10 Rules to Perfect Mashed Potatoes

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The recipe seems simple enough. Peel, cut, boil, mash, add butter and cream, and season the potatoes. Voila! Mashed potatoes!

Although mashed potatoes seem simple enough, they’re actually rather finicky and quite easy to destroy. If you’re not careful, your mashed potatoes can be watery, gooey, lumpy, not fluffy enough, too dry, not seasoned enough or simply tastes blah.

Worry not ‘because here are the 10 rules to making the perfect mashed potatoes. Master these rules and you’re mashed potatoes is sure to be in their buttery and fluffy best each time.

Rule #1: Use the right kind of potato.

Potatoes fall into three categories: waxy, starchy and all-purpose. The best potatoes for mashed potatoes fall within the starchy category like russet potatoes. Starchy potatoes break down easily, resulting in a creamier mash. If starchy potatoes aren’t available, you can switch to all-purpose potatoes like Yukon Golds. Never use waxy potatoes like fingerlings and red bliss.

Rule #2: Cut your potatoes in equal sized chunks.

Potatoes cut into different sizes will have different cooking rates. This means bigger pieces will be under cooked, while smaller pieces will be overcooked. No creamy and fluffy mashed potato is definitely going to result from this one.

That goes the same for potatoes that are boiled unpeeled and/or boiled without cutting them into chunks. Potatoes rarely come in uniform sizes, so leaving them as they are would also result in uneven cooking rates.

Start with cold water, bring it to a simmer and then cook the potatoes until they’re all cooked through. You’ll know when your potatoes are done when a sharp paring knife passes through without resistance.

Rule #3: Remove all excess moisture.

There are so many ways you can ensure that your potatoes are going to result in a fluffy mash each time. One of these is to thoroughly drain the potatoes and return them to the pot while the stove top is still hot. This works best if you’re using an electric stove. If using a gas burner, cook the potatoes for a couple of minutes over medium-low. Shake the pot until all the excess moisture that’s still on the potatoes has evaporated. Excess moisture can make your mashed potatoes watery or soggy.

Rule #4: Use a potato ricer or masher.

Don’t use a blender, food processor or hand mixer. Starch breaks down when it’s mixed, beat and whipped too much, resulting in a gluey or gooey consistency. This is not the consistency you’re aiming for. Instead of using the aforesaid

Tools, which would almost certainly overwork the potatoes, you should use a potato ricer or a handheld masher.

Rule #5:  Don’t overmix the potatoes.

Even when you use a potato ricer or masher, you still run the risk of overworking your potatoes when you overmix them. When adding the milk or cream and butter, gently mix the potatoes just enough until all ingredients are combined.

Rule #6:  Do not add cold milk or cream.

Make sure that the milk or cream that you will add to your mashed potatoes is warm. This helps them be absorbed easily by the hot potatoes, thus reducing the need for overmixing.

Rule #7: Take care not to add too much liquid.

You can add milk or cream according to your recipe, but take care not to drench your mashed potatoes in too much liquid lest you end up with a soupy mess. The only way to remedy this is by adding more potatoes, which you would be lucky if you have them right on hand.

Rule #8: Butter up.

French chef and restaurateur Joel Robuchon uses a 2:1 potato to butter ratio in his famous mashed potato recipe. That means for every pound of potatoes, you should add  half a pound of butter. This ratio, according to Joel Robuchon’s and his mashed potatoes’ fans, is perfectly balanced .

Rule #9: Don’t skimp on the salt.

Season the water you’re cooking your potatoes in, just like you would when cooking pasta. Season the potatoes to your liking once they are mashed. No amount of butter in the world will make up for bland potatoes. Don’t skimp on the butter either.

Rule #10: Wait for the last minute.

Freshly made mashed potatoes taste the best. When preparing for a party or thanksgiving, peel and slice the potatoes a day ahead. Store them in a bowl covered with water and keep it refrigerated. Combine your milk-cream-butter in a saucepan and store that in the fridge as well. This way, you’ll only have to worry about boiling, mashing and mixing all the ingredients together on the day of the party.

If you have to reheat mashed potatoes, make sure you reheat them without drying them out. You can either add warm cream or butter or you can put the mashed potato in a double broiler. The latter will allow the mashed potatoes to warm through without scorching the potatoes at the bottom of the pan.

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