If you know me, then you know potatoes are one of my main food groups. When we were tasked with making Thanksgiving dinner for all of our loved ones, I knew I had to deliver when it came to the side dishes. These potatoes are your perfect light and fluffy, flavorful, classic mashed potatoes. Whether you’re panicking about bringing a side dish to your Friendsgiving or you’re making dinner and craving comfort food, these are a wonderful addition to the table.
Making mashed potatoes is fairly simple. There are different variations, but this is our personal favorite when it comes to classic mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes aren’t something that requires a ‘recipe’ in my book. I consulted my grandma and mom to make sure I was sticking to family tradition, but once you have the basic steps down it isn’t very difficult. I’ve talked to quiet a few frantic friends that aren’t sure where to start for their Thanksgiving dinner and want to avoid making overly seasoned, too thick, bland, runny, gummy, or just downright bad mashed potatoes.
As a potato connoisseur, I’ve tried my fair share of bad potatoes. It has a lot to do with the consistency. You want your potatoes to be light and fluffy. If they are too runny they are a spoonful of mush. If they are too thick, they’re like eating concrete. Start slow when combining your ingredients and let the potatoes be the star. You can always add more seasoning, milk, or butter, but you can’t take it away once you’ve stirred it in.
Here are some of the techniques and helpful tricks that are crucial to making the best mashed potatoes.
Tips + Techniques
Choose Your Potatoes Wisely
This really is one of the most important steps when it comes to making mashed potatoes. I always use Russet potatoes. These are my personal favorite and the only kind of potatoes I want to see when it comes to mashed potatoes. Different types of potatoes will bring different flavors and textures when you mash them. If you must, you can use Yukon Gold potatoes as well. I know quiet a few people that like combining Russets and Yukon Golds. In my experience, using Russet potatoes yields a light, fluffy consistency with a nice texture.
Avoid using red potatoes and fingerling potatoes. Fingerling potatoes do not work for mashed potatoes. Red potatoes will create a thick, chunky mash.
While preparing mashed potatoes, I recommend peeling the potato skins so just the flesh is left. If you like your mashed potatoes with the skin included, you can leave them on during your cook. This is a question of personal preference. We like this potato peeler!
After washing and peeling your potatoes, cut your potatoes in half or quarter them. This helps the potatoes cook more quickly. Add them to your pot with some water. You want the potatoes to be mostly submerged. I typically use 1 gallon of water in a large stock pot. Cover the pot with a lid and boil the potatoes until they are firm, but fork tender. If you poke them with a knife, you want the knife to almost cut through the potato. Typically it takes about 15-20 minutes for your potatoes to be cooked to the correct softness. It can take longer depending on how many potatoes you’re boiling and how thick your halves are. You do not want your potatoes to be falling apart and disintegrating in your pot. When you get mushy potatoes, you know you’ve cooked them too long.
Drain the water from your stock pot. It’s easy to do this by dumping your potatoes into a strainer. Return the potatoes to the pot and let sit for a few minutes. This helps the potatoes dry out some before adding your milk and butter. We always hand mash our potatoes for a better consistency. We like this potato masher!
What should your potatoes look like?
You want to choose potatoes that are firm without sprouts. If you cut into a potato and you see that there is green inside, don’t use this part. Your potatoes will come out with a much better texture and consistency if you use good potatoes. If you buy a bag of potatoes, do yourself a favor and check to make sure you’re not buying ones that have gone bad. There’s nothing worse than a rotting potato in your house! Stinky.
How long do I mash them for?
You want your potatoes to be pillowy and light. If you over mash or mix, they will become gummy. To avoid this, we always use a hand masher to smash our potatoes. While you can use a hand mixer, it’s easy to over mix. We like to taste as we go while mashing; once you see the consistency you like, stop mashing! It’s easy to check how the consistency is but scooping a forkful of potatoes out. If it’s too chunk, you may need to mash more or add more butter.
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Serves 6-10. Allow 45 minutes for preparation and cooking.
- 5 lbs of Russet Potatoes (peeled or skin on and halved / quartered)
- 8 tbsp (one stick) of butter, more for dotting
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup milk or cream (we normally use milk)
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
Optional Ingredients For A Spin On Perfect Mashed Potatoes:
- 1/2 cup of sour cream
- 1- 2 cloves of minced garlic or a sprinkle of garlic powder
- Chives or thyme if you like herby mashed potatoes
- 1 tsp Chicken Bouillon
- If desired, peel your potatoes. Halve or quarter your potatoes.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, add 2 tsp of salt
- Add potatoes to boiling water and cook until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes
- Drain water from your potatoes
- Return your potatoes to the pot and cover with lid ** This is important for letting your potatoes dry out some ** We usually let them sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Add butter to warm potatoes and let butter begin to melt. You can warm in microwave first if you’d prefer.
- Begin to mash your potatoes with a potato masher or hand mixer (we always use a masher — we like the texture better!)
- Slowly beat in your milk or cream until your potatoes become smooth, creamy, and pillowy
- Season with salt and pepper to taste
- * If you are adding sour cream, garlic, bouillon, or herbs, mash in with your potatoes until combined*
- Serve warm and enjoy