Homemade mashed potatoes prepared with ease using this simple step-by-step guide. Russet potatoes make for fluffy and creamy spuds. Grab a spoon quick because this side dish will disappear in seconds!
One of the shining stars of a holiday table is mashed potatoes, which means it’s a dish that is very important to get right. It’s time to master the simple, yet essential techniques to nail the sought out light, fluffy and creamy bowl of spuds. The starchy root vegetable needs to be prepared in a particular sequence to prevent gummy and thick potatoes. Are you ready?
The process seems pretty straightforward, right? The instructions are literally in the name, ha! However, there is a lot of science to make the perfect silky smooth recipe if that’s the texture you are going for. I know that’s how I like it! It’s important to select the right variety, in this case, Russet potatoes are the top choice.
Each step has a purpose, and I’m going to show you how and why this is the method to follow from now on. This guide will give you the confidence to make foolproof homemade mashed potatoes every time!
Peel, Cut, and Wash
The key to fluffy potatoes is controlling the amount of starch in the final dish. Potato starch molecules swell, thicken, and become sticky in the presence of hot liquids. To regulate the level of starch released and cooked, the skin is removed and cut into 1-inch pieces.
The size of the potatoes allows greater surface area to cook efficiently and soften the pectin in the cells walls. The spuds are rinsed twice, once before cooking with cold water and then after cooking with hot water. This allows excess starch to be removed to ensure the fluffiness factor.
To mash the potatoes, pressing the cooked pieces through a wide fine-meshed strainer or food mill is a more gentle process to reduce starch release from rough shearing of the potatoes cell structure. The small individual holes in the mill also separate the potato particles, so they do not become dense and heavy.
To ensure the potato mixture stays light, room temperature butter is folded into the potatoes before adding the milk. This allows the fat to coat the starch granules, hindering the interaction of water in the milk with the starches. That way, the fat compounds bind directly with the starch in the potatoes, creating a silky texture that would have ended up gluey had you allowed the water in your dairy or broth to combine with the potatoes first.
I’ve tried many different recipes with varying amounts of butter. After numerous taste tests, I was able to find a sweet spot to minimize the amount of butter so that the texture would be creamy, but not feel heavy or too rich. Just two tablespoon for 2 pounds of potatoes, not bad! Of course, more butter can be melted on top to your liking.
The warmed milk is slowly folded into the potatoes, creating a silky and airy puree. You want to gradually incorporate the milk into a small saucepan so that the starches have time to absorb the liquid and not become dense.
A tip for those who are dairy-free: there are a few good ways to make creamy mashed potatoes without butter and milk. For those who just don’t want to use milk, using butter alone will do the trick. For those who can’t have any dairy, chicken broth adds depth, flavor, and salt without having to dip into any milk products.
And if anyone would like mashed potatoes without animal products, extra virgin olive oil or nut milk and creams will give you the fat and moisture you require.
This light and fluffy potato side dish is always a crowd pleaser, especially for celebrations or just to accompany a weekly baked chicken meal. Is this how you would typically make your mashed potatoes? I would love to hear your method, or how you like this one in the comments section!
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If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #jessicagavin on Instagram. I’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, friends!
How to Choose the Right Potatoes
It’s always difficult knowing how to choose the right kind of potatoes for different dishes. To make mashed potatoes light in texture, Russet potatoes are used. This variety has a high starch content and mealy texture, perfect for that whipped texture. Once cooked, the starches readily absorb the milk to create a smooth puree, yet does not become dense as long as you follow the procedure in this recipe.
Homemade Mashed Potatoes
- 8 cups water, (2 quarts)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, (12g) divided
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, (908g)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, (30g) cut into 2 slices, room temperature
- 1/2 cup whole milk, (120ml)
- black pepper, as needed for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives, (4g)
- In a large pot add 2 quarts (8 cups) of water and 1 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil.
- Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Add potatoes to a bowl and rinse under cool water, removing the starchy water until the water is clear about two to three additional times. Drain potatoes and add to the boiling water.
- Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander and rinse the potatoes with hot water to remove any residual potato starches, 30 seconds.
- Set a food mill, ricer, or fine mesh strainer over the pot used to cook the potatoes and pass the potatoes through into the pot.
- Add butter and gently fold into the potatoes.
- Microwave the milk for 45 seconds until warmed, about 120ºF (49ºC).
- Whisk together the milk and ½ teaspoon salt.
- Gradually fold into potatoes in three additions, until the milk is absorbed. If needed rewarm the potatoes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Taste the potatoes and season with salt and pepper as desired.
- Garnish with black pepper and chives.
- Butter can be substituted with vegan butter or olive oil, however, will change the flavor of the mashed potatoes.
- Non-dairy milk like cashew, almond, coconut or soy can be substituted for dairy milk. The flavor will differ slightly and may not be as creamy.
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