up too much. And mash without some lumps is not a good mouth feel to me.

                                            1. For those that boil, do you all bring water to a boil, then add the potatoes? Or start them in cold water?

                                              I used to practice the former til someone on tv said I could start them cold (hope it wasn't Sandra lee). It always worked for me until this past Christmas when I made a batch for 20 people using a big lobster boiling type pot.

                                              I filled with the water and potatoes, covered with lid and turned on the fire. When the potatoes on top were done the bottom layer of potatoes were very overcooked and soft. Luckily I had so many potatoes that after draining and putting back onto the heat, they turned out fine.

                                              Anyway I guess cold water start is easier cuz 1. No hot water splashes 2. Less dishes to wash.

                                              Just wondering.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: youareabunny

                                                Start with cold water, add potatoes, bring to a boil. Potatoes are dense, and you want them to cook evenly.
                                                I've never had them turn out unevenly when doing this. I also have never used a huge pot like that. If the water was cold, you added the potatoes, then brought it up to a boil, simmered, I don't know why they would have turned out unevenly cooked. Did you stir them at all?

                                                1. re: wyogal

                                                  No I didn't stir because the pot was so wide but deep that it was ridiculously full. There was no way to get the potatoes evenly moving from bottom to top with how full it was. In hindsight I probably should've cooked in two pots.

                                                  Like the pot was deep that most utensils can't reach the bottom without u putting your fingers in he water.

                                                  1. re: youareabunny

                                                    Yes, two smaller pots would have been better. :)

                                                2. re: youareabunny

                                                  Always start with salted, cold water and bring it all to boiling together. As EM23 said - I use Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and boiled. Dry them out by putting them back in the pot, putting the lid on, and shaking the pot on the now-turned-off electric coil stovetop. (Unfortunately, the electric coil stovetop is all I have right now.)

                                                  When they're dry, mash with a potato masher. Add in the butter, and incorporate that with the masher. Then add enough half-and-half and then sour cream to get them to the consistency you like. Roasted garlic, and salt and pepper are all usually added by me, but the roasted garlic is an add you can leave out.

                                                  I don't like mashed potatoes that are pureed down to full-on smoothness. I'm fine with some texture.

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    Always start potatoes in cold water. I have heard that one should start all root vegetables(anything that grows underground) in cold water and all vegetables that grow above ground in boiling water- ie green beans, broccoli etc.

                                                3. Well, this is what I did. Basically used my regular technique. Peeled and cubed rusetts. Put them in a pot of cold water and brought to a boil. Simmered til done ~ 20 minutes. Drained the water then dried out the potatoes over a flame. Used my new OXO potato masher (love it) and stirred in the butter first, lots of it. Then added warm half and half. They came out perfect! :)

                                                  2 Replies
                                                    1. re: shaebones

                                                      Awesome! Dry potatoes, butter, and elbow grease - it's all you need. :-)

                                                    2. BAKE THE POTATOES. Really!

                                                      1. In "The Man Who Ate Everything" Jeffrey Steingarten has a chapter on mashed potatoes. It is a lot of reading on something so easy...

                                                        I use that and have great mashed potatoes every time.

                                                        In a nutshell:
                                                        * peel and cut to regular width
                                                        * add to boiling water
                                                        * as water comes back up, add cold/play with heat so it stays just below a boil
                                                        * put the strained spud back in hot pot to evaporate some water
                                                        * use ricer

                                                        His big thing is to break as few of the potato's cell walls as possible in the process so your mashed potatoes are not gummy.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: hambone

                                                          That just seems way too involved and hands on.
                                                          Put peeled cubed taters in cold water, bring to boil, simmer covered until done, meanwhile, do something worthwhile, namely, not stand over the stove trying to keep a pot of water just below a boil!
                                                          Sorry, seems silly to me.

                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                            I'm in the kitchen anyway so it never seems like a big deal.

                                                            And they are the best mashed I've ever had.

                                                            1. re: hambone

                                                              Pufin3 shared a similar technique by Heston Blumenthal that also has you cook the potatoes in water below a boil. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/925524 I'll have to try this method. Do you also use waxy potatoes?

