Mashed Potatoes – Getting Them Right

November 16, 2006 18 Comments

Mashed Potatoes - Getting Them Right

I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking if I have a recipe or technique for preparing mashed potatoes the morning of or even the day before Thanksgiving. My answer is no. There are recipes out there for precooking mashed potatoes but I don’t agree with any of them.

It’s my opinion; mashed potatoes are one of the most important elements of Thanksgiving dinner especially since they are the conduit for turkey gravy and how I love turkey gravy. To not cook, mash and serve right away is a bad idea and one I don’t subscribe to trying at your own holiday dinner.

But because there are some of you who don’t have a choice, will be pressed for time and must cook your potatoes before the rest of the meal, you may want to check out Shirley O. Corriher’s recipe for Two-Step Mashed Potatoes from her cookbook CookWise. I have not tried her recipe but CookWise is a great cookbook and it has been well received over the years.

If you are interested in making your mashed potatoes with the rest of your turkey dinner and mash them just before serving, I just updated my Mashed Potato recipe to describe four important aspects to making great mashed potatoes. In the recipe I talk about

  • What type of potato you to use?
  • How you cook them so they are not starchy?
  • How you mash them for different textures?
  • What you can add to them?

It’s my belief how you like your mashed potatoes depends on what you were served as a kid and the four topics above will allow you to recreate any style of mashed potatoes you like. Whether you like them smooth and creamy, textured or fluffy, the answer is in these four questions.

At the end of the Mashed Potato recipe there are a few of the many responses I’ve received from other home cooks over the years describing ways they like to prepare their own mashed potatoes. I welcome you to describe some of your own secrets to great mashed potatoes in the comment section below.

I look forward to reading your comments.

Last modified on Wed 16 July 2014 9:20 am

Comments (18)

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  1. Sherrie says:

    I peel and cook potatos chopped until done. Drain completely, mash with potato masher and add butter and black pepper and a “little” salt. I make sure not to oversalt. Add milk and keep mixing until the consistency you like. Don’t over mix or you’ll have glue….lol

  2. Jan says:

    “It’s my belief how you like your mashed potatoes depends on what you were served as a kid”

    I’m not so sure about that. Mom always made lump free, creamy classic mashed potatoes with butter, cream, salt and pepper. I tend to like them to match my mood on the day I’m making them.

    I like potato varieties with thin skin…new potatoes or red potatoes.

    My basic method is to cut the potatoes in large chunks and bake them with the skins. Sometimes I take the skins off, but usually not. Then I put them in a pyrex bowl to hold the heat and break them up gently with a fork. I add a pinch of salt, and grind in lots of pepper, then add butter and toss. The last thing is stirring in half and half. By this addition enough of the potatoes have crumbled to make a binding ageant for the larger pieces. You get the best of both worlds…some creamy potato cllinging on larger pieces which convey the ‘potato’ taste.

    As for additions, sometimes I like roasted garlic, sometimes snipped chives, or maybe a little of the pan drippings from the main course.

  3. Doug says:

    I always add a parsnip or a rutabaga to the boiling salted water, giving it a head start before adding the potatoes. (About 5-7% of the total quantity.)
    I like the high starch Idaho russet, being careful not to over-cook them.
    After draining, I crush everything before adding the whole milk. (I never use cream or butter. It takes away from the potato flavor.) After I add the milk, I let it stand a minute or so before mashing. I like textured, less moist potatoes. Some might even call them ‘lumpy’. Sometime I will add freshly ground white pepper and/or roasted garlic to my concoction.

  4. Erin says:

    I peel and cut up the potatoes either the night before or the morning of Thanksgiving. I put them in kettle along with a couple peeled cloves of garlic and then sprinkle a little salt and cover them in cold water and keep them in the fridge until I need them. I like to do things like this ahead of time so it cuts down my time in the kitchen later on.
    When I’m ready to cook them, I just boil them on the stove. When they’re done, I add a little milk or half & half and some butter, a little bit more salt and some pepper and whip them with an electric mixer – including the garlic cloves. They whip up fast and turn out really creamy and lump free!

  5. Peter says:

    Although I am an Australian and do not celebrate Thanksgiving here is how I prepare my mashed potatoes the majority of the time. First, peel and chop the potatoes, I prefer a nice and starchy variety. Boil the potatoes with a number of unpeeled garlic cloves – the greater the number of potatoes the more garlic – typically I would do four cloves for a three person serving. Once the potatoes are done I initially mash them with a masher and squeeze the garlic out of its skin into the mashed potato. At this point add a good portion of sea salt, a nice grind of pepper and whip the potatoes with a whisk whilst adding cream. Add cream according to the texture you would like the mash to be.

