9 Tips for Perfect Mashed Potatoes

9 Tips for Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Graphic: Elena Scotti,Photo: Getty Images,Photo: Shutterstock

I take mashed potatoes very seriously, and I can’t imagine Thanksgiving without them. Over the years, I have developed several methods — “hacks,” if you will — for making the creamiest, dreamiest, most flavorful mashers around, and I’d like to share them with you, friend (because it’s my job).

Use two types of potatoes

There are a lot of good tips in the video you see above, but my favourite is using two types of potatoes for my mash. I like combining a fluffy Russet with a waxy Yukon, ricing only the Yukon and mashing the other spud by hand. This gives you the best of both worlds: the potatoes are creamy and luscious (thanks to the Yukons), but also fluffy (thanks to the Russets). To keep your potatoes separate while they cook — without using two pots — use a small sheet pan as a divider.

Dry ‘em out a bit

Photo: Joe Gough, Shutterstock Photo: Joe Gough, Shutterstock

Once your potatoes are cooked, but before you add or mash anything, let them have a moment in the hot pot so the excess water can evaporate. This keeps them from being watery and readies them to accept cream or other dairy into their being.

Infuse the dairy

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Herb-flavored potatoes are great, but potatoes with discernible bits or raw herb that get stuck in your teeth are less great (unless those green bits are fried; fried herbs rule). If a smooth but flavorful mash is your priority, your best course of action is gently heat your favourite herbs in your milk (or buttermilk) to infuse it with flavour before adding it to the mash.

Add mayonnaise

Photo: Billion Photos, Shutterstock Photo: Billion Photos, Shutterstock

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least 11 times, but adding mayo to your mash is my number-one potato hack. You don’t need a lot — just a couple of tablespoons. The mayo doesn’t add any flavour, but it acts as an emulsifier, marrying moisture and fat for the creamiest, most luscious bowl of mashed potatoes you’ve ever eaten.

Add MSG

Photo: suriya yapin, Shutterstock Photo: suriya yapin, Shutterstock

Just a tiny bit of monosodium glutamate adds a pure hit of savoury goodness that just makes things taste better. Use a light hand however — you want it to enhance, not distract. Too much MSG can overpower other flavours (and your palate), so add small pinches until you reach your desired level of umami.

Add a whole lot of jarred onion dip

Just make sure you get a jar that didn't expire in 2016 (Photo: Keith Homan, Shutterstock) Just make sure you get a jar that didn't expire in 2016 (Photo: Keith Homan, Shutterstock)

Listen to me and listen good: I am not talking about homemade onion dip. I am talking about a room-temperature jar of the beige, kind of jiggly stuff (1/2 a cup of dip for every 1 kg of potatoes and 1/2 cup of butter works best). Like mayo, store-bought onion dip is a great emulsifier but, unlike mayo, it brings flavour — creamy, savoury, oniony flavour. Somehow, though, the dip manages to be subtle. No one will taste these potatoes and shout “Hey, you put onion dip in these!” They will take a bite, pause, and ask for your secret ingredient. But you’ll never tell.

Never use a food processor

Photo: Dar1930, Shutterstock Photo: Dar1930, Shutterstock

Fast moving blades are the death of the mash, as they obliterate the starch molecules, turning your mash into a pile of glue-like glop. If you crave smooth taters with no lumps, use a ricer.

Mash some roasted garlic in there

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

I’m a big fan of roasted garlic at the Thanksgiving table. I like giving everyone their own little head to spread on their rolls or smear on their turkey, but I also like to take the initiative and smash a whole bunch into the potatoes. Unlike raw garlic (which you should never add to your mash), or even sautéed garlic, roasted garlic melts right into the spuds, spreading its deeply sweet flavour throughout the mash.

Top with crunchy bits

Photo: MAHATHIR MOHD YASIN, Shutterstock Photo: MAHATHIR MOHD YASIN, Shutterstock

Nothing “finishes” a dish quite like crunchy stuff, and there is no reason green beans should have all the fun. Thanksgiving is a meal that can always benefit from more textural contrast, and topping your mash with garlic chips, fried turkey skin, bacon fat sage leaves, or even French’s fried onions will make that contrast stand out. Plus, it just looks fancier. And we deserve to be a little fancy.

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