Everyone has their own idea of what makes perfect mashed potatoes - creamy or fluffy? rich with cream or light as air? - you can use the tips in this guide to make perfect mashed potatoes no matter which recipe you use.
Looking for more of a traditional recipe? See this Mashed Potato Recipe.
1. Choose the Right Potatoes
You'll need 1/3 - 1/2 pound of potatoes per person (I use about 2 1/2 pounds for 6 servings).
For light and fluffy mashed potatoes, choose Russetts. That's right, just plain old basic baking potatoes. They have little moisture and tons of starch, so, if treated right, they will mash up as light and fluffy as can be.
Yukon Golds have a natural buttery flavor that also have enough starch to mash up fluffy, they're always a great option, but especially if you're making lower fat versions of mashed potatoes.
Boiling potatoes - waxy red or white potatoes - have less starch and don't mash up as fluffy, but they absorb a lot of flavor, so if you're adding roasted garlic or caramelized onions or others flavorings besides butter and cream, boiling potatoes are, despite common wisdom, a good option for mashed potatoes.
2. Boil The Potatoes WholePlenty of recipes and tips will have you peel and cut potatoes into even pieces. A much better option is to buy potatoes that are all about the same size so they will cook evenly. Scrub potatoes clean, put them in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add enough salt to the water so it tastes salty. Cook potatoes until they are very tender when pierced with a skewer - let even small potatoes cook for 20 minutes before checking them. You want the potatoes very cooked and as dry inside as possible, each time you check them they will pick up some water, so limit your tests as much as possible.
3. Dry PotatoesDrain the potatoes, return them to the hot pot, and return to pot to low heat. Cook, uncovered, shaking the pan, for 5 to 10 minutes to evaporate as much water from the hot potatoes as you can.
4. Peel & Mash Potatoes
I cannot stress enough the extent to which it is worth the $15 or so that a ricer costs when it comes to mashed potatoes (find a potato ricer here). A ricer mashes potatoes utterly and completely, without a bump or lump in sight. Not sold yet? What if I told you the ricer simultaneously peels and mashes? That's right - as you press the potato through the pureed potato comes out while the skin stays behind. It's fast, it's easy, it's thorough - it's ideal for perfect mashed potatoes.
If you don't have a ricer, all is in no way lost. Scrap off the peel from the hot, cooked potato - a paring knife will pull that peel right off. You may need to hold the hot potatoes with a potholder or latex glove. Then mash potatoes thoroughly with a potato masher or sturdy fork.
5. Avoid Processors, Blenders, and Mixers
The fast, mechanical action of mixers, blenders, and food processors quickly turns the delicate starch in potatoes into a gluey, spackle-like substance. If you've cooked the potatoes enough - until they are very very tender - these devices are completely unnecessary for fully mashed, utterly lovely mashed potatoes.