{how to} perfect mashed potatoes, every time

We grew up mostly eating mashed potatoes from a box. I once told that to my friend Carol, and she couldn’t believe such a thing even existed. The only time I really remember my mom making them from scratch was on Thanksgiving. Jokes about hanging wallpaper were inevitable. Mashed potatoes are the simplest thing to make, and yet, the easiest to mess up.

Many people reach for the hand or stand mixer to make them. Unless you’re careful, that’s a sure fire way to over work them, and make gluey, gummy potatoes. I’ve found four ingredients key in making the best mashed potatoes, ever: properly cooked taters, butter (and lots of it!), salt, and hot milk. And of course, the technique is crucial, too—ditch the electricity, and grab a hand masher. In fact, if your potatoes are cooked just right, a fork will even work for smaller, weeknight batches.

If you’re looking to keep things on the lighter side, you can swap in hot stock (vegetable or chicken) for the milk. You can go totally in the other direction, claiming temporary insanity (or evil genius), and swap in leftover bacon grease for the butter. And yes, you could eliminate the butter, and use vegetable stock to make vegan mashed potatoes (don’t yuck someone else’s yum is what my little one learned in first grade last year).

One last trick I’ll leave you with when it comes to making perfect mashed potatoes. I don’t remember where I even learned it from, but it ensures they maintain their integrity before serving. Place a kitchen towel over the top of the pot, then cover with a lid, while keeping them warm before serving. The towel absorbs liquid created by the condensation of the hot potatoes. No more watered down mashed potatoes. Just buttery, light & airy goodness.

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Perfect Mashed Potatoes

serves 4 to 6

Music Pairing: Mashed Potato Time by Dee Dee Sharp

3 russet potatoes, peeled & cubed

6 tablespoons butter (yep, it’s a lot!)

1/4 to 1/2 cup milk, heated

Sea salt, to taste

Chopped parsley, optional (to garnish)

Add the potatoes to a 4-quart pot. Fill with enough water to cover 1-inch above the potatoes. Place on the stove, over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Cook, reducing the heat if the water begins to boil over, until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the milk over low heat, until very hot, but not boiling, Alternately, 1 minute usually works well in the microwave.

Drain the potatoes in a strainer, and return them to the pot. Add the butter. Using a handheld potato masher, smash the potatoes until smooth, and there are no lumps. I sometimes use a fork to do this step.

Season with salt. Pour in the milk, using a fork to stir it in.

Spoon the mashed potatoes into a serving bowl, or just bring the pot to the table. Enjoy!

Here are some more favorite Thanksgiving side dishes from friends around the blogosphere, sharing recipe as part of Food Network’s #FallFest.
Feed Me Phoebe: 5 Healthy Farmer’s Market Thanksgiving Sides
The Heritage Cook: Roasted Curried Carrots with Raisins and Yogurt Sauce (Gluten-Free)
TasteBook: Celery Root Puree with Pears
Creative Culinary: Old Fashioned Green Bean Casserole from Scratch
Dishin & Dishes: Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Dinner Rolls
The Mom 100: Slightly Spicy Roasted Root Vegetable Soup with Parmesan Croutons
Healthy Eats: The 7 Sides You Need at Thanksgiving (And How to Make Them Healthy)
Taste with the Eyes: Thanksgiving Cranberry Sashimi
FN Dish: Food Network’s Top 5 Must-Make Thanksgiving Side Dishes


  • Joan

    Re: best mashed potatoes.

    “In fact, if your (not you’re which is you are) potatoes are cooked just right…

    At least you know your blogs are read!

  • Jennifer Perillo

    Personally, I love mashed potatoes best when cooked, and served immediately. Leftovers are better for making croquettes or topping pot pie. If you prefer to save time, and make them the night before, just add them to a pot with some milk, a bit of butter to hear them up.