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Mashed potatoes, heated milk question

I've normally followed the classic instructions for making mashed potatoes, wherein you heat the milk or cream before adding it.

Recently, I've added the milk/cream without heating it first and found that it made no discernible difference to the end product. Aside from that I follow the standard recs.

So I'm wondering: does anyone else find that heating the milk/cream makes a difference? Does it maybe matter more if you're going for thinner, more pureed texture (and thus adding more milk)? Is heating up the milk just cooking lore?

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    1. re: girloftheworld

      Have you ever personally noticed this effect as a problem? And if so, how much milk are you adding? Since the potatoes are generally either still on the heat or just taken off the heat when the milk is added and they normally make up a much larger proportion of the finished product (by weight) than milk, any cooling seems to be so minimal as to be negligible. Even with the relatively high amount of cream added in the Robuchon recipe, cream only makes up something like 15% of the recipe by weight. Most recipes use even less.

      1. re: cowboyardee

        ok let me rephrase.. It makes the potatoes cold? :)

        1. re: girloftheworld

          No, it does not. It cools them a little bit, momentarily, but if the pan is still hot, they come right back up to plenty hot enough.

      2. re: girloftheworld

        2nd that! The same goes for melted butter vs cold butter.

      3. I never heat the milk or cream first; the potatoes are hot when I mix them. I add the milk or cream a little at a time until I get the potatoes to where I want the consistency to be, which is smooth & creamy, and they never get cold from unheated liquid. I imagine that if the potatoes were not straight from the stove top, putting unheated milk in them would cause them to stay lumpy.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Cherylptw

          Mine never get cold either. Plenty warm.
          I often make the mashed potatoes earlier in the day with other side prepping, so they get nuked anyways.

          1. re: Cherylptw

            I never heat mine either. I add a little butter (cold - the hot potatoes melt it), whipped cream cheese and cold milk or cream (depending on what I have on hand). Then beat with my trusty old hand mixer. They usually get set back on the burner while I make gravy or such, so they are never cold anyway. Sometimes I'll add in roasted garlic too!

            1. re: boyzoma

              I also add butter straight from the fridge and sometimes roasted garlic and caramelized onion to mine also. I, too use my hand mixer to whip them up.

          2. I think it's just a temperature thing. Heated milk keeps the potatoes warm.
            I usually don't bother.

            1. Other than serving temperature, I've found the only difference is infusion of additional essences.

              I love the Georges Perrier recipe that has a few Tbs. of chopped shallots briefly sauteed in hazelnut oil before adding the cream and heating just to a simmer. With a pinch of s&p, the cream/shallot liquid is then whisked in with the boiled and riced potatoes by hand to a fluffy consistency and served immediately. Minced fresh herbs and gravy at your discretion but not necessary.


              1. I heat half and half and infuse it with whole peppercorns, smashed cloves of garlic, bay leaf and fresh rosemary for about 1/2 hour - never at a boil. I drain the salted water off of the potatoes, return them to the pot with the heat on low to evaporate the water and then strain the half and half infusion into them along with a generous amount of unsalted butter and use a potato masher to marry them. Sometimes I throw in a bit of Parm cheese.

                These always get a great reception :o)

                1 Reply
                1. It is all about Temperature.

                  1. I don't think I've ever heated the milk or cream. But I tend to make them in advance and then keep them warm either in a bain marie or the crock pot so I'm not scrambling at the last minute.

                    1. I used to heat the milk.... Now I just leave it out to come up to about room temp while the potatoes are boiling. And I have heated it and added spices or aromatics to it, but usually I just add garlic to the potatoes or a head of roasted garlic, my family prefers those flavors better in their mashed potatoes.

                      1. It's suppose to help with texture by aiding in the emulsification of the potato starches and the milk protein.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          And have you tried both ways and ever noticed a difference?

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            At the margins I think it makes a difference depending on the type of potato - ie high versus low starch spuds.

                            At the end of the day I think you're fine unless you're adding ice cold milk to scalding hot potatoes.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              You're saying it would matter more if you were adding milk to waxy potatoes than, say, russets? Or vice versa?

                              FWIW, I seldom use waxy potatoes for mashing.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Yes, exactly.

                                With Russets, the temp difference between milk and potatoes should matter less.

