There’s no question that a Thanksgiving plate is not complete without a piping hot scoop of silky smooth mashed potatoes nestled next to a few slices of juicy turkey, a heaping mound of stuffing, a small pool of cranberry sauce and a buttery roll. However, the way to make the perfect bowl of mashed potatoes isn’t so obvious. Which kind of potato yields the creamiest mashed mixture? What size should the potatoes be when you cook them? And what about butter, cream or milk — which is best and at what temperature should you incorporate them? We have the answers, plus tips, suggestions and easy recipes to make this Thanksgiving’s starchy side dish better than ever.
Select a Spud: Thanks to their high starch content, russets or Yukon Gold potatoes will be your best potato picks and yield an extra fluffy finished product. I’m partial to Yukon Golds for their natural, slightly buttery flavor, though regular baking potatoes mash up nicely as well.
To Chop or Not: Before boiling, chopping the potatoes into similarly sized chunks ensures an even cooking time, though smaller pieces run the risk of becoming liquid-logged and gluey. Whether the potatoes are cooked whole or not, they are done when a knife can slide into and out of them with ease and no resistance.
Temperature and Tools: After you’ve drained the potatoes, immediately transfer them back to their hot pan without rinsing them (doing so would wash away all of their treasured starch). Break out the manual potato masher or ricer for a traditional mash up, or use an electric hand mixer to incorporate air into the potatoes and achieve a whipped consistency.
Fat and Flavor: If you ask me, no potato recipe is complete without a healthy helping of butter; it’s rich taste and velvety texture is simply unbeatable. For additional flavor and to slightly thin the consistency of the potatoes, most mashed potato recipes call for whole milk, heavy cream or tangy buttermilk depending on taste. When adding liquids, it is best to start off with just a splash — it is far easier to add more if necessary and much more difficult to boil off extra without drying out the potatoes. Regardless of which kind of fat you use, it is best to incorporate it at room temperature or even slightly warmed so as to maintain the temperature of the hot potatoes. Mix-ins such as bacon, chives and herbs can be added to taste right before serving.
Check out our favorite mashed potato recipes below, and whip up a bowl to serve with your Thanksgiving dinner. Then, join the conversation: tell us what you use to make mashed potatoes and how your family prepares its best batch.
Using golden potatoes, heavy cream and butter, Tyler Florence’s traditional recipe for Mashed Potatoes (pictured above) yields extra creamy results every time. Such a simple preparation pairs perfectly with Ina Garten’s Homemade Gravy, featuring turkey drippings, white wine and Cognac.
For a mashed potato concoction with a slight kick to it, try these Southwest Mashed Potatoes from Cooking Channel. With a few poblano peppers and a cup and a half of crema, — Mexican sour cream — this rustic recipe boasts a welcomed tangy taste.