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How to Make Creamy Mashed Potatoes

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Want to learn how to make creamy mashed potatoes for your Thanksgiving dinner? It all starts with selecting the right potato!

If there’s one dish that I happen to know quite a bit about, it would have to be creamy mashed potatoes. I would even venture to say that I’m somewhat of a snob when it comes to homemade mashed potatoes.

In fact, my husband would probably tell you that this is a food that I just hate to compromise on. I mean, if I’m gonna eat all those carbs and calories that you find in mashed potatoes, they had better be the best and most creamy mashed potatoes ever, right?!

How to Make Creamy Mashed Potatoes

You may be wondering how I came to be a self-proclaimed expert on making really good and creamy mashed potatoes. My expertise comes from over 40 years of making and perfecting mashed potatoes.

I want to tell you not only how to make creamy mashed potatoes but give you information so you understand all the components and the “why” behind the making of the very best mashed potatoes.

Because I believe that when you understand the “why”, it makes you a better cook. So, let’s take a look at my insider scoop and tips on how to make the most amazing and creamy mashed potatoes ever, shall we?

Tip #1: Know Your Potatoes

All potatoes contain a lot of starch. However, some varieties contain more starch than others. Potatoes can be grouped into basically three categories. And it’s this difference in starch content that categorizes potatoes into basically three types:

Starchy Potatoes

Idaho, Russet and even sweet potatoes fall into the starchy potatoes category. This category of potatoes are high in starch (and why they’re called “starchy potatoes”) and low in moisture.

Potatoes that are high in starch make for truly fluffy potatoes and are great for boiling (boiling to mash), baking, mashing and even frying. Since these potatoes are so truly fluffy, I recommend NOT using them in casseroles, potato salads, scalloped or au gratin potato dishes or for any potato dish where you want the potatoes to hold their shape.

Waxy Potatoes

Red potatoes, New potatoes and white-skinned potatoes fall into the category of waxy potatoes. These potatoes have a low starch content.

Waxy potatoes also contain a lot of water between their cells, which prevents them from absorbing too much water when cooked. As you can probably imagine, waxy potatoes hold their shape well after cooking.

I recommend using waxy potatoes for roasting, boiling (not mashing), casseroles and potato sales.

All-Purpose Potatoes

The all-purpose potatoes category includes the very popular Yukon Gold variety of potatoes. All-purpose potatoes aren’t quite as starchy as Idaho or Russet potatoes. But, they’re perfect for just about any purpose, which is why they’re considered “all purpose” potatoes.

Some people swear by Yukon Gold potatoes for making the best mashed potatoes. For me, it’s debatable. They do make for amazing mashed potatoes though.

One thing that makes the Yukon Gold potatoes so appealing (pun intended) is because they are much harder to over-mash. They also require less butter or cream to create fluffy mashed potatoes than what it takes for Russet potatoes.

Also, if you prefer to use an electric mixer or stand mixer to mash your potatoes, you just might want to consider using Yukon Gold potatoes.

Tip #2: The Right Cut

To make truly creamy mashed potatoes, you’ll want to peel and cut your potatoes. But don’t cut them into little bite sized pieces. Why?

Well, remember I told you that starchy potatoes absorb a lot of water? If you cut them into small pieces, the potatoes absorb more water because there are more pieces to absorb water and give your mashed potatoes a watery taste.

I typically cut my potatoes into fourths.

You can also cook your potatoes with the skin still on and then peel the skin off while the potatoes are still hot. Just be careful not to burn yourself. The potatoes will be very hot!

Tip #3: Use Cold Water

After you peel and quarter your potatoes, you’ll want to place them in a large pot, rinse and cover with COLD water.

If you start with hot water or place your cut potatoes into boiling water, they will cook unevenly. Which means the outsides of the potatoes will be done and kind of fall apart before the insides are even fully cooked.

Tip #4: Use Plenty of Salt

So, you’ve peeled, quarted and covered your lovely potatoes with cold water. Next, you’ll want to add salt. Remember, when potatoes cook that they absorb water. If you add salt to your water then the potatoes will also absorb salt.

Adding salt to your water also means you’ll need to add less salt later when you go to actually mash the potatoes. The addition of salt to the water also makes for more flavorful potatoes.

Don’t be afraid of the salt. Keep in mind that potatoes, as with other starchy and fatty foods, need a lot of salt for the best flavor.

