6 Common Mashed Potato Mistakes and How to Fix Them

There's nothing worse than gluey, lumpy or bland mashed potatoes. To keep your spuds from turning out subpar, follow these easy fixes for frequently made mistakes.

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Spud-Saving Secrets

Pillow-white, creamy and smooth — mashed potatoes are impossible not to love. A steaming spoonful will seduce even the pickiest eater to the table and can turn a plain piece of meat into a meal. But for something so simple, they're surprisingly nuanced. Here are easy repairs for frequently made mistake.

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The Mistake: Using the Wrong Kind of Potato

Thick-skinned varieties like russets will give you the fluffiest results. Steer clear of waxy red-skinned potatoes, which turn gluey when mashed. If it’s too late to make the swap, change course and roast the potatoes tossed with oil, garlic and some fresh rosemary if you have it, instead of boiling them.  

The Mistake: Cutting Potatoes into Too-Small Pieces

They'll absorb too much water during cooking, preventing them from soaking up all the yummy butter and cream when it comes time for mashing. The best-size chunks for boiling: about 1 1/2 inches. If you've gone too small, keep a close eye on the pot so they don't overcook and become waterlogged.

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The Mistake: Not Salting the Water

Just as when cooking pasta, generously seasoning the water will help pack in more flavor. If you forgot to do it before adding the potatoes, you can season them generously once you’ve drained them.

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The Mistake: Adding Potatoes to Boiling Water

Potatoes require a long cook time. When you add them to boiling water, the exterior can cook faster than the inside, leading to an unevenly cooked and lumpy mash. Always start potatoes in cold water. Too late? Lower the water to a simmer so the potatoes cook slowly.

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The Mistake: Mashing in Cold Butter and Cream

Adding mix-ins straight from the fridge not only inhibits absorption, but will also bring down the temperature of your dish. To reheat a pot of mashed potatoes, fill a larger pot partway with water, bring to a simmer and insert the potato pot. Warm the mashed potatoes until heated through, stirring occasionally. As long as the water is hot, the potatoes will stay warm. Next time, bring the butter to room temperature and gently warm the milk or cream before adding it to your spuds.

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The Mistake: Overworking the Potatoes with a Food Processor, Blender or Mixer

Too much — or too vigorous — mashing will produce gluey potatoes. Your best tool is an old-fashioned masher, fork, ricer or food mill. If you've already done the damage, turn pasty potatoes into a casserole: Spread them in a baking dish, drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake until bubbling and browned on top.

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