                                                        2. I bake peeled Yukon golds with whole garlic bulbs in a tin foil pouch till really soft. Squeeze out garlics add to potatoes. Into the ricer. Add hot clarified butter and whole milk not heavy cream. Cream makes potatoes too gummy/heavy. S&P to taste. Gently fold and serve. I used to 'boil' russets like everyone else but I always got potatoes that IMO had absorbed too much water b/c russets are a dry variety they are are basically sponges. Yukon Gold not so much. Sometimes I'll add some streamed leeks which I've finely chopped afterwards. Sometimes just a little finely chopped sauteed 'double smoked' bacon.

                                                          5 Replies
                                                            1. re: cwitzke

                                                              210 F for as long as they take to get really soft. You can give the tin foil pouch a bit of a squeeze with an oven mitt. I made sure all the Yukon Golds are as close to the same size as practical.

                                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                                Hi, do you really mean 210F? That seems more like an oven temp to hold baked food/keep things warm.

                                                                1. re: cwitzke

                                                                  Yes I really mean 210 F. The enzymes (protein) in potatoes will turn into rubber bands if heated beyond 212 F as with any protein. 'Rubbery eggs? Too high a heat. Shoe leather steaks? Heat too high.
                                                                  Never heat any food containing protein strands over 212 F and you'll never have to eat rubber bands instead of moist delicious meats etc.
                                                                  'Low and Slow's the way to Go'.

                                                            2. re: Puffin3

                                                              Puffin3, I'm astounded that your russets came out soggy. When the water is boiling it won't penetrate the flesh, merely heat it up and then the potatoes steam themselves cooked. There is some residual moisture on the surface, which is why we put them back in the pot and shake them for a bit over low heat, but mine are always dry enough to absorb quite a bit of milk.

                                                              I notice that you have 'boil' in quotes; does that mean you're not holding them at a full boil? That sure sounds like a good way to get soggy potatoes …

                                                            3. My must-have mashed potato seasoning is celery salt mixed in during mashing and a little sprinkle of celery seed on top in the serving bowl.

                                                              1. I recently experimented with mashed potatoes using clarified butter compared to regular table butter. I had my guests taste each type. A couple couldn't tell any difference but some others did. My and their opinion was the table butter containing hot milk solids made the potatoes taste a bit sour. Try making half with hot clarified butter/milk and the other half with hot table butter/milk. IMO there is quite a difference.

                                                                1. I use almost whatever kind of potatoes I have and use about the amount of 4 medium potatoes. Unless they are red I peal the potatoes and depending on the size I quarter or half or leave whole but make all the same size. I add to a pot and cover with cold water about two inches over and boil. I add salt to the water and either add garlic with or roast some. I boil until they are fork tender , drain, then put back on stove for about 30 seconds to absorb water. I add about 4 T of butter and slightly mash, then add warmed heavy cream, half n half or milk while mashing just until the right consistency. I taste and add salt and pepper if needed but usually the salted water does the trick. I leave out the garlic or skins if cooking for husbands family.

                                                                  1. And I personally like texture in potatoes. I'm not a runny or completly smooth type of person. I just use an old fashioned masher.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: hheath9h

                                                                      I'm a big fan of HB. Recently I tried making MP's his way. They are beyond doubt the best I have ever had. I'll never go back to my old method again. Had them last night! The trick with the potatoes skins fundamentally changed the flavor of any MP I'd ever had. In fact I don't think I had ever actually tasted 'potato' in my MP until I used this method. Try it once and you'll be hooked IMO.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2zsmH...

                                                                      1. re: Puffin3

                                                                        Thanks for the link. Did you try the lime jelly too?

                                                                        1. re: BigSal

                                                                          No I didn't but I did sprinkle on just a few drops of fresh lime juice before serving. A whole new taste revelation. Next time I will make the jelly. And I didn't put them through a sieve. I just fork mashed them in the pot with the hot milk and clarified butter and they were as creamy as I'd want them.

