If turkey is the star of the Thanksgiving meal, mashed potatoes are its best accessory.

There’s nothing simpler than a potato, boiled and mashed with cream, butter, salt and pepper.

Once you have the basics down, have fun with adding rosemary, Parmesan cheese, garlic, green onions or enhancements.

Making good mashed potatoes is a sign you’ve mastered adulthood. If you can make creamy potatoes, you’ll forever be set when asked to bring a side dish. Or when the pantry is looking a little bare, if you have a few potatoes, you’re close to having a feast.

That said, there is such a thing as bad mashed potatoes. Both at home and at some restaurants, we’ve all tasted mashed potatoes that were either gummy or lumpy or dry or bland. We’re sharing a few tips to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Plus, a recipe for traditional mashed potatoes that will be welcome at Thanksgiving or as a super star side with roast chicken, grilled salmon and a million other things this fall.

Potato pointers

Yukon gold potatoes are a favorite for mashed potatoes. The creamy texture and smooth flavor are preferred over red potatoes. A basic russet potato also is good.

When boiling potatoes, be sure to cover them completely with water to keep them from drying out. And boil gently rather than a full, rapid boil.

Warm your liquids, whether it be milk or cream or broth, before adding to the potatoes. Cold liquids will require you to mix longer, which can create overly starchy and glue-like potatoes.

Mashed potatoes aren’t as great when microwaved. They’re really best the day they’re made. But if it’s not possible to make them just before serving, look for a good recipe for make-ahead potatoes or potatoes that stay warm in a slow cooker.

Let this be your go-to recipe for the best mashed potatoes. But feel free to add other flavors that appeal to you.

Classic Mashed Potatoes

Serves 6

2 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes

½ cup warm whole milk or heavy cream

¼ cup butter, cubed

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

Peel potatoes, and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, adding water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook (uncovered) until tender. This usually takes about 20-25 minutes.

Drain potatoes, then combine them with warm milk, butter, salt and pepper. Mash using a potato masher or ricer until light and fluffy. If you don’t have a potato masher, use an electric mixer; be sure to blend just until combined so that potatoes don’t become gummy and overmixed. 

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