How to Make Perfect, Best-Ever, Excellent Mashed Potatoes

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Riced-PotatoesWhat you’re looking at are riced russet potatoes (not actually rice). It’s a step before whuupin’ em with butter and milk to make mmmm mashed potatoes. While volunteering this week at Project Angel Food, we prepped 250 lbs. of potatoes for Chef Adrian. Then, they were cooked in a humongous brazier, mashed in a monstrous Hobart, portioned, packed and delivered by loving volunteers to 1300 homebound, terminally ill clients. That’s a lot of prep, and I was hankerin’ for mashed potatoes once home.

Holiday time, spuds will be smashed. I follow Shirley Corriher’s advice, having collected several clips of her comments on the subject. You know about Shirley, right? You see her popping up around Alton Brown on his show, but I hope you realize, Shirley is THE rock star food scientist. She knows everything, such as the following:

SHIRLEY CORRIHER, author of Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking — “Everybody waits to do the mashed potatoes last,” says Shirley Corriher.  The reasoning: if you do them last, they won’t have time to cool off.  But once you get through all that stirring, they’re never really hot.” Think about it: You’re stirring all that nice, cool kitchen air into the mashed potatoes.  “The big secret is to do them ahead,” Corriher says. “I make them a bit juicier than I finally want them to be.” Then reheat them in the oven for 40 minutes at 325 degrees. “If you heat them,” Corriher says, “they will stay piping hot during the whole meal.”

Most experts use a ricer (Patti does) for the lightest, fluffiest, smoothest mashed potatoes. The hand-held device works like a garlic press, pushing the potatoes through holes small enough to break up the lumps but not so fine the potatoes become a gummy mess.

Absolutely DO NOT USE A FOOD PROCESSOR, Corriher says. It breaks up the granules and releases massive amounts of starch, turning your dish into wallpaper paste.

You can also produce perfectly good mashed potatoes with a hand-held mixer, a manual masher or a food mill. Avoid overbeating. Besides, some people consider lumps a sign of authenticity.

Taste for salt before serving. White pepper adds kick without the distraction of black specks.

PATTI’S METHOD IS SIMPLE: plan for 1/2 large russet potato per person. Peel potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks, place in deep pot and add water to an inch above the potatoes. Salt generously, bring water to a boil, reduce heat slightly but still have them boiling. When fork-tender, drain, then use a ricer or masher, smash with generous quantities of butter and milk until blended. Make them a little WETTER than you want at serving time. Then cover and place in a warm oven or warming drawer until serving time.

Have a link to a great mashed potato recipe, like these?  Send via comment and I’ll add to the list:

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Patrick November 26, 2013 at 5:02 pm

You left out the most important detail of Shirley’s technique: you need to cool the cooked potatoes completely before ricing, which will crystallize the starch molecules and prevent the potatoes from becoming gluey. Her method: When you are draining the boiled potatoes, rinse them in cold water. Add some ice to the pot and let the potatoes stand in the water to cool.

2 Don Odiorne May 31, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Here is a great list of all kinds of toppings to do a mashed potato bar event. Works perfect for catering events, especially wedding receptions when the potatoes are served in a champagne or martini glass:

3 Laura Hodges February 4, 2010 at 11:25 am

Brenda, a Hobart is a giant Kitchen Aid mixer. Better to rice your potatoes though, or they will get all gummy and icky! My husband likes lumps so I use an old fashioned masher, and always use real butter and cream. I call them my “Heart Attack Mashers”. They are divine!

Patti, love your site! I found you through Denise’s blog, and I’m so glad I did! I was a personal chef for 10 years, but when the economy came crashing down, I had to give up my life of cooking professionally to one of leisure, as I had to get a “real” job as some of my friends put it. Good luck to you!

4 Brenda Gilbert January 2, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I am always looking for ways to improve my most basic of culinary skills but living in Australia the only Hobart I’ve heard of is the capital city of the state of Tasmania!
What is a Hobart in the cooking world?
Patti comments: it’s a monster-sized commercial stand mixer. So sorry for the confusion!

5 Kelly November 23, 2009 at 1:49 am

I haven’t gotten a ricer yet, but now I really want one. For some reason I keep getting tempted by other gadgets that are sexier but probably less useful.

6 Daily Spud November 22, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Shirley Corriher knows her stuff and no mistake! I posted fairly recently on the whole topic of mash, with my latest variation of same, using browned butter:

7 Yoga Jen November 22, 2009 at 5:56 pm

We make our mash ahead of time, and put it in the crock pot on low or warm. No last minute rush to mash and no cold taters!
Shirley rocks, but I love my fearless leader Patti!!

8 Lisa Lyons November 20, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Ah, memories of the giant vat of mashies with Molly McButter at the Skid Row holiday meal! Luckily this recipe is much easier. Have a great one!

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