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How to Make the Absolute Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Q:

Let's cut to the chase. How do I make the absolute perfect potatoes? 

A:

There are some basic “must do’s” in order to prepare perfectly mashed potatoes. When picking up potatoes at the retail or grocery store, take the time to look for the “Grown in Idaho seal with the outline of the state of Idaho on the bags. Idaho’s climate and rich, volcanic soil consistently yield potatoes with a high solids content (more potato and less water), which is ideal for making mashed potatoes. It is most likely that you’ll see two different varieties of russets coming from Idaho, a Russet Norkotah (variety appears on the enclosure or sometimes referred to as the quick lock) which is typically a lower moisture russet and the traditional Russet Burbank variety. Yellow flesh varieties from Idaho tend to have a higher solids or starch and less water content and can be used for mashing as well. Red potatoes usually have a waxy texture and can be mashed but are not as well suited for this as they are for boiling or roasting.

Gather the Ingredients  

A good, standard ratio of ingredients for making 12 1-cup servings of fresh mashed Idaho® potatoes is the following:

  • 5 pounds of Idaho® potatoes
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup of butter (room temperature or warmed) 
  • Minimum of 1 1/2 cups milk up to 3 cups (heated)
  • Salt (to taste, usually 1½ Tablespoons

Most people fix a larger portion size than a cup to ensure leftovers later on.

Prep the Potatoes

Making mashed potatoes is really a simple process. To begin, peel the potatoes and then cut into a 1 ½ to 2 inch uniform chunks so they cook evenly. One of the myths is to boil the potatoes whole. For cooking purposes, doesn’t it make sense that the outer part of the potato will cook faster and become water logged or crumble before the inside center ever is cooked?

The next step includes heating the potatoes. You can do this one of two ways – either by steaming or boiling. If you choose the steaming process, place the cut potatoes in a perforated insert pan in a larger pan or pot and add cold water up to the bottom of the potato chunks, put the lid on the container and cook for approximately 15 minutes. 

If you opt to boil the potatoes, simply place them in a pot, cover with water and bring to a full boil.  Continue cooking potatoes in boiling water for about 20 minutes. Check out this 40 second video.

The potatoes are done when they are easily pierced with a knife or fork or can be mashed effortlessly with the back of a spatula. 

Tip: To save time and labor, you may decide not to peel the potatoes but prep with the skin on.  Keeping the skin on adds texture and color to the dish as well as a dose of nutrients.

Drier is Better

Did you know that water is the enemy of perfectly mashed potatoes?  After steaming or boiling the potatoes, place them in a colander or sieve to drain – making certain to get all the excess moisture out.

Tip: To ensure the driest potatoes possible, place them in a single layer on sheet pan and put in a 300°F oven for 10 minutes or until very dry to the touch. Or take the potatoes from the colander and place back into the pan on the stovetop at a low heat, stirring if there are any signs of sticking.

HOT Potatoes!

Always keep the potatoes hot, use heated milk or cream, and room temperature butter. If all of the ingredients are at the proper temperature, you can be certain the mashed potatoes will be delicious.

Let the Mixing Begin

One method is to mix the potatoes and other ingredients for a short time to mash them. You can do this by hand with an old fashioned potato masher. Or, place the cooked, very dry potatoes in a mixer equipped with a paddle attachment and add the room temperature butter. Turn the mixer on low and slowly pour in about a third of the liquids. Increase the mixer speed and continue to add the hot milk or cream until a velvety consistency is achieved. Then, season with salt and pepper.

Be careful not to over mix the potatoes. If they are over mixed, they will become gummy and sticky. Watch this video on hand mashing.

Tip: To get an even richer, creamier mashed potato - in the classic French style - just add a bit more butter, milk or even cream. For a smooth texture you can substitute sour cream for part of the liquid or a home style mashed could be made using chicken broth (however don’t add salt until you taste the potato and broth together).

Experiment like an Expert

Part of the challenge and the fun is figuring out how to achieve the best mashed potatoes possible!  Another method which I prefer to achieve silky spuds is to use a tamis or a food mill fit with a fine attachment. A ricer is another tried and true tool of the foodservice trade. I have found these to be quite inexpensive at department stores such as Macy’s or discount stores such as Target. Test a couple of different methods next time to determine which delivers your desired results. 

Time Saving Tuber Tips

Over the last few years, the quality of both processed dry (referred to as instant or dehydrated) and frozen mashed Idaho® potatoes have improved immensely. Their flavor, texture and consistent performance rival fresh Idaho® potatoes!

Processed 
Depending on your holiday meal requirements, you may consider using mashed Idaho® potato flakes or granules.  Always read and follow the manufacturer's directions carefully to know how much to prepare and how much liquid to use. When adding milk (whole, low-fat, skim, or nonfat dry) to instant convenient flakes or granules, it must be at refrigerator temperature (35°- 40°F).

Processed Idaho® mashed potatoes can be held till the rest of the meal is ready, covered in a pan or container. Granules should be held no more than 30 minutes; flakes, no more than 1-1/4 hours. Granules and flakes can also be held in a 250°F oven till needed or re-heated in the microwave at the last minute.

Frozen
Frozen Idaho® potatoes are precooked and precut, meaning less preparation time. Follow the manufacturer's directions for steaming, boiling, or microwaving. Typically, mashed potatoes made from a frozen product can be held longer than the dehydrated mashed potatoes.

Learn from Idaho’s Potato Pros

The IPC has a fool-proof, how to video series designed to inspire and educate professional chefs and foodies.  Click on the links below to learn more.

Basics for Mashed potatoes
Creating Signature Style Mashed potatoes

Additional Resources

  • Visit www.idahopotato.com for additional recipes, tips and information about Idaho® potatoes
  • The IPC shares it’s secrets for innovative Mashed Idaho Potato Toppings here.
  • If you are “spud stumped” ask Dr. Potato!  Visit All Things Mashed Potatoes, with recipes and  “Questions and Answers” from Dr. Potato.