5 Tips for Perfect Classic, Fluffy Mashed Potatoes
From Sautéed Leek Mashed Potatoes to Cheddar, Scallion & Bacon Mashed Potatoes (pictured above), mashed potatoes are the perfect side dish for almost any meal. But making mashed potatoes isn't the easiest task, and sometimes you're left with potatoes that aren't quite right (learn how to avoid common mashed potato mistakes). Luckily, we're here to help with these five tips for making fluffy mashed potatoes without fail (and get step-by-step instructions for how to make mashed potatoes here).
5 Tips for Fluffy Mashed Potatoes
Tip #1: Pick the Right Potato
There are plenty of different kinds of potatoes out there, but all fall into three categories: waxy, starchy and all-purpose. When you're talking mashed potatoes, Yukon Gold is best. They have less starch than a "floury" potato (like russets), but more than a "waxy" potato (like a red potato). Not enough starch and your mashed potatoes will be dry; too much, and they'll be gummy. You can also try sweet potatoes for a twist on this classic.
Tip #2: Cook Potatoes Using the Right Method
Start them cold: Add potatoes to cold water and bring to a boil. The potatoes cook more evenly than if you add them to water that's already boiling. Make sure that your potatoes are cut into equal sizes, since big pieces and small pieces cook at different rates.
Tip #3: Don't Overcook or Undercook the Potatoes
Cooking the potatoes just right is key. If they're undercooked, you'll have pockets of crispy potato chunks-—a big no-no for classic fluffy mashed potatoes. If you overcook them they disintegrate and your potatoes will be soupy. The specific cooking time depends on the size of your potato: a perfectly cooked piece of potato should give no resistance when cut with a knife, but shouldn't crumble into a million pieces.
Tip #4: Don't Overmix the Potatoes
Even if you've picked the right potatoes, overmixing mashed potatoes can lead to a stiff, chewy texture. Keep them fluffy by mashing them through a ricer for smooth potatoes or using a hand-held masher for chunkier potatoes. This limits the amount that the potatoes are processed so the starches stay intact. If they're overwhipped, the starches break down further and give you a sticky result.
Tip #5: Serve Them Hot
Mashed potatoes lose their luster as they sit. Try to serve them right away after finishing them. To keep mashed potatoes warm until you're ready to serve, transfer to a slow cooker, cover and keep on the "warm" setting for up to 2 hours. If you make them ahead and want to reheat them, do so slowly with the help of a double boiler. This way, they won't burn if they come in contact with the bottom of a saucepan on the stove. And since you won't be worried about burning, you can stir them less, which will prevent them from becoming gummy.