                                                                        2. re: Puffin3

                                                                          wow, do you think one could bake the potatoes for that first 30 minutes? seems easier to control the temp in an oven than a pot...

                                                                          i'll still mash as opposed to rice/seive. i prefer a bit of texture in my potatoes. i wonder how the lime jelly would work with lumpy potatoes... or flavor-wise if you could just put a little lime zest in?

                                                                      2. We just finished Thanksgiving last Saturday. My friend, who has been doing this community dinner for years, said "Soy Milk!" He'd made up a pot of mashed potatoes for the vegans one year, and was blown away by the side-by-side taste test -- mostly because he's a confirmed carnivore, and the idea that soy would be better shook the foundations of his world a little.

                                                                        BTW, the soy milk is the unsweetened Japanese kind -- I don't know what soy milk is like in other countries, but if it's adulterated like the yogurts are in America, then it's probably best to go with dairy.

                                                                        (By "adulterated" I mean packed full of sweeteners. Trix-flavored yogurt is just a travesty.)

                                                                        But that's for taste. We use the right potatoes, and we use a ricer or a hand mixer to make good mashed potatoes. If you go with the hand mixer, don't try to do too many mashed potatoes at once. I prefer the smooth mashed potatoes myself. I thought ones with chunks were called smashed potatoes . . . .

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: MickiYam

                                                                          Last week I pulled out the mixer for whipped potatoes because I had not made them in a while, and it was so amazingly smooth and creamy. Love the texture.
                                                                          I knew I'd have leftovers and lots of them, that I'd use to top cottage pie and the whipped worked so nicely.

                                                                        2. This just popped up on my internet server's home page today:


                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: DonShirer

                                                                            Re 'rule #6' That's the reason HB and I don't use 'starchy' potatoes. 'Waxy potatoes can be 'mashed' longer to get a smother/creamier texture without the starch turning to glue b/c they aren't 'as starchy' to begin with.
                                                                            Anyway each to their own.

                                                                          2. Ok I just did a taste test comparing cooking method only as applied to russet and gold.

                                                                            1. peeled quartered boiled in salted water (from cold) drain and evaporate extra liquid in pot - russet
                                                                            2. peeled quartered boiled in salted water (from cold) drain and evaporate extra liquid in pot - gold
                                                                            3. whole boiled in un-salted water (from cold) russet
                                                                            4. whole boiled in un-salted water (from cold) gold
                                                                            5. peeled quartered steamed russet
                                                                            6. peeled quartered steamed gold
                                                                            7. whole steamed russet
                                                                            8. whole steamed gold
                                                                            9. Heston Blumenfield method (cooking only) as seen in the youtube video: peeled quartered rinsed, low temp "boil" 30 minutes, rinse, then regular boil (un-salted, from cold) another about 20 minutes, drain and evaporate extra liquid in pot - gold

                                                                            From there, all potatoes were mashed with a standard masher, with about 2.5 tablespoons of softened clarified butter per smallish spud, plus another about 1 tablespoon of cream per spud (which had been simmered with the skins). If skins were not removed for cooking, then the skins were left on for the mash as well. Results may be very different if you are seeking the super smooth type mash, but I prefer a more rustic style mashed potatoes.

                                                                            We had three tasters, including myself, the other two people did not know the preparation method of the spuds while tasting. I voted for three. The other folks voted for two and one. The winners, which got two votes each, were the classic prep methods with the gold potatoes:

                                                                            *peeled quartered boiled in salted water (from cold) gold
                                                                            *whole boiled in un-salted water (from cold) gold

                                                                            Take it for what it's worth! I will probably use the whole potato method in the future since I like skin in my mash (and bonus is it's easier!)

                                                                            P.S. Sorry to the baked potato method fans - I actually baked potatoes to include, but they took longer to cook and I ran out of clarified butter! Another year...

                                                                            P.P.S. The HB method did seem to create a unique though subtle texture, which may be critical for the super smooth mash he continues on to make. However it wasn't a winner for any of my tasters with a rustic style mash.

                                                                            1. Doesn't get easier than this. I make PERFECT mashed potatoes simply following these steps: