Whether you like them pillow-fluffy or lush and creamy, four simple tricks deliver top results every time.

By Tim Cebula
September 18, 2017
Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

This method completely eliminates potato lumps, so every bite is like velvet on your palate. The amount of milk and butter we use here yields potatoes that are a great mix of fluffy and creamy. For a fluffier batch, scale back on the milk by a few tablespoons, or add a few more to make them even creamier. Don’t discard the peels; they make a tasty snack: Toss with a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, and then roast at 400°F for 15 minutes or until crisp.

1. Pick the Right Potato

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Russets rule in mashed potatoes: They're starchy enough to make as fluffy or creamy as you like, without becoming gluey like red potatoes or other waxy varieties. Cook until you can easily slide a fork through a cube without resistance; al dente potatoes won't become silky smooth.

2. Steam Off All the Water

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Even after draining the cooked potato, some cooking liquid remains, which waters down flavor and makes the texture leaden. Solve this by heating the cooked cubes in a dry pan for a few minutes until you see all residual water steam out. The dry potatoes are now ready to fully absorb the flavorings.

3. Heat Milk and Butter

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Mixing the potatoes in the pan with hot milk and butter is another way to guard against gluey mashers. Hot liquid readily blends with the steaming spuds, so you don't have to over-handle or reheat the potatoes, which makes them release too much sticky starch.

4. Press Out the Lumps

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Pass potatoes through a food mill to make them uniformly smooth: Big lumps won't soak up flavorings, creating dead zones in your mashers. No food mill? No problem—just use a potato ricer or a colander with roughly 1/8-inch holes, and press the potatoes through with the back of a ladle or large spoon.