                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                And that's the rub.
                                I'm guessing many people add the milk straight from the fridge.
                                And they are not keeping the potatoes really hot after hopefully draining then putting the cubed potatoes back on the stove to allow as much water to evaporate as possible.
                                Cooled down potatoes and cold milk does not a really good mashed potato make IMHO.
                                Many years ago I solved the problem by slow simmering the cubed potatoes in whole milk. SLOW simmering is the key. When they are very soft I pour off the milk into a container then add back enough milk to end up with a creamy puree which I put through a sieve.
                                Tip of the day: Virtually all the potato flavor in a potato is found in the skin. I wash the whole potatoes then peel them trying to make large peels. When I have a large cup of potato peels I immediately add them to the whole milk along with the potato cubes. This is the time to add any herbs/spices you want. I add just barely a pinch of nutmeg. Sometimes a little shallot.
                                When the cubed potatoes are very soft I use a chinese sieved ladle to easily remove the large potato peels. These are discarded of course.
                                You would not believe the difference in the 'taste' of the mashed potatoes using this trick.
                                Inevitably my guests will comment about how they can taste "potato".

                                1. re: Puffin3

                                  On Cook's Country (or perhaps ATK), Bridget cooked cubed peeled russets in milk in a Dutch oven, then mashed them. If memory serves, she did not pour off any of the milk. The diced spuds were not submerged, so it was more of a braise. I don't recall if or when butter was used. I'm sure garlic cloves could be cooked along with the milk and potato, either left in to mash, or removed before mashing.

                                  I like your idea for the peels, though I usually use red bliss potatoes and leave the skins on. Other times, I steam the whole potato, then stick it onto a fork before using a serrated knife to scrape away the skin, then mash. I don't like to boil peeled potatoes in water, since I feel too much of the flavor and vitamins go down the drain.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Not really my idea. Can't remember where I heard about it.
                                    I used to use good old Idaho baking p's but I tried HB's suggestion of using Yukon Gold and I do like the finished texture/flavor better. 'Waxier' and not so gooey/gummy.

                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                      I vary which potatoes I use between russets, Yukon golds and baby reds, depending on what I have on hand. I only hand mash them. I think they will get gummy if one uses a mixer. I always read that over mixing will cause the potato starch to get gluey..... My family doesn't mind a few lumps..... I do think the baby reds make the best mashed.

                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                        A food processor will make any variety gummy but I have never heard that complaint about mashed potatoes made with a mixer. It's the difference between slashing and beating.

                                        1. re: greygarious

                                          I have to agree with you on the food processor...a couple of weeks ago, my hand mixer died; somehow it slipped my mind but last week I made potatoes for mashed then put them into the food processor and that was a no no! Went a few days ago and got another hand mixer. I always use one with my mashed potatoes and they always come out light & fluffy.

                                          1. re: greygarious

                                            I have, people over mix them which breaks the starch and gummy potatoes are the result. I mash by hand but if I were using red skins I'd never use a mixer.

                                            1. re: On_yun

                                              Agree. I've ruined mashed potatoes in both the Cuisinart processor and the stand mixer. The old fashioned hand ricer is my tool of choice (you could also use a Chinoise)before whisking in my shallot infusion.There is a major textural difference.

                            2. Unless you are going to rice the potatoes and/or infuse flavor in the cream I don't think it would matter. Drain quick, return to pot, add cream and butter, season, put a lid on and remove from heat. Wait about five minutes and mash. The heavy bottomed pot provides the heat for the liquid.

                              I think the merits of heating the cream come into play if you're infusing it with herbs or ricing the potatoes first.

                              It depends on what it's going with but seventy-five percent of the time they get scrubbed, the eyes get cut out, and they get peeled leaving enough skin to leave a good potato flavor and flecks of skin. The rest of the time I go for the white creamy whipped potatoes.

                              I've used a ricer and I'll even concede it's better, slightly, just not enough to warrant the effort usually.

                              1. I think the difference is barely discernible, maybe more worthwhile if cooking in greater quantities than what I usually do. I don't turn off the burner when I drain the potatoes. I return the drained pot of potatoes to the burner to dry them out a bit more. Then push the potatoes to the sides so I can pour my liquid directly on the bottom of the pot. A minute or so to heat the liquid and it's time to mash. My objective is as much keeping the potatoes warm as getting rid of the lumps.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: MrsJonesey

                                  I normally have the potatoes fully mashed by the time I add liquid. The liquid is usually the last thing I add.

                                  My usual routine:
                                  - Cook potatoes thoroughly
                                  - Rice potatoes into pan on stovetop on low heat (if no ricer, mash the potatoes on stovetop over low heat)
                                  - Add garlic, salt, any flavorings, while continuing to stir the mashed potatoes over low heat for several minutes, cooking off extra steam and making sure the potatoes don't stick or burn at the bottom of the pan
                                  - Add butter in hunks while stirring. Turn off heat.
                                  - Add milk or cream and stir until evenly mixed.

