How to Make Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Where did 2018 go? Every family has its way of making this gustatory holiday meal come together. Usually everyone has their own special dish that they bring to the table. In our family, my voluntold contribution to the spread is mashed potatoes. As everybody knows you can’t have Thanksgiving without them. Here is how I have perfected the most important part of any holiday meal (sorry turkey). The perfect mashed potatoes and green beans.

Welcome to the Food Finances Friday Thanksgiving Feature. It’s about cooking, so you know I didn’t write it. Here’s a smooth guest post by my husband, who really does make perfect masked potatoes and mouthwatering green beans.

I love potatoes! Any way I can get them. Boiled, fried, baked and my Son’s favorite: mashed. Mashed potatoes can be different for every person. Some like to have a chunky and lumpy mash. Some like to leave the skin on and pick them out of your teeth when you are done. I HAVE to have my potatoes smooth and creamy. I actually prefer the texture and consistency of instant potatoes, but you can’t get the same flavor.

Don’t waste your money buying the pre-made crap. You can make the perfect mashed potatoes and green beans at home for a fraction of the price.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

First you need to get your potatoes. I have tried to mess around with different types and ratios of potatoes, but I like to keep it simple and go with 10 pounds of russets.

Gold potatoes are a great option as well, though they tend to be a bit harder to get a consistent smooth texture.

Photo by Daniel Sanchez

Peel to the Parade

Now it is time to peel and peel and peel 10 POUNDS of potatoes. Nobody likes to peel potatoes! Here is where I apply a trick I learned several years ago. I always remember growing up my mother would always watch the parade every Thanksgiving morning. I never really liked the parade but she loved it! As an adult I always have the parade on in the background while I prepare the mashed potatoes. It provides a great way to zone out and mindlessly peel that giant mound of spuds in front of you. By the time the giant Spider-Man balloon comes onto the screen, you are on your last one.

Cook Them Taters

Now it is time to cut and boil your potatoes. They should be as uniform as possible allowing them to cook at the same rate. Add enough water to cover the potatoes about 1 – 2 inches. I also like to salt my cooking water as I would when cooking pasta.

Set it on med-high heat and wait until it boils. Once your pot is just starting to boil, reduce the heat to medium and maintain a slow boil until a fork easily goes through a potato (about 15 minutes). Strain potatoes and put them in a large mixing bowl with the butter.

The Mashing and the Flavoring

Now that the potatoes are cooked we need to get them mashed and flavored. This will require fat and liquid.

I have never used anything other than pure old-fashioned salted butter. I use 1/4 cup butter per pound of potatoes.

Tip: The butter should always be room temperature. If it is straight out of the fridge it will cool your potatoes and make them gluey.

Another tip: My secret is to use half-and-half. I have never measured or heated my half-and-half. I only use enough to make the potatoes whip up fluffy and smooth.

Mix it While it’s Hot

Don’t let the potatoes sit for very long. The longer they cool the more starch is released and you will end up with glue instead of mashed potatoes.

When mixing the potatoes you want to use an electric mixer. A hand held or a counter top mixer both do great. I feel you have a little more control when using a hand held over the countertop mixer.

Start slow to break down the bigger chunks and then crank up the speed to max to get the creamy texture for perfect mashed potatoes.

Now for The Perfect Green Beans

Photo by Neha Deshmukh

Even though mashed potatoes are the most important part of any holiday meal, it can’t be the only side on the menu. I refuse to eat green bean casserole. It was invented to sell more canned soup! (You may remember my feelings on canned soup from last Friday’s post about making homemade soup).

I grew up eating my grandmother’s green beans picked fresh from the garden and snapped on the front porch. I could eat my weight in her green beans (and have on a few occasions).

I’ve never grown my own green beans but I still get mine fresh and snap them myself.

You will need:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 4 pounds fresh green beans (trimmed and snapped into 1 1/2 inch pieces)
  • 1 ham hock
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper

Add everything in a large pot and bring to boil. Cook for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 4 hours.

Remove ham hock and slice into small pieces. Return the meat to the beans and serve.

I can’t compete with my grandma’s green beans (no one can) but these green beans are the next best thing!

Photo by Libby Penner

Happy Thanksgiving!


What are your favorite holiday side dishes?

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