The Do's and Don'ts of Magical Mashed Potatoes376
with Michael Kimball
Test Kitchen Chef
Prediction: this is going to ruin mashed potatoes for you. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but what you thought was the simplest of sides is actually a complex plexus of polysaccharides. You’ll never be able to make or eat them again without thinking about…(Please Michael, don’t)...Science!
Cell walls. Calcium ions. Retrogradation. More science words. You get the idea. There’s a lot going on here, but let’s keep it simple with a little list of easy-to-follow do’s and don’ts. Because everyone loves a good list.
Use the Right Potatoes
Russet or Red Bliss? Idaho or Yukon Gold? It all comes down to starch (energy storage that concentrates in plant cell walls). Russet and Idaho potatoes have more of it. Yellow ones have less. Red and white have the least. Great. But with high starch content comes high stakes. Absorbent starch can expand and create a light and fluffy mash, but overwork it and you can release too much starch, creating a distressing bowl of glue. Lower starch potatoes can’t get as fluffy, but with a little more cooking and working make a more dense, creamy mash.
Solution: Use a combination of high and medium starch potatoes for a mash that’s a little fluffy and a little creamy. Save those Red Bliss babies for a potato salad.
Start Cold and Salty
Cover quartered potatoes with about 2-inches of cold water. Why not just add them to a pot of already bubbling water like you would with pasta? If you do, the outside of your potatoes will cook before the inside. Start cold to promote even cooking. Also, don’t wait until the end to start seasoning your potatoes. Get a head start by salting your pot of water before simmering those spuds. Just like you would with pasta. How much salt? Be generous. Your water should be salty like the sea.
Season to Taste
While potatoes may not be bursting with flavors of their own, where they excel is as a vehicle for other flavors. Salt, butter, and cream come to mind. Go beyond butter when adding flavor to your mashed potatoes with Capitol Hill Seasoning. Sweet, garlicky shallots headline with a supporting herb ensemble of dill, parsley, and chives. Sounds like magic to me.
Own your Texture
Let’s talk texture. The tool you use to mash your spuds will determine how much starch is released and therefore, your final texture. Raise your hand if you like your mashed potatoes as smooth and fluffy as possible. You folks are going to want to use a food mill or ricer. The rest of you may prefer some level of texture. A hand masher or the paddle attachment on a stand mixer should be your go-to tools. However, be careful not to overwork them with the latter.
Rinse and Repeat
Rinse away the excess starch before and after cooking your potatoes for ultimate fluffiness.
Cut your Potatoes Too Small
You may think that cutting your potatoes smaller will allow them to cook faster. This is true to a point. Try boiling shredded potatoes. They’ll never fully soften. This is caused by pectin (which acts as a glue between cells) being strengthened by too many escapee calcium ions. Keep that calcium locked up by simply quartering your potatoes before cooking.
Skimp on the Good Stuff
Obviously, I’m talking about butter here. Butterfat is not just heart-stoppingly delicious, it also inhibits retrogradation. That big word just means that as the mashed potatoes cool, the starches realign, increasing the mixture’s viscosity and pushing out some of the water to the surface. Other sources of fat will have a similar effect so substitute olive oil or Greek yogurt to your butter-hating-heart’s content.
Even Think About Blending
Please, I’m begging you. Put that immersion blender away. Great for bisques. Bad for mashed potatoes. Food processors are also not allowed. These break apart so many cell walls that enough starch is released to use the resulting mixture to tile a new backsplash. See the stretch on those potatoes on the right side of the picture up there? I used a blender to do that.
Kill the Party with Cold Milk
You’re going to want to add some milk or flavorful stock to loosen up your potatoes to a pleasant consistency. But make sure you heat up that liquid in a small sauce pot on the side first so you don’t bring the piping hot potato party to a screeching halt.
Not Add Capitol Hill Seasoning
Okay, you caught me. This is all just a ploy to get you to try Capitol Hill Seasoning. Thankfully, it’s not that hard of a sell. You also don’t need science to explain why it makes everything taste so good (especially mashed potatoes). It’s our number one selling blend, and since I gave you such a compelling description of it earlier, let’s just skip to the part where you bring this little bottle of magic home. Order it here. Or if you need further convincing, read the raving reviews of your fellow Savory Spice shoppers here. If you’re already a fan, help me tell everyone how great this seasoning is by adding your own review here.
Second prediction: Whether you go full lab coat and safety goggles the next time you make mashed potatoes or not, when you follow these very scientific do’s and don'ts (and with a little help from Capitol Hill Seasoning) believe me, you’re going to make magic.
Have you tried Capitol Hill on your mashed potatoes? Tag us @savoryspiceshop on Instagram and show us the results!