Think bacon. Have you ever tried unsalted bacon? It’s REALLY lacking in flavor. On the other hand, have you tried salted bacon? Amazing flavor!

Tip #5: Simmer Until Tender

After peeling, cutting, rinsing, covering with cold water and salting your potatoes, you’ll want to cover the pot with a lid, heat over high heat just until water begins to simmer, lower the temperature and continue to simmer until potatoes are tender – typically 15 to 20 minutes.

You’ll know the potatoes are tender when you insert the tip of a knife into the middle of the potato and it goes in without resistance. If they knife meets with resistance, your potatoes aren’t quite tender. Continue simmering for a few more minutes.

Tip #6: Drain Well

After the potatoes have simmered until tender, you’ll want to carefully and gently drain the potatoes. I like to pour my potatoes into a large colander or strainer and let them sit for 2 or 3 minutes.

After well drained, return to the hot pot on the stove (burner turned off). The hot pot will continue to remove extra water from the potatoes.

Tip #7: Mash While Hot

You really will want to mash your boiled potatoes while they’re still hot. Hot potatoes absorb the fat and cream better and will fluff up much nicer than warm or cold potatoes.

Have you ever tried to fluff a cold baked potato? Then you’ll understand the concept behind whipping up really fluffy mashed potatoes by mashining while they’re still hot.

Tip #8: Use Warm Fats and Cream or Milk

The butter and sour cream that you add to your potatoes should be at room temperature. Any cream or milk that you add to your potatoes should be heated up on the stove first.

Warm fats and cream blend more easily and won’t cool down your potatoes.

Tip #9: Add Seasonings to Cream

Pour your cream or milk into a small pot over low heat on the stove. Add garlic, rosemary, thyme or other seasonings directly to your cream and bring to a simmer. Then, be sure to strain the cream before using.

Simmering the seasonings with the cream will infuse the cream with flavor. Straining the cream will help to preserve the creamy and fluffy texture of the mashed potatoes.

So, you have all the flavor without the added and unwanted texture.

Tip #10: Add Butter First

Don’t ever, ever, ever just dump cold butter (or cream, for that matter) into your potatoes. You’ll want to use butter that’s room temperature and mix into the potatoes to distribute.

Adding the butter first will help keep the texture of the potatoes firm before being softened by the cream or milk.

Tip #11: Gradually Add Cream

Add cream/milk/chicken stock or whatever liquids you prefer to use, gradually. Also, don’t forget to use warm liquids, not cold. Potatoes simply cannot absorb all the liquid at once.

So, add warm cream a little at a time. Add a little more salt. Taste. Add a little more cream. Taste. And continue stirring and gradually adding cream.

Tip #12: Mash by Hand

Have you ever made mashed potatoes that turned out gluey or gummy? Well, overmixing the potatoes is probably the most common culprit.

To obtain the creamiest, fluffiest and best texture, mix your potatoes by hand. You can use a hand potato masher or potato ricer for the best results. You can also use a fork or a gloved hand to mash your potatoes.

Just be sure to use caution so as to not burn your skin.

Supplies for Making Mashed Potatoes

Obviously, there are a few key kitchen tools you’ll want to have on hand to make creamy mashed potatoes.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes in how creamy and fluffy, not to mention amazing tasting, your mashed potatoes will turn out.

Plus, it doesn’t matter if you want to make mashed potatoes for a special occasion like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter or for a weeknight or Sunday family dinner, these tips will help you to produce fluffy and creamy mashed potatoes every time!

More Recipe Ideas

If you like this blog post featuring my top tips for making creamy mashed potatoes, you might also like these recipe ideas:

If you give these tips for creamy mashed potatoes a try, I’d love to hear about your results! And if you have any potato related questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

Til next time…

Pam Baker from The Birch Cottage

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Dorice Timmons

Thursday 21st of November 2019

I have always cut my potatoes into tiny pieces because this is the way I was taught. Thank you for teaching me differently. I'm in charge of the mashed potatoes for Turkey day this year. I will definitely follow your advice.

Pamela Baker

Sunday 1st of December 2019

Dorice, how did your mashed potatoes turn out?

Pamela Baker

Thursday 21st of November 2019

Dorice, now I feel terribly responsible for the outcome of your mashed potatoes. Actually, I hope these tips will help you! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Pam Baker The Birch Cottage

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