A warm, fluffy, creamy bowl of mashed potatoes is a must on any Thanksgiving table. Some of us like them pure with just milk, butter and a pinch of sea salt, while others brighten them up with fresh herbs and cheese.
Here, we’re sharing a basic recipe and a step-by-step guide to perfect mashed potatoes—whatever flavors you choose and whichever instrument you use to make them, this technique will achieve the ideal texture every time.
How to Make Classic Mashed Potatoes: A Step-by-Step Guide
You’ll need the following ingredients:
- 2 1/2 lb. (1.25 kg.) high-starch potatoes such as russet or medium-starch potatoes such as Yukon gold
- 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 6 Tbs. (3 oz./90 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) milk or half-and-half, warmed
- 1/8 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
Prepare the potatoes
When using high-starch potatoes such as russets, consider cooking them with the skin on. High-starch potatoes have dry, absorbent flesh, which means they readily take on cooking water if they are peeled and cut up. Whether of not you peel the potatoes, scrub them with a palm brush and rinse them well.
Peel the potatoes
Drain the potatoes, then transfer them to a cutting board. Using the tip of a paring knife, slit the skin of each potato lengthwise to create a starting place for peeling. Working with 1 potato at a time, and using a fork to hold it steady, use tongs to peel off the skin. Put the peeled potatoes back into the empty cooking pot, cover and set aside. (You can also peel them quickly using this easy hack.)
Mash or rice the potatoes
For chunky mashed potatoes, use a potato masher to press down on the potatoes, turning the masher a little each time and working your way around the pot as needed to break up the potatoes. For smoother mashed potatoes in no time, pass the potatoes through a ricer back into the pot. For the smoothest mashed potatoes (but more effort), run your spuds through a food mill.
Adjust the seasonings
Taste the potatoes. If you feel they taste flat, stir in a little more salt and/or pepper, a pinch at a time. Add in mashed potato seasoning, if you like, in flavors such as truffle or Parmesan and garlic. If you like creamier mashed potatoes, add a bit more milk or butter. Mix in each addition a little bit at a time and taste again until you are happy with the balance of flavors and the consistency. Stop mixing as soon as you reach the texture and flavors you like. Overmixing the potatoes will cause them to be gluey. Serves 4-6.
Variations on Classic Mashed Potatoes
Quick Mashed Potatoes
Cut the potatoes into 2-inch (5-cm.) chunks. Follow the directions above, but reduce the cooking time to 15-18 minutes.
Mashed Potatoes with Olive Oil and Garlic
In a small frying pan over low heat, warm 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and saute until the oil is infused with garlic flavor but the garlic has not browned, about 10 minutes. Set aside. In a small saucepan over low heat, warm 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml.) milk until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Stir in the olive oil-garlic mixture and set aside. Follow the directions above, replacing the milk and butter with the olive oil-garlic mixture.
Mashed Potatoes with Pesto
Follow the directions above. In step 5, add 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) basil pesto, or more to taste, with the milk and butter.
Ready to try a new twist on traditional mashed potatoes? Consider these original recipes:
- Cheddar-Chive Mashed Potatoes
- Golden Mashed Potatoes with Leeks & Sour Cream
- Mashed Potatoes with Parsnip & Horseradish
- Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root
- Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Tell us: What are your favorite tricks for spot-on mashed potatoes every time?
The absolute best way to mash potatoes depends entirely on how you prefer to eat them: If you like them fluffy and somewhat lumpy, use a hand masher. If you like them perfectly smooth and airy, use a food mill. If you like them velvety but not at all gluey, use a tamis.
The potato dish you cook is very delicious and attractive.
[…] a world in which mashed potatoes were thought to be poisonous. Prior to the 16th century, the potato—because it is a member of the […]
How do you keep your mash potatoes hot while waiting for the Turkey to rest before carving?
Warming drawer. They are amazing and one of those things you wonder how you ever did without.
I have used the ricer method for several years. I do not peel the potatoes before placing them in the ricer. Just cut the into halves, place in ricer and the peel stays behind for discarding.
I still rice boiled potatoes for holiday dinners, just like my grandma did. But we’ve always just gently put them in a warm serving dish with no butter or dairy added. The light texture is a contrast to all the other items on the plate, but they also do a great job absorbing gravy, sauces or juices so you don’t lose any of the flavor.