4 Easy Steps to the Fluffiest Mashed Potatoes Ever

Want to bring the fluffiest, creamiest, richest, and most indulgent mashed potatoes to the table? (And who doesn’t?) Here are all the tips and tricks you need to make mashed potatoes that are more than just an excuse for gravy. First we’ll show you how to cook them just right, we’ll teach you the secret trick to make sure they’re never watery, and then we’ll give you five different ways to mash them up so they come out either perfectly lump-free or a little chunky. Your ‘taters, your way.

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes | Photo by Meredith

How to Make the Best Mashed Potatoes

For this recipe, we used a blend of red and russet potatoes. This combination creates a slight texture variation. If you prefer completely smooth mashed potatoes, this method still applies, but russet or Yukon Gold potatoes–with their high starch content–are the best mashers.

We used 6 potatoes, 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup salted butter, and salt to taste.

1. Peel the potatoes, removing as many of the eyes as possible with the tip of your peeler. (If you prefer more rustic-looking mashed potatoes, keep the skin on half of them and mash them with a potato masher instead of a food mill or potato ricer.) Submerge the potatoes in a bowl of cold water to keep them from turning brown while you are chopping them. Cut the potatoes into similar-sized chunks so they will cook evenly: the cubes should be about 1½ to two inches wide.

2. Put the cut potatoes in a large pot. Use a pot large enough to hold the potatoes with enough water to cover, plus room for the water to boil up without boiling over. Add salt to the water, if desired. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low. Cover the pot and simmer until potatoes are tender–about 15 to 20 minutes. A knife tip inserted into a potato should meet no resistance; if the potato clings to the knife, the potatoes need to cook longer. When potatoes are done, remove from heat and drain immediately.

Reserve the potato water if you would like to use it in place of butter or cream when mashing, or if you plan to make a vegetable soup stock or sourdough bread.

3. Return the drained potatoes to the pot and heat over medium-high heat for about a minute to cook off any excess water. This guarantees your mashed potatoes won’t be watery. Stir gently to make sure all the potatoes dry out. The edges will start to look white and flaky, but don’t let the potatoes scorch. Meanwhile, heat the butter and cream in a small saucepan at a low temperature. (You can also use the microwave for this step.)

4. Now we get to the mashing part. For this recipe, we used a food mill to break up the potatoes and remove any lumps. (Read more about different methods for mashing potatoes, below.) Once the potatoes have been passed through the mill, drizzle half of your hot cream through and around the grate to get every last bit of potato. Gently stir in the remaining butter and cream.

At this point, taste the potatoes for seasoning and adjust to taste. Test for consistency, too: If the potatoes are too thick, add more cream. Other herbs and spices can be added at this point as well–chopped chives, Italian parsley, Parmesan cheese, crumbled bacon, roasted garlic, chopped scallions, or creamed leeks are all delicious additions.

5 Methods for Mashing Potatoes

What’s the difference between using a food mill, potato ricer, potato masher, and a handheld mixer? Jennie Phaneuf of The Messy Baker has some great insights to share. Note that for each of these methods, you’ll drain the cooked potatoes and return them to the pot to cook off any excess moisture, as described above.

Method 1: Food Mill
So, you don’t want a single clump in your mashed potatoes? Okay, I feel ya. If you’re willing to spend some extra cash and make a little room in your pantry, the food mill is where it’s at. This is my favorite way to do the mashed potato. The result transcends any other potato-mashing method. Think creamy, silky, velvety potatoes without a single lump—I just drooled a little.

These are the kind of potatoes they make at the expensive restaurants. For example, Thomas Keller makes his potatoes this way. If you want an unforgettable mashed potato experience, you’ll want to use the food mill.

The food mill is easy to use. Place the mill over a large bowl and add the cooked potatoes to the bowl of the food mill. Turn the handle until all of the potatoes are mashed. Scrape the bottom of the food mill to release any potatoes that may be sticking to the bottom of the grater. Gently stir in the warm milk mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Warning: Once you go food mill, you won’t go back. It’s true, folks. I exclusively use the food mill to prepare my mashed potatoes.

Method 2: Potato Ricer
A potato ricer looks a little like a garlic press on steroids. It works by pressing chunks of cooked potato through a grate with tiny holes to produce perfectly smooth potatoes with no lumps. Unlike a food mill, you’ll work with only one or two chunks at a time. After pressing the potatoes through the ricer, they’ll look a little like very fine noodles. To fluff them up, stir them with a spoon or whisk, then add the warm milk and butter mixture and season to taste.

Method 3: Potato Masher
The easiest and quickest way to make mashed potatoes is with a potato masher. You probably received one as a wedding present. It’s the thing in your utensil drawer that has a long handle with a zig-zag shaped head or a plate with holes attached to the end. If I’m in a hurry or want to enjoy a bowl of mashed potatoes during the week, I bust out my potato masher. You’ll have your potatoes mashed in no time. This method of mashing is also a great stress reliever—pound those potatoes into submission!

When using the potato masher, I recommend mashing the potatoes with the masher before adding any liquid. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the warm milk mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Method 4: Handheld Mixer
If you have a few extra minutes and desire a creamier, whipped mashed potato, the handheld mixer or stand mixer attached with the whisk attachment may be more your style. The beaters of the handheld mixer or whisk of the stand mixer yield a smoother, fluffier bowl of mashed potatoes.

Drain your fork-tender potatoes, cook off any excess moisture, and transfer them to a large bowl (if using a handheld mixer) or to the bowl of your stand mixer. Whip, starting on low and slowly increasing your speed to medium to prevent it from raining mashed potatoes, until you reach your desired consistency. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add the warm milk mixture until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Method 5 (emergencies only): The Stoutest Fork You Own
I’ve never had to try this, and I don’t know how effective it would be, but it would work in a pinch if you had a fierce mashed potato craving and none of the equipment listed above.

Trouble-Shooting Mashed Potatoes

Here’s how to fix the most common mashed potato problem:
How To Fix Watery Mashed Potatoes

Easy Ways To Lighten Up Mashed Potatoes

To reduce the fat content of traditional mashed potatoes, use low-fat sour cream in place of butter, and milk or broth rather than cream. Try some of these excellent spiced-up mashed potato recipes:

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