  6. Larry Wilson says:

    If you are making mashed potatoes and you don’t smell the electric motor from your vintage Hamilton Beach stand mixer, then you’re not making REAL mashed potatoes. Don’t know why that smell is such an integral part of the recipe !!

  7. Maria Kuhn says:

    I use the golden potatoes. Peel, cut in cubes or any other shape, sometimes during the day and keep them covered in cold water until it’s time to cook them. Drain, then add butter and start mashing with a regular potato masher, add milk until desired consitency. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve as soon as possible. My family likes mashed potatoes slightly lumpy. A good gravy with mashed potatoes will do the rest.

  8. Judi says:

    How many pounds of potatoes do I need for 15 people?

  9. Carol says:

    I just have a question regarding quantity. I’m cooking for 16, how many pounds of potatoes should I need to make mashed potatoes? I’m hoping you can give me an answer, I can’t seem to find on line, I guess I don’t know the right place to look!


  10. RG says:

    Hi Carol,
    I am asked this question all the time and it really depends on who the 16 people are and what kind of eaters they are.

    Kids are not going to eat as much as adults and then you have your big eaters who are going to eat a lot more than your smaller eaters. Then you might have someone in the bunch who doesn’t eat any carbs.

    The ratio I hear the most is 1 potato per person but then this depends on what kind of potato you are using. I think that ratio assumes you are using large baking type potatoes because clearly a small red potato is not enough for one person.

    So once you know what type of potato you are going to use, think about how many of them each of the 16 could eat and you have your answer.

    I would add a few extra just in case someone suprises you and eats more than you calculated.

    Hope this helps.


  11. Sandy-LA 90034 says:

    We had a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner with family coming in from Hawaii and Northern California. My sister-in-law, who is a GREAT cook, admires simplicity as well as taste. She made the best mashed potatoes using instant mashed potatoes purchased at Costco. (I know – this is a food blog and you go for authenticity – but sometimes it’s easier to use a convenience food such as the Costco frozen ravioli you mention in another blog entry).

    The Brand she used:

    Paradise Valley 100% Pure and Simple All Natural Creamy Mashed Potatoes. One package makes 6 – 2/3 cup servings. They use: “Russet Potatoes, Butter and Salt. Period. No chemical additives. (A portion of the potato peel remains in for additional homemade flavor.)”

    Their guarantee: “We guarantee these mashed potatoes taste as good as any you have ever tasted or we will give you your money back.”

    Hope this doesn’t get me booted off the blog comments! It was truly delicious.

  12. Kathleen says:

    While I missed putting my 2¢ in at Thanksgiving time, I’m not too late to comment, cause Christmas dinner is just around the corner.

    I make my mashed/whipped potatoes on the spot, never ahead. I love Michigan red potatoes, but for company, I use Idahos. I peel and boil my taters, then drain. As a native Detroiter, I use my electric hand mixer (we like things with motors) and add butter and milk. No salt or seasonings. My husband is a farm boy from Williamston, MI and likes the old manual potato masher and occasionally makes them that way for us. One Thanksgiving dinner my husband’s sister watched me whip my potatoes with my electric hand mixer and exclaimed, “Look at her!” She’s an old farmwife who likes inconvenience! Hey, I prefer my taters whipped, not mashed just as James Bond likes his martinis shaken, not stirred.

    I have also sometimes added Wiley’s brand packaged Jalapeño & Cream Cheese Mashed Potato Seasoning and it is the best! Wiley’s makes other tasty mashed potato seasonings that are very good. Now I’m hungry!

  13. Al Ewaldt says:

    I too use a variety of popatoes depending on my mood. All of the previous recipes work my only comment is I let the salt and pepper be added by my family and guests.

  14. JAN says:


  15. Pat says:

    HI ya’ll. I’m from NC & want to know where I can purchase Paradise Valley All Natural Mash Potatoes. Cosco has discontinued them to my sorrow. They are as good as any potatoes even my southern granma made. Help!!!!!

  16. Jay says:

    I was in Costco in Mpls,. and they had pallets full of Paridise Valley. SO perhaps check again.

  17. Debbie says:

    Costco no longer carries the Paradise Valley mashed potatoes. I am so very disappointed!
    I purchased the new Idaho Potatoes Costco carries, and have tried them a few times. The flavor is just ‘okay.’ Now I don’t know what to do with the rest of them.

  18. sandra says:

    Does any body know where to contact the company for, paradise valley potatoes ? Where are these people ? Help !

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