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Mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. Despite being cheap and easy to make, they are also decadent and delicious – when prepared properly.
Here are a few tips and tricks to making sure this popular side dish comes out flavorful, fluffy, and scrumptious.
1. Peel And Soak The Potatoes Beforehand
Potatoes are full of starch, which is why they’re so delicious, but also why they can become gluey after cooking.
Soaking the potatoes in cold water before cooking allows some of this starch to leach out, making it easier to avoid sticky, dense mashed potatoes.
Be sure to strain the starchy water out and use fresh water for cooking.
2. Salt The Water Used For Boiling
Salt dissolves into the water and then flavors the potatoes as they cook.
It’s much easier to get even seasoning throughout the potatoes this way – waiting to season while mashing can lead to clumps, poor distribution of seasoning, and even small, crunchy granules of salt because there’s no liquid left for them to dissolve into.
Adding a little more salt to taste to the potatoes while mashing won’t ruin them, but it’s much easier to get well-seasoned mashed potatoes by first seasoning them while they cook.
3. Put The Potatoes In The Pot With Cold Water
After, bring them to a boil. Potatoes can become overcooked easily, which leads to them becoming waterlogged.
The excess water won’t strain off when the potatoes are cooked, which can lead to runny mashed potatoes.
Putting the potatoes into a pot of already-boiling water causes the outsides of the potatoes to overcook while the insides are still finishing cooking.
4. Strain Them Out Of The Pot Quickly
Once they are fully cooked, strain them out of the pot as quickly as possible and let them sit in the strainer for a few minutes to let the excess water slowly drip out.
The best mashed potatoes are light, creamy, and fluffy, and to achieve this, most of the liquid needs to go.
Too much water left in the potatoes leads to runny potatoes and unfortunately, there’s really no saving them once there’s too much liquid.
5. Use Butter And Cream
Many mashed potato recipes call for butter and milk because most people have them on hand, but the more fat used, the more delicious they’ll be.
Half and half and heavy cream are ideal, but full-fat milk does work a pinch.
The key is to use just a small amount of cream or milk, but a lot of butter. Using too much milk or cream can also cause runny potatoes, which is not fixable.
Using too much butter will make very thick potatoes, which can be fixed by adding a small amount of liquid.
6. Use A Masher
Whipping potatoes with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer will indeed make mashed potatoes, but the risk of over-mixing is much higher.
Using a masher gives the cook more control over how much the potatoes are mixed. The goal is uniform consistency and no or few lumps without over-mixing, which can cause the starches in the potatoes to clump together, leading to gluey potatoes.
Soaking them beforehand makes it easier to avoid this, but it’s not possible to remove all the starch and therefore still possible to over-mix them.
7. When In Doubt, Stop Mashing
If the mashed potatoes still have lumps, it’s more likely that the insides were under-cooked than that the potatoes were not mashed enough.
Unless there are adjustments to be made to the amount of liquid (milk, cream, or half and half) or salt, it’s better to stop mashing and avoid making an unfixable, gluey mess.
Delicious, decadent mashed potatoes are easily achievable for cooks of any skill level.
Being careful about the cooking process and understanding how potatoes cook can make a measurable impact on the quality of the finished mashed potatoes.
The tips above will help any cook make this comforting side dish as scrumptious as possible.