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Mashed Potato Preparation Tips, Sure to Ease Your Holiday Cooking

Q:

I am doing mashed potatoes for the first time for my family and can’t afford to make any mistakes. I guess I should have paid attention to Mom and Grandma when I hung around the kitchen as now they are coming to my place. Can you give me an outline of easy to follow tips and information?

A:

I am doing mashed potatoes for the first time for my family and can’t afford to make any mistakes. I guess I should have paid attention to Mom and Grandma when I hung around the kitchen as now they are coming to my place. Can you give me an outline of easy to follow tips and information? Sure, here you go… PREP  TIPS

  1. Start with cold water (not hot, which isn’t as pure and may contain off flavors).
  2. Cover the potatoes in a pot with water.  Boil potatoes whole with skin on (healthy nutrients just under skin) or use this preferred method for russets - peel and cut into 1/2” chunks, which actually cooks faster.
  3. Add salt to the potatoes and water, about a teaspoon for 4-5 potatoes and boil for 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. The potatoes are done when fork or tongs can crush the pulp of the potato.
  5. Drain off water, put back on stove to dry potatoes.
  6. Simmer liquids (milk, buttermilk, cream).
  7. Add liquid, start to mash-not all, just some.

ANY BUTTERBALL 1-800 MOMENTS WITH MASHED POTATOES?

  1. Refrigerate once cooked From a food safety standpoint…don’t ever leave out the cooked potatoes at room temperature after baking or boiling….refrigerate!
  2. It is easy to over-mix and then the potatoes will become gluey. Think “crush” and “smash”, not “whip” or “blend”. Over-mixing will break the starch cells, release the starch, and then the mixture becomes gummy.
  3. Don’t add cold liquids to warm mashed potatoes. HOT mashed potatoes won’t happen. Remember to add hot milk, cream or chicken broth, not cold.
  4. Watch the salt. Don’t use too much which can happen if you use popcorn salt. Even regular salt can be hard to judge how much, Kosher salt is easy to see how much you add.
  5. Don’t fix too far in advance, the potatoes will turn black. Potatoes once cooked, such as when you fix them the day before, will turn black when exposed to air. Hard water or water that has been softened is alkaline and can also cause a color change in potatoes.

#1 QUESTION: HOW TO FIXED MASHED POTATOES AHEAD OF TIME...

  1. Cook, drain into sieve or colander, place in an ice bath with lemon juice, water and ice for a couple of minutes. Put into a plastic tub with a lid and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Next day, heat up (microwave or slow cooker), then add hot liquids and serve. I love the slow cooker to keep food warm, not just to cook in it.

ANY TOOLS TO OWN OR BUY:

  1. New potato peeler - straight blade preferred. Sharper the blade, faster you peel. Ricer - be a pro, buy one. Like a garlic press but with holes.
  2. Rock and Smash.
  3. Plastic tubs - don’t store in metal (salad spinner).

NO:  Mixer, food processor, immersion blender, wire whip. INGREDIENTS YOU WOULDN’T EXPECT TO USE WHEN MAKING MASHED POTATOES:

  1. Lemon juice, white wine vinegar, vitamin C, cream of tartar. Use a teaspoon per gallon of water to help keep the potatoes from darkening due to exposure to air.
  2. Kosher Salt (bigger crystals, easier to see how much you have added in).

FAVORITE WAYS TO MAKE MASHED POTATOES:

  1. Smashed or mashed… I prefer smashing or mashing gently.
  2. Mashed or whipped… whipped usually means that they will be over mixed and turn gluey.
  3. Baked into mashed… This ensures a drier finished product. Just bake for an hour and refrigerate, then hollow out the inside and heat up again (microwaving is OK) and add in your liquids.

WHY USE IDAHO® RUSSET BURBANK POTATOES (AND NOT YUKON GOLD OR RED?)

  1. High solids (starch) to low moisture ratio: a. Russet Burbanks have 21% solids and cooks up dry and fluffy. b. Red potatoes only have 18% solids are waxy and won’t turn out right. Too moist.
  2. The technical answer… starch is stored in tiny granules that swell when the water inside is heated: a. Russet Burbank-large cells, can take more abuse, over mixing, fluffy. b. Yukons - hold shape, but not able to take abuse. c. Reds - waxy, burst, small cells