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A warm, buttery serving of creamy mashed potatoes is an ideal cool-weather comfort food. Here's how to make the best potatoes ever.
The best and easiest way to prepare potatoes for mashing is to peel them, cut them into large slices, and gently simmer them in lightly salted water. For mashing, use a ricer, a food mill, or a hand masher, but never use a food processor; the sharp blades break down a potato's starch granules, making it gluey. The best potatoes for mashing are starchy varieties such as Russet and Idaho.
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What You'll Need
A potato masher will work if you don't mind lumpy potatoes. If you want smooth, creamy mashed potatoes, there are two very effective ways to achieve them: with a potato ricer or with an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
- Medium saucepan
- Paring knife
- Double boiler if using potato ricer method
- Potato ricer or electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment
- Hot milk
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
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Step 1: Cook Potatoes
Peel and cut potatoes into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water; add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a simmer. If using a potato ricer, fill another saucepan or bottom of a double boiler with water; place over low heat. Keep potatoes at a low simmer. After 20 minutes, start testing for doneness. Poke a paring knife into the middle of one of the potato slices; it should slip in and out easily, and the edges of the potatoes should be dissolving ever so slightly. Drain immediately.
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Step 2: Potato Ricer Method
If using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, proceed to Step 4. If using a potato ricer, place a heatproof bowl or top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Press hot, drained potatoes through ricer into bowl.
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Step 3: Add Butter and Milk
Stir potatoes with a wooden spoon until smooth, about 1 minute. Using a whisk, incorporate butter. Drizzle in hot milk, whisking continuously. Add pepper, nutmeg, and salt to taste; whisk to combine. Serve immediately.
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Step 4: Electric Mixer Method
For the smoothest, fluffiest mashed potatoes, use a mixer. Transfer hot, drained potatoes to bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed, until most lumps have disappeared, about 1 minute. Add butter; mix until blended. On low speed, add hot milk in a slow stream, then add pepper, nutmeg, and salt to taste. Mix to combine.
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How Do I Thicken Mashed Potatoes?
If you don’t drain your potatoes enough, or if you accidentally add a little too much milk, they can take on a sloppy, soupy texture. But don’t worry, it’s easy enough to thicken mashed potatoes. Simply place the pot on a burner over low heat and stir frequently until some of the liquid evaporates. You can also put the potatoes in a heatproof dish and bake them at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes to bake off some of the moisture.
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How Do I Make Mashed Potatoes Ahead of Time?
Keep Them Moist
To prevent the potatoes from drying out, top them with a thin layer of milk or half-and-half, then cover with a lid. Hold for up to three hours. Stir the milk in just before serving.
Makeshift Double Boiler
To keep mashed potatoes warm, or to reheat cold or leftover potatoes, transfer them to a large bowl set over a pot filled with a few inches of simmering water. (Make sure that the bowl does not come into contact with the water.)
Or -- just make Mashed Potato Gratin, which can be prepped a whole day ahead and baked right before dinner.
Leftovers can be transformed into delicious dishes. Potato croquettes make tasty hors d'oeuvres. Gnocchi is easy to make: Add flour and an egg yolk to bind and olive oil for smoothness. Slice long snakes of dough into tiny dumplings, and roll them off the back of a fork. Or season leftovers with garlic and lighten with egg whites to create a potato souffle.