Cooking tips

How to make the fluffiest mashed potatoes

In charge of Thanksgiving dinner this year? Here's how to bring your A-game when making everyone's favourite side dish.


Best mashed potatoes. (Photo, Angus Fergusson.)

It’s amazing how sometimes the simplest ingredient is often the easiest to mess up. We’ve all had our fair share of mushy rice, overcooked green beans and rubbery eggs—but the one food that I am particularly sensitive about is mashed potatoes. They’re the perfect comfort food: simple, easy to make, a few ingredients and as cozy as cozy gets. But it can go wrong if you’re not careful; here’s how to make mashed potatoes:

Cook potatoes until they are very tender, then stop
One of the main culprits for poor quality mashed potatoes are overcooked potatoes. Potatoes should be peeled, covered with cold water, brought to a boil and then simmered only until they are very tender. They must then be drained and prepared. Don’t turn off the heat and let your potatoes sit in the cooking water once they have reached their doneness, as they will continue to cook.

Drain, drain, drain
Before introducing any new ingredients to your potatoes (butter, milk, etc.) you must first drain off all the cooking liquid. A quick tip is to return the drained potatoes to the empty cooking pot and place back on a hot burner very briefly. You will hear all the water sizzle away, then you are ready to go. Alternatively, give your potatoes adequate time to drain in the colander.

Related: The best way to use up leftover mashed potatoes

Prevent the ‘glue factor’
Gluey mashed potatoes are caused by overworking them. The key to preventing a gluey texture is to control how much starch is released when mashing. It’s an easy equation—the more you work your potatoes, the more starch is released and wham…gluey texture. In terms of tools, electric mixers are the roughest on potatoes, so if you must use one, beat them as little as possible. Best results will come from a hand masher or potato ricer.

Know your spud
Different potatoes have different levels of starch. While it may sound counter-intuitive, the best potatoes to use for mashing are high-starch potatoes such as russet or Yukon Gold. High-starch potatoes break down the easiest and produce a fluffy smooth mash. Remember: because they break down so easily, they require the least amount of mashing. Then follow your favourite recipe or try a few of our favourites below.

A great alternative to a traditional mash can also be to ‘smash’ your potatoes. Smashing means breaking up the potatoes with a fork or a masher into a chunky-creamy texture.

Try it: Horseradish smashed potatoes