There are a few tips to making the best tasting mashed potatoes ever, and it starts even before you start peeling the potatoes…
Choose the right potato for the right recipe.
Potatoes consist mainly of starch and water. The amount of starch in a potato can range from 16-22%, with a lower starch content meaning that the potato will be firm, and waxy in texture while those with a a higher content are drier and fluffier.
High-starch potatoes (eg. Russet) – once cooked these potatoes are light and fluffy with a crumbly and mealy texture. Best for baking, mashing, frying because all those starch molecules burst once cooked meaning they are readily available to absorb liquids (like adding butter and milk for mashed potatoes). So because of their ability to readily absorb water, when boiled these types of potatoes will be quite mushy and fall apart. So best not to use for dishes like potato salad.
Medium-starch potatoes (eg. yellow, white, Yukon Gold) – these potatoes can be used as an ‘all-purpose’ potato if you cannot eat high starch potatoes due to dietary restrictions, although they will still lose their shape a bit when boiled. Best for cutting into chunks and roasting or making into a gratin.
Low-starch potatoes (red, fingerlings) – firm, waxy texture. Best for boiling as will hold their shape. Because they won’t absorb liquid as easily, using them for mashed potatoes isn’t ideal since they won’t mash up as smoothly and will be quite dense in texture. Great for cold potato dishes like potato salad.
Most people bring the water to a boil then add in the peeled potatoes. Right? Wrong.
By placing the (peeled and cubed) potatoes in cold (and salted) water and bringing them to a boil, this will allow the potatoes to uniformly cook at the same rate, because their interior temperature will increase at the same rate as their exterior. Preventing the potatoes exterior from getting overcooked and turning mushy. This boiling method will give the potatoes and overall better and consistent texture and throughout.
Add flavoring ingredients in proper order.
To prevent the potatoes from getting a gummy texture, after you have roughly mashed them (using a hand masher or ricer), do not add in any liquid (like milk/cream or stock) until after you have mixed the melted butter/margarine into the potatoes first.
If the milk is mixed into the potatoes first, it will bind with the starch molecules and create a gummy texture. But by first mixing the potatoes with the melted fat, it will coat the starch molecules thereby preventing the liquid from coming into contact with the starch.
Final (and most important) seasoning.
Yes salt is important, however you will actually use less salt and butter overall for flavoring if you add in just 1-2 teaspoons of prepared horseradish.
It adds a ton of flavor, and you won’t be able to taste horseradish at all – if you can you’ve added too much.
Another flavor option is some Greek Yogurt – the tanginess balances the richness of the butter perfectly!
Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- 2 ¼ lb Russet or Yukon gold potatoes peeled, quartered
- 2 tsp salt divided
- 2-4 Tbsp butter or margarine melted
- 2/3 cup milk or milk alternative warmed
- 2 tsp prepared horseradish sauce
- ¼ tsp pepper
- Place potatoes in a large pot of cold water with 1 tsp salt. Cover and bring to a boil. This will allow the potatoes interior and exterior to cook at the same rate, prevent mushy exteriors.
- Once tender, drain and place back in pot. Keep heat on to evaporate any excess water for about 1 minute.
- Roughly mash potatoes, then pour in melted butter and mash until butter is well distributed. The butter will coat the starch molecules, so when the liquid is eventually added it won’t turn the potatoes gummy – this will keep them fluffier.
- Add in remaining ingredients and continue mashing to desired consistency. Season to taste with remaining salt as needed.