                                  I don't know if this is the best possible way to make mashed potatoes, but it does produce very good, consistent results every time. Perhaps heating the milk would be more important if the milk was added before the butter?

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    Very good, consistent results is the bottom line. It all boils down to what works for you, including whether to add milk or butter first. I like to add the butter last and stir just before serving, leaving a few traces not stirred in.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      If you have a rice cooker, my easy route, especially for Thanksgiving when I'm busy w/ so many other dishes is to cook the potatoes in the rice cooker w/ garlic. When they're done, add butter, milk/cream, seasonings but don't mash. The heat of the rice cooker heats/infuses/melts the milk/butter. When ready to serve, mash. I serve it in the rice (we do buffet style) so the mashed potatoes stay warm through the meal.

                                      FWIW, I've done both cold milk and warm milk and never noticed a difference when I boil the potatoes first. I do add the butter first so it melts and is absorbed.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Wow, chowser. Thanks for that tip. I never thought of using the rice cooker. What a wonderful idea. I keep my rice cooker out because I use it all the time (my slow cooker gets stored). You just taught an old dog a new trick! :-)

                                      2. re: cowboyardee

                                        This is the way Gordon Ramsay suggests you make great mash.
                                        And yes, while many people write him off as a personality chef, the man sure does know how to cook.

                                        1. re: cronker

                                          To make the very best mashed potatoes, you only need 2 ingredients. Potato and Butter.

                                          1. re: GraydonCarter

                                            Of course, that depends on one's own definition of "better".
                                            For me, they're good either way...very plain or with mix-ins, though I do lean more towards using either a splash (and _just_ a splash) of heavy cream, a bit of sour cream, or both. Too much of _anything_ other than the potatoes and a tiny bit of butter ruins the texture.

                                    2. I use room temperature milk but am tempted to try nlgardener's method below using half and half with infused flavorings. I've done warm and cold milk and stock and haven't noticed a material difference.

                                      1. I usually measure the milk or milk half and half combo in a Pyrex pitcher and throw in a couple of smashed cloves of garlic and nuke it. It makes it easier for me when actually mashing to have everything ready.

                                        1. Never heated my milk. And I am told my mashed potatoes are great.

                                          1. I tend to cut out steps I think of as "needlessly fussy", so I've never heated the milk or cream; I mash using a hand masher in the same pot in which I boiled the potatoes on the warm stovetop. Consistency, texture, taste, temperature are all just fine.

                                            1. After I saute my minced garlic in butter, I add some milk to the mix. Since I think that mashed potatoes lose their temperature very fast in general, I think that warmer milk/cream helps a little. If I need more milk I add it cold.

                                              So for me it's only a temperature issue with the final product.

                                              1. I've done it both ways...cold milk/cream or heated.
                                                Actually, when I use heated milk it is not only heated, but scalded. If I add a splash of cream, I never heat that but add it at room temps.
                                                Sometimes, I'll put a spoonful of sour cream into the mix as well (also not heated).

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: The Professor

                                                  Had to give ya a blue heart thingy for the sour cream suggestion.

                                                  The first time I added sour cream to my mashed potatoes it was simply because I was out of milk/cream. I figured I like the stuff on baked potatoes, so why not?

                                                  Now one of my regular additions.

                                                2. I usually melt the butter since it comes from the fridge immediately before I need it...but milk?......nah.I only use a little and I suspect that 999 ppl out of 1000 would not be any the wiser

                                                  1. In the same pot I cooked the potatoes in after draining off the water. I add some milk and butter to the bottom of the pot. Then heat the milk with the butter, turn off heat and mash. One less item to wash.

                                                    1. I never heat the milk when I make mashed potatoes.

                                                      Cook the potatoes, throw them in the stand mixer, add what I feel like that day (seasoning, milk, butter, sour cream, cream cheese), and let the mixer do the magic.

                                                      I like them and they are consistently good. Made some on Tuesday, and both my step-daughter and husband had thirds. So much for leftovers to make a shepherd's pie.

                                                      1. I put the milk on the counter for awhile so it's room temperature. No cold potatoes that way. I've never heard you should heat the milk, anyway.

                                                        1. http://www.my-secret-northern-ireland...
                                                          Champ is an Irish mashed potatoes dish that uses heated milk or cream. Greens such as scallions are simmered in the milk. The amount of milk varies among recipes, but usually is large enough that its temperature matters.