Thoughts on Mashed Potatoes

English: A small plate with a serving of mashe...

English: A small plate with a serving of mashed potatoes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I made mashed potatoes twice over the Thanksgiving holiday. In one recipe, I used Yukon Gold potatoes, and in another, I used regular russet potatoes. Most recipes advise using non-waxy potatoes for mashing so they won’t get too gluey. (Waxy potatoes include the smaller red and white varieties.)

In both cases, I prepared the potatoes nearly the same way. I boiled the potatoes to cook them. The Yukon Golds were peeled and cut into large chunks for boiling. I boiled the russets whole in their jackets and removed the skins after they had cooled, as advised by the Cooks Illustrated recipe for classic mashed potatoes. When mashing, I just added butter and either milk or half-and-half, nothing else. I used an old-fashioned potato masher, not an electric beater or processor, because I don’t mind some texture and even lumps in my mashed potatoes.

It was interesting to make these two versions of mashed potatoes back-to-back, because it helped me realize once and for all that Yukon Golds are the best potatoes for mashing. They didn’t take as long to cook as the russets. They mashed easily, and the results were fairly smooth. And they tasted better.

The russets were too lumpy, even after spending a lot of time mashing and using a lot of liquid. They tasted mealier and were not as creamy as the Yukon Golds. I wasn’t nearly as happy with the results.

Pretty much every basic cookbook includes a recipe for mashed potatoes, but this is one dish where it’s best to let your instincts guide you. I start with the basic recipe in Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Foodwhich is similar to this one. I don’t measure the milk and butter, but just keeping adding them while mashing until the dish tastes good to me. To amp up the flavors, I have had good luck substituting buttermilk for the milk, boiling whole garlic cloves with the potatoes and then mashing them too, and using Parmesan and olive oil in place of the butter and milk. From now on, though, I will start with the right kind of potatoes: Yukon Gold.


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6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Mashed Potatoes

  1. putneyfarm 28 November 2012 at 11:42 am

    We ended up with the same conclusions after similar experiments…the Yukons are just better…

  2. firefar 28 November 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Interesting. The one time I used Yukons, I overwhipped and enacted the glue. I thought it was because they were a waxy potato?

  3. Shannon 28 November 2012 at 1:03 pm

    They are a medium starch, so they are waxier than russets. Perhaps hand-mashing would help keep from overwhipping, but you have to tolerate some lumps. I don’t mind them, but some like their mashed potatoes perfectly smooth.

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