The Shortcut You Should Never Use When Mashing Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a side dish staple. They're creamy, starchy, and loaded with butter. It's hard to imagine a better complement to any food. And thankfully, the best mashed potatoes require only a few affordable ingredients, so they're easy to make at home. But, like most dishes, that doesn't mean mistakes can't be made — and there is a certain technique to getting that perfectly creamy texture without turning them to gummy mush.

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Potatoes are loaded with starch, which gets released as the potatoes are worked and mashed. Starch is good for texture, but a little goes a long way. The more you mash the potatoes, the more starch they release, and if there's too much starch, the texture goes from soft to gummy. That's why there is one shortcut you should never take when it comes to working those potatoes: Don't use a blender or electric mixer because it will over-mash the potatoes in no time. Instead, do it by hand.

Never use electronics when mashing potatoes

It might seem like the easier option, but the truth is that for perfect potatoes, you need to use a little bit of elbow grease. Blending or electric mixing those potatoes means releasing all of that starch, which will turn into a potato disaster.

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To get the best texture on your mashed potatoes, start by breaking apart the cooked potatoes with a potato masher. Once you add in the other dairy ingredients that will bring the dish together, you can continue to use the potato masher, but if you have a rubber spatula on hand, switch from the masher to the spatula. Then, fold the ingredients together until they're fully combined and creamy. The heat from the potatoes will help everything combine nicely, but the folding technique ensures you don't over-mix it. The spatula also helps if you choose to add thicker ingredients, like sour cream, into the dish.

Other ways to ensure creamy mashed potatoes

Although the mashing technique is necessary, this type of potato dish has a few other ingredients that will help get that whipped, creamy texture you're looking for in addition to mashing. Mashed potatoes can be made with as little as three ingredients: potatoes, butter, and milk, but they're all absolutely necessary for just the right texture. The milk helps give the potatoes some moisture, which lets them turn into that more cohesive mixture. The butter (as well as the milk for that matter) adds fat, which helps keep the mashed potatoes smooth and prevents them from clinging or clumping together.

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You can also use half and half or heavy cream instead of milk to make them taste even better, but keep in mind this higher-fat liquid means you won't have to use as much butter. If you don't have butter on hand, you can swap in a little bit of full-fat mayonnaise, which will create a similar effect. While salt isn't necessary for texture, it will bring out the flavors of this dish and is the extra fourth ingredient you don't want to skip.

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