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Is there a best instant mashed potatoes?

I'm going to make a meatloaf layer cake for a birthday party. I don't make this often but every time, no matter how careful I am w/ the mashed potatoes, there are some lumps and it gets caught in the pastry bag tip. It's a pain because you have to take it apart, hot potatoes in the bag, and remove it, continue. It's messy and time consuming. Recipes I see online use instant. It seems like it would be much easier. I vaguely remember having samples at Costco that weren't bad at some point but can't remember the brand. I thought it was just potatoes, salt. Is there a good one? If not, I'll go back to making my own. Thanks!

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  1. I picked up a pack of Excel recently at GFS and was surprised at how good a product it was. Comes in "pearl" form (little beads of dehydrated potato. Pretty darn good.

    5 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      Excel is the best I have found too. In addition, Idahoan in general is very dependable.

      1. re: coll

        I've found that Idahoan artificial flavors have a metallic, chemical taste.

        1. re: mucho gordo

          Dunno. I use the plain, for thickening as much as for hubby's perverted tastes. Doesn't have an Irish bone in his body, sad to say.

          1. re: mucho gordo

            Some of the Idahoan potatoes are just nasty... but the baby reds, Yukon golds and garlic potatoes are good - or at least they were a few years ago. Since we had to cut carbs I don't buy them any more...

        2. re: ferret

          Thanks! I've never heard of it. I'll keep an eye out at the store. I wonder if I can get it at a conventional grocery store.

        3. There is currently a related thread on Home Cooking that compares brands of the pre-made refrigerated mashed potatoes, if that's helpful to you.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Querencia

            Yeah, only I'm far too cheap to spend what it would cost to frost a cake.:-) I was at the store today, was waiting for the butcher and looked at that section. I'm amazed at how large it is, the varieties, plus the other foods there (mac and cheese, pulled pork, barbecues, etc.) that I've never noticed before.

          2. Do you use a potato ricer to make your mashed potatoes? I do and have never had a lump.

            1 Reply
            1. re: JMF

              I thought about that but I normally like lumpy potatoes and I very rarely ever make this meatloaf cake. I'm doing it this time as a joke.

            2. They're all similar. Just stay away from the flavored ones (even the "butter" flavored. Nasty.)

              I always used to keep some Pillsbury Instant Mashed Potatoes in the cupboard for emergencies
              (or for 'adjusting' my freshly made mash if I accidentally overdid the milk...shhhhh!); they were granules rather than the common flakes and even stood up pretty well to fresh mash on their own in emergencies if butter and cream were used.
              I wish they were still available...when Gold Medal bought out Pillsbury, a lot of products disappeared. The instant potatoes were one of them.

              1. Thanks, everyone. I couldn't find Excel mashed potatoes and as I looked at the shelf full of instant, I couldn't bring myself to buy any. I don't want to go through all that trouble only to have it not taste good. It occurred to me that all I had to do was buy a bigger scroll tip. Duh.

                1. FWIW, the Idahoan "Buttery Homestyle" are the only brand I'll use -- I've tried them against homemade and they hold up pretty well -- they'll never be as good, but when you're tired, hungry, short on time, and plum out of giveadamn, they're a good option.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: sunshine842

                    "Plum outta giveadam'."

                    You're talkin' my language.

                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                      and only the Buttery Homestyle -- the other varieties of plain mash (as opposed to garlic, cheese, etc.) are just vile.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        I too love the "plum outta giveadam" description - it happens to the best of us! I love cooking/baking and spending time in the kitchen as much as most of us here, but sometimes when you're out of steam, quick and easy fits the bill.

                        +1 on having success with the Idahoan buttery homestyle as well...

                  2. Trader Joe's sells frozen mashed potatoes that are quite good, and in the 10 or so bags I've consumed, no lumps. They're about $2.49 or so for a 1 lb bag in my neck of the woods. They have potatoes, salt, a little dairy.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: iluvcookies

                      I was just about to suggest these as well. The only thing to be careful with is to not overcook them, as they can quickly become gummy and chewy.

