Secrets to the best mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes are premium comfort food, that is a given, but they don’t always get the right treatment to ensure they are fluffy and well seasoned. This post can help.

Back when I put myself through culinary school, money was tight. I frequently relied on samples from class to get me through a day; which was easily feasible. We had opportunity to eat most everything we prepared and you know how I dislike waste! I must have been particularly hungry the morning we were learning how to make the best mashed potatoes (yes, that was actually a topic covered in a class) because I can remember every little detail of the process.

It seemed a torturous wait before we could serve ourselves from the enormous pan of steaming spuds, but the wait was well worth it. Creamy potatoes, skillfully seasoned, without a lump to be seen. It was the dead of winter. I had been up since 5 am in order to make it to class on time. Yet the memory of spooning up mashed potatoes while perched on an overturned milk crate remains one of my happiest ones from culinary school.

Today I’ll share my teacher’s secret to fluffy mashed potatoes.

Secrets to the best mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes are simple to prepare – my boys are usually in charge of making this dish, actually – but like most things, there are small adjustments we can make to elevate them from ho-hum to yum yum! Serve them with Classic Beef Stew for the ultimate comfort food meal.

The Prep and Cooking

  • Begin with a Yukon Gold or other yellow-fleshed, non-waxy potato, such as Russet. Peel them, remove the eyes, and cut into quarters.
  • Cover them with at least an inch of cool water. Don’t crowd them in the pot.
  • Add plenty of salt to start – for 4 pounds of potatoes I added 2 teaspoons of salt to the water.
  • Measure out 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 whole cream. Keep the pepper mill handy.
  • Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.

Secrets to the best mashed potatoes | Simple Bites #eatseasonalholiday

The Secrets

Secret #1: After boiling, spread potatoes on a sheet pan and throw them in a hot oven for a few minutes.

This was my culinary school instructor’s secret method. He insisted it drew out the excess water from the potatoes – water which makes them sticky and gloopy. It works. I don’t do this every time, but if I have a hot oven, and chances are I usually do, I’ll bake the potatoes for 5 minutes at 400F.

Secrets to the best mashed potatoes | Simple Bites #eatseasonalholiday

Secret #2: Use a ricer for lump-free potatoes. It results in the fluffiest of potatoes with absolutely no chunks. The downside is cleaning the contraption, so I don’t bring it out every time. Only for special holiday pot-lucks and such.

My boys love to wield a traditional masher so I let them, but pretty soon I’ll be introducing them to the ricer. I’m sure it’s going to be a hit.

Secrets to the best mashed potatoes | Simple Bites #eatseasonalholiday

Secret #3:  Warm the cream and the butter before adding them to the potatoes.  The potatoes will absorb the fat faster when they are warm and the mixture will come together cohesively.


Secret #4: Don’t overwork the potatoes. Pour the melted butter and cream over the mashed potatoes, then fold them in gently with a spatula or a potato masher. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper, and you are finished.

Secrets to the best mashed potatoes | Simple Bites #eatseasonalholidayServe hot, hot, hot!

The Do-Ahead

Because these spuds have plenty of butter and cream (fat) they can be made 1-2 days in advance and will reheat well on serving day. To reheat, first bring to room temperature, then bake, covered or uncovered at 350F for about an hour. Potatoes should be bubbly around the edges and piping hot in the centre.

Last year on Christmas Day, I followed Faith’s tutorial on The Kitchn for keeping mashed potatoes warm in a slow cooker. It worked to a “T”, keeping my mascarpone mash hot a whole four hours while I pulled together the rest of the holiday dinner for fourteen.

Secrets to the best mashed potatoes | Simple Bites #eatseasonalholiday

#EatSeasonal Holiday Edition!

My food blogging friends to the South and I have teamed up to bring you a vibrant menu of seasonal eating ideas for the holidays.

Thanksgiving-Seasonal-Recipes collage


Turkey and Gravy:



Now the only question is, who will pull up a chair to our virtual pot-luck feast?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Awesome tips!! Totally trying the “oven” tip!!

  2. Getting rid of the moisture really does make the perfect potato! Since my oven (both of them) is usually already packed for holiday meals, I drain the pot and then let the potatoes steam out their moisture over low heat for a few minutes, shaking the pan to keep them from sticking. 🙂

    Aimee, what ricer do you recommend?

  3. I like that oven tip!

  4. They look perfect!

  5. I still need to invest in a ricer!! I swear the riced potatoes are the fluffiest and creamiest! I love these tips – I’m sure there will be some delicious mashed taters on everyone’s table this year after reading this!

  6. Wonderful Tips Aimee! I forgot about that oven trick!

  7. The link to the Thai Curried Butternut Squash is broken.

  8. I do all those tips and tricks and without a doubt it makes my mash potatoes a family favorite. The drying of the potatoes is one missed by so many people, so it’s great that you shared it.

  9. I am totally adopting your baking of the boiled potatoes tip. And I’m with you, the ricer is such a pain to clean, but man, it does make a smooth potato. These tips are great!

  10. Awesome tips! They look so delicious!

  11. These are great tips! I want to dive right into that bowl!

  12. Thank you so much for the tips! I love my mom’s mashed potatoes, but these tricks will surely make them even better!

  13. Wonderful tips, Aimee! I love the oven tip, especially! Mashed potatoes is one of my favorite foods ever 🙂

  14. Seriously, you have just saved my tookus. Hosting my first Thanksgiving this year and I now know the mashed potatoes will be the star. Great tips!!

  15. Great post Aimee! I agree on all counts. Love the ricer. And looking forward to checking out the links. Pinned!

  16. I love these tips!! I’m making them with yukons this year and definitely serving them hot!! Great post, as usual, Aimee!

  17. my mom always heated the milk/cream and butter – and I usually do but never really knew if it mattered. glad to hear it does!!! 🙂 never knew the oven tip, so glad to know!

  18. Charlene A. says

    Finally, an excuse to use the ricer my grandmother passed down to me. These sound divine. Will check out the rest of the recipe round-up too.

  19. Thank you very much for the tips. Loved it!

  20. I’m diffently trying this Xmas !! But one question? In my grocery store I can’t find whole cream but when I google it, heavy cream ( which I can find) keeps popping up. So can I use heavy cream instead?

  21. Thanks for the tip about using the oven for my mashed potatoes….I can’t wait to try!

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