Basic Mashed Potatoes
A Perennial Favorite
- Servings: 4.
When it comes to making perfect mashed potatoes the details make all the difference in getting a smooth, rich result.
- Use potatoes that will have a smooth, creamy finish. Yukon Golds are best. Some people prefer Russets -- what we also know as a baking potato -- because they mash to a fluffy texture. But I think Yukon Golds give both a smooth texture and a richer flavor than the Russets.
- Peel the potatoes before you cook them. If large, cut into equal sized pieces so that they cook at the same pace. Two-inch pieces will take about 20 minutes to cook, from the time you put them into cold water and turn on the heat until finished. Stab with a knife to check for doneness.
- Don't rinse the potatoes but keep them in a bowl of cool water while you work on them so that they don't discolor after they've been peeled and cut.
- Place the potatoes in a pan of cold, salted water to start and bring to a boil. Don't boil the water first. This helps the potatoes cook evenly.
- Use unsalted butter.
- Try to avoid using skim milk. Either 2%, whole milk or half-and-half is best. To my taste, heavy cream is excessive and takes away from the flavor and texture of the potatoes. Plus who needs all that fat?
- Warm the milk or half-and-half before adding to the potatoes so that you don't lower the potatoes' temperature.
- If you make mashed potatoes more than once or twice a year, buy a potato ricer. You can find ones for less than $10 and buy one that has removable discs because this will make the ricer easier to clean (mashed potatoes become like hard glue when dried) and also offer versatility in case you also want to use the ricer for other purposes.
- The ricer will produce a bowl of perfectly and uniformly mashed potatoes. An old-fashioned wire masher will also do the job but you'll get an uneven texture, which means that the butter and milk won't combine evenly.
- If you make your mashed potatoes in advance of the rest of the meal, don't try to reheat them in the microwave. Instead keep them warm in a double-boiler or else in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Plus cover them so that the potatoes don't dry out on the surface. You can keep mashed potatoes warm this way for an hour or so and they'll be as nice as when you first cooked them.
- For all the effort to make mashed potatoes, make extra. They will be less smooth the next day, but you can use the leftovers to make potato patties (kids love them) by combining with a beaten egg and grated cheese and then sauté in a little butter or olive oil. Or else make potato gnocchi (check your favorite Italian cookbook for a recipe).
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup 2% fat or whole milk or half-and-half
- Peel the potatoes and cut into uniform pieces. About two-inches is ideal.
- Place in a large saucepan filled with cold water. Add about a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil.
- Cook the potatoes at a gentle boil for about 15 to 20 minutes total and check for doneness with a sharp knife. The potatoes should cut easily with the knife but not be falling apart.
- While the potatoes are cooking, fill a heatproof bowl with hot water to get it ready to hold the mashed potatoes.
- Drain completely. Dump the hot water out of the heatproof bowl.
- Using a potato ricer, mash the potatoes into the warmed bowl. Add the unsalted butter and stir until the butter is completely melted and dispersed.
- Using a small saucepan or In a heatproof measuring cup in the microwave, warm the milk or half-and-half. Add it to the potatoes a little at a time and use a large spoon to combine. Keep adding more, about 1/4-cup at a time until you get a soft, mashed consistency.
- Taste and add more salt, if necessary.
- Either serve immediately or keep the finished potatoes covered and warm until ready to serve by placing them in a double-boiler or by placing the heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.