Perfect mashed potatoes

Mash. Everyone loves a good mashed potato. But no one’s going to thank you if they’re gluey or cold or tasteless. Follow these rules and your family and friends will shower you with compliments time after time.

  • Use floury potatoes
  • Salt the water generously
  • Start them off in cold water
  • Drain them well
  • Warm your butter/milk/cream before adding them
  • Don’t overwork them
  • Make them just before they’re used

1. Use floury potatoes

yukon-gold-best-mash-potatoUse higher starch potatoes. Like Golden Wonder, Maris Piper, King Edward, Desire, Russets or Yukon golds for the fluffiest, smoothest mash. They also absorb flavorings more easily.

Don’t use waxy potatoes (such as red or white varieties) they need a lot more mashing to become creamy and you’ll probably end up with the dreaded “potato paste”

2. Salt the water generously

saltWhen potatoes cook, the starch granules swell and absorb water and — if you’ve added it — salt. You won’t need to add as much at the end, and your final product will be well-seasoned, not bland.

3. Start them off in cold water

cold-waterCover them with cold water, add salt, then heat to boiling and reduce to a simmer. If you start in hot water, they’ll cook unevenly, with the outside falling apart before the inside is cooked.

4. Drain them well

drain-potatoesMake sure to drain well after cooking. You want them to taste like potatoes, not water. If you’d like, gently reheat the drained potatoes on the stovetop to dry them out slightly before mashing.

5. Warm your butter/milk/cream before adding them

mash-potatoLet your butter come to room temperature before melting it into the hot potatoes, then mash in the warm milk or cream. It will be absorbed more easily, and won’t cool everything down.

6. Don’t overwork them

The swollen starch granules in your cooked potatoes are in a delicate state. Mashing them too vigorously (for example in the food processor) or for too long releases lots of starch, which can make them gluey and unappetizing.

7. Make them just before they’re used

Potatoes don’t take kindly to sitting around for long periods. Refrigerating them overnight sounds like a no-brainer, but they’ll start to taste like cardboard. Want to make them ahead anyway? You can hold the prepared potatoes in a heat-proof bowl, with the surface covered with plastic wrap, over a pot of simmering water for up to 2 hours. If you have a slow-cooker with a Warm setting, that will work too. Fluff ’em up again before serving.