                      1. re: Atomic76

                        They get gummiest if you stir them at all briskly between bouts of microwaving. I usually stir in some butter at that point and I've found that a gentle fold-over with a silicone paddle is best.

                    2. Country Crock original and garlic are the best, by far. No adding water/milk to powders, no lumps; they're already prepared. Just heat and eat. You'll find them in the refrigerated section of your market.

                      1. Back in the 50s I used French's instant mashed potatoes that were a fine powder, but it beat peeling potatoes! Today I use the Idahoan brand pictured that I pick up at Sam's Club. It's a commercial size, and it already contains milk. However my favorite way to prepare it is with organic fat6 free milk instead of water and about a teaspoon of teal powdered wasabi (wasabia japonica). GOOOOOOD stuff! If you go with this brand be careful not to add too much potato to liquid! When you mix it right, you think, "This is way too thin!" but it thickens up in time and is light and fluffy and delicious! Oh, and I add a tad of clarified butter with the wasabi. I never have left overs!

                        1. Costco does sell large trays of frozen mashed potatoes (with gravy on the side in a pouch).

                          Never tried, but they can't be any worse than the best instant ones.

                          1. I agree that you can't compare instant to "normal" mashers BUT Idahoan brand really is not bad at all if you're short on time. I've served them to foodie friends who weren't in the know and got complements on them. Ha! I only get the plain, red potato version. The others have strange chemical flavors.

                            For what you're making, I think no one would be the wiser.

                            1. No. I'm sorry but they are pretty gross.

                              1. Costco up here in Canada (no idea about the US) has these which we use once in a while in a pinch. Decent but no substitute for the real thing of course!


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jfprieur

                                  Up above, I said Costco used to have a mashed potatoes that was just potatoes, butter and salt. I remembered trying some at the store and thinking it was pretty good, especially for instant. This was about 10 years ago in California. I wonder if it's the same one.

                                2. Rice the potatoes and use a wider tip. Instant are all dreadful.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    I've thought about getting a ricer, on the occasion I feel like smooth mashed potatoes but it would be a rare unitasker for me since I normally like lumpy potatoes. I might try Robuchon's mashed potatoes for the extra creamy. I'm going to solve the problem by never making this "cake" again. It was more of a joke that I tend to plan everything around dessert.

                                  2. I've always found that steaming potato chunks (as opposed to boiling whole potatoes) not only ensures that the potatoes will be done a lot sooner, but they'll be more evenly cooked, and they'll be nice and tender (no lumps). I use a potato masher, but a potato ricer makes it even better.

                                    1. Came across this funky idea: A TV superstar chef takes fish filets and uses dehydrated mashed potato flakes to coat them for pan frying. I tried this and it actually works nicely!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Sharuf

                                        The flakes work very well. I coat my chicken with potato flakes mixed with grated parmesan then bake them.

                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                          Just don't use them instead of breadcrumbs in meatballs. I was at my moms once and tried to eat one of her meatballs and it was a dense and tasteless hockey puck. I asked her what she did and she said she used potato flakes instead of breadcrumbs because of my nephews allergies. (He was allergic to nuts...)

                                      2. a few years ago I asked this question here ~~ my daughter was in Honduras in the jungle(or was it the year she was in Bolivia?) and it was Thanksgiving and I wanted to mail "lightweight" food to her. Chowsers recommended Idahoan, the buttery homestyle, and they were excellent.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: laliz

                                          It may all depend on where you are, and the circumstances. After having my jaw wired shut for eight weeks to heal a broken jaw, my first meal (in the hospital) included instant mashed potatoes. Needless to say they tasted good.. even if it was institutional hospital food.

                                        2. Potato Buds used to be the best, but they switched to flakes which aren't near as good. Now, the only game in town is Idaho Spuds, and make sure to get the 'bits,' not the flake variety.