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Fool-Proof Classic Mashed Potatoes

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Wondering why your mashed potatoes sometimes turn out with a strange texture?

If you’ve ever had “gluey” (or starchy), grainy, flavorless, watery, or lumpy mashed potatoes, then you know the woes of trying to create mashed potatoes from scratch. My grandpa always has made the perfect, buttery mashed potatoes that were perfectly smooth and surprisingly hard to replicate. At least, it was hard to replicate until I figured out the reasons his turned out well and didn’t just try to follow his recipe. Here is how you can get consistently good potatoes too.

You only need 3 Ingredients: potatoes, Blue Bonnet (or another margarine) and salt. Milk is optional and I often don’t add any. Blue Bonnet is my favorite margarine for flavor, but my grandpa always has said, “The cheaper, the better” in his opinion. You can use real butter, but it does alter the flavor quite a bit.

Picking the Potatoes

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If you struggle to figure out potato-to-crowd ratios, try to imagine if your guests will eat a whole potato or not. I find that especially for Thanksgiving (when there are so many dish options!), potatoes can be almost half the number of people attending. Of course, this depends a bit on your potato size and how your audience eats.

When it comes to picking out potatoes in the store, it does actually matter:

  • Get Russet or Idaho if Russet aren’t available
  • Look carefully to make sure there is no greenish tint that would indicate they are not fully ripe (which always gives a poor texture) or that they feel “rubbery” (overly ripe) which can also affect the texture.
  • Pick out medium-large potatoes that are all relatively the same thickness so they take the same amount of time to cook. If you are buying a bag, most are close to the same size.

The Amount of Butter

It will seem like a lot of butter when you are adding a stick or more, but you want to use about 2 Tablespoons per potato. You can always add a few less Tbs of butter and see how the flavor and texture is, since it is very easy to add more to hot, freshly mashed potatoes.

The Fool-Proof Mashed Potato Method

You need to start out by peeling and rinsing your potatoes. Do not cut them up. If you are in a big hurry, you can cut them in half and reduce your cooking time, but every time you cut, the potato is more exposed to water. Exposing your potato to too much water actually creates a glucose reaction that will give you “gluey” or starchy potatoes. You will need to boil them for 45 min-1 hour depending on the thickness of the potatoes. Use a big enough pot for all of your potatoes; your water needs to completely cover the potatoes. Add your potatoes when the water is boiling hard. Do not let your water get low during the boiling process; add a small amount (not enough to disrupt the boil) if you run low.

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When you believe your potatoes are done, use a butter knife to stick straight into the center of the largest potato, disrupting it as little as possible. If you feel no resistance, the potatoes are done and should be drained immediately. You don’t want to overcook them, which can cause them to start breaking apart.

Drain your potatoes in a strainer and add them straight into a large mixing bowl with the butter. The butter must be added first because it actually coats the potato molecules and keeps them from having a starchy reaction (especially if you are adding milk). Mix in the butter to the hot potatoes and add salt. Use your beaters to get a smooth potato texture. If you see any potato flaws (dark spots or skin) remove them. Taste your potatoes to determine if you need more salt (good for Turkey or Chicken) or not (less salt for ham or saltier dishes). My grandpa always added a tiny bit of milk (like a Tbs or two), but I usually don’t. That is up to you, but milk quickly waters down the potatoes and makes them less rich in flavor, so only add a very tiny amount at a time until you are satisfied.

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TLDR:

I know, there was a lot of information. If you don’t care about the why, here is the recipe for a family-sized serving for 4-5 people:

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Fool-Proof Classic Mashed Potatoes

Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Serves: 4-5

  • 3 Russet Potatoes
  • 6 Tbs Blue Bonnet
  • Salt to Taste

Peel and rinse potatoes. Boil potatoes whole for 1 hour. Drain and add margarine immediately, mixing until smooth. Salt to taste.

Simple enough, right?

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For other awesome Thanksgiving Recipes to complete your meal plans, check out these blog posts from some of my favorite mama writers:

Roasted Turkey
Home Made Dinner Rolls

Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish
Stuffing
Fruit Turkey Appetizer

Baked Corn
Corn Casserole
Green Bean Casserole
Gluten Free Chocolate Cranberry Pie
Coconut Cream Pie
Spiced Cranberry Pear Dump Cake