How to Make Mashed Potatoes Step-By-Step

Master the perfect mashed potatoes with these easy-to-follow tips.

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May 17, 2023
Pressure-cooked potatoes and leeks transferred into black cast iron cooking pan and being mashed. Slightly out of focus human hand holding potato masher. Wooden plank. High point of view.

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Pressure-cooked potatoes and leeks transferred into black cast iron cooking pan and being mashed. Slightly out of focus human hand holding potato masher. Wooden plank. High point of view.

Photo by: annick vanderschelden photography/Getty Images

annick vanderschelden photography/Getty Images

By Dana Beninati for Food Network Kitchen

Dana is a chef, sommelier and Supervising Culinary Producer at Food Network.

The perfect mashed potatoes are those that strike the ultimate balance - fluffy texture matched only by rich, buttery creaminess. However, all too often mashed potatoes are dense, lumpy and at their worst - gummy. The difference comes down to proper potato selection, ideal cooking method and the appropriate handling of mix-ins. Keep reading to unlock all our secrets to ultra-creamy mashed potatoes.

How to Make Mashed Potatoes Step-by-Step

1. Start with Cold Water

For homestyle mashed potatoes: Put 2 pounds of unpeeled russet or Yukon Gold potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.

2. Add Salt

Generously salt the water.

3. Bring to a Boil, then Reduce to a Simmer

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. We avoid cooking the potatoes at a rolling boil, because their starches will gelatinize at high temperatures, resulting in gluey mashed potatoes.

3. Check the Potatoes for Doneness

Cook uncovered until a knife slips easily into a potato. Drain.

4. Peel the Potato Skins

Use a clean kitchen towel to cradle the cooked potatoes and help peel away the skins.

5. Steam Off Moisture and Add Hot Milk

Once peeled, the potatoes should be returned to the warm pot to steam off any moisture that remains. This small step prevents soupy mashed potatoes. Then pour in 1 cup of hot milk.

6. Start to Mash

Break the potatoes up slightly with a potato masher.

7. Mash In Butter and Season

Then add 1 stick diced unsalted butter. Mash most of the butter into the potatoes and then season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

8. Stir all the Ingredients Until Combined

Switch to a rubber spatula and stir until combined but still a little lumpy.

9. For Smooth Mashed Potatoes: Use a Ricer or Food Mill

Cut the cooked and peeled potatoes into manageable chunks and run them through a ricer or food mill back into the pot. Add 1 cup of hot milk and stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Add 1 stick diced unsalted butter and stir until most of the butter has melted. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir until combined and smooth.

The Best Mashed Potatoes

This is our go-to recipe for classic mashed potatoes, made with plenty of butter and cream. To make them fluffy and flavorful, be sure to simmer them slowly and add plenty of salt to the cooking water. And don't skip the step of steaming the excess water off; leaving too much moisture in the potatoes causes them to be loose and gluey.

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Photo by: Image Source/Getty Images

Image Source/Getty Images

How Long to Boil Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes?

The amount of time you cook your mashed potatoes depends on several factors, including the type of potato you’re using, whether they’re whole and cut into chunks, the number of potatoes you’re cooking, the size and shape of your pot and the water level.

However, here is a good rule of thumb to always tell when your potatoes are done cooking: they should be tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife.

It’s important to note that you should always start your potatoes in cold water – never boiling water – to ensure even cooking. If you want to shave off cooking time, instead take a leaf out of Food Network Kitchen’s The Best Mashed Potatoes recipe and quarter russet potatoes. In this recipe, you’ll bring 2 pounds of quartered russet potatoes to a boil, and then simmer them for about 30 minutes. And if you're looking for more tips on boiling potatoes, check out our story How to Boil Potatoes.

Russet potatoes being peeled and cut on a cutting board

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Russet potatoes being peeled and cut on a cutting board

Photo by: MSPhotographic/Getty Images

MSPhotographic/Getty Images

The Best Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes

Two categories of potatoes exist – starchy and waxy. When making mashed potatoes, we sit firmly in camp starchy and reach exclusively for russet or Yukon gold potatoes. These same potatoes that make fluffy, airy baked potatoes will lend those qualities to a proper mash.

Waxy potatoes are great for dishes that require a potato to hold its shape once cooked, like potato salad or hasselback potatoes. Therefore, red bliss or fingerling potatoes will result in an unpleasantly lumpy mash. Curious if you’ve selected the best potato for the job? Read more about the best potatoes for mashing here. When shopping, make sure you plan on 1/2 pound of potatoes per person.

How to Make Mashed Potatoes without Milk

When making dairy-free mashed potatoes, there is no better potato than Yukon golds. Just as the name implies, their naturally golden hue will give the potatoes a buttery glow, without an ounce of dairy! Instead of butter and cream, use good quality olive oil. It will give your mashed potatoes a rich aroma, silky texture, and indulgent flavor. Potatoes, particularly starchy potatoes, can handle as much richness and your palate desires. Bring on the olive oil.

Can You Freeze Mashed Potatoes?

Without question! Anything high in dairy fat (think ice cream) freezes well. To freeze your potatoes, make sure they are completely cooled first. Store in airtight containers or freezer-quality zip-top bags for up to three months. Before serving, allow the potatoes to defrost fully in the refrigerator. Then reheat them gently in the microwave or in a double boiler on the stovetop. For more mashed potato freezing tips from our chefs, read this step-by-step story on how to freeze them.

Food Network Kitchen’s Skillet Fried Chicken and Dumplings for Food Network One-Offs, as seen on Food Network.

FNK_Skillet-Fried-Chicken-and-Dumplings_H

Food Network Kitchen’s Skillet Fried Chicken and Dumplings for Food Network One-Offs, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Renee Comet

Renee Comet

What to Do with Leftover Mashed Potatoes

Think of leftover mashed potatoes as a blank canvas. You can easily elevate them with a simple reheat and some fantastic toppings like cheddar cheese, crispy bacon and bright chives. Or reinvent those potatoes into something new altogether. Perhaps your family would love a Leftover Mashed Potato Pizza topped with their favorite pizza toppings. Better yet, they would never believe that leftover mashed potatoes can become Shortcut Fried Chicken and Dumplings (pictured above). The options truly are endless.

Recipes with Mashed Potatoes

Presenting one of the simplest, creamiest mashed potato recipes you’ll ever meet. It’s pared down to the very basics.

It comes as no surprise that garlic and potatoes go hand in hand. Save this recipe for when you want to amplify the flavor of everyday mashed potatoes.

Food Network Kitchen’s Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes for NEW FNK, as seen on Food Network.

FNK_InstantPotMashedPotatoes_H

Food Network Kitchen’s Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes for NEW FNK, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Renee Comet

Renee Comet

Not only can you make excellent mashed potatoes in your instant pot, but you can also use the appliance to hold your potatoes warm until dinner time. When your stovetop is in high demand, this is the recipe for you.

Food Nework Kitchen's Holiday One-Offs, Mock Mashed Potatos, Cauliflower.

Food Nework Kitchen's Holiday One-Offs, Mock Mashed Potatos, Cauliflower.

Photo by: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Kate Mathis, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

If you have yet to try cauliflower mashed potatoes, prepare to be pleasantly surprised. This cruciferous vegetable makes an excellent substitute or complement to the humble potato, while nutritionally enhancing the dish.

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Photo by: Johnny Miller

Johnny Miller

Colcannon is a classic Irish cabbage and potatoes dish; this recipe nods towards that tradition but is prepared slightly differently and leans on red cabbage instead of green cabbage.

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