Food Science: Why Mashed Potatoes and Blenders Don't Mix

When we're making a big batch of mashed potatoes, it's awfully tempting to just throw them in the blender instead of going to the trouble of mashing them by hand. If you've ever actually done this, you're probably jumping out of your seat and waving your hands in alarm right now. What's the fuss? Well, here's the scoop:

Pureeing your potatoes in a blender or food processor seems like a good idea at first. After all, we puree lots of things in the blender and they turn out smooth and perfect. But lift off the lid this time, and instead of creamy fluffy potatoes, you'll see a thick gluey mess.

The problem is starch. And potatoes contain a lot of starch!

Mashing cooked potatoes gently by hand or with a ricer leaves most of the starch molecules intact. The butter and dairy you add to the mashed potatoes are able to coat each individual particle, making the potatoes creamy.

But the quick-moving blades of a food processor will actually tear the starch molecules. The released starch mixes with the liquid in the cooked potatoes, and the mash transforms into a gummy paste before your eyes. Highly unappetizing.

This can happen in a matter of minutes, so don't even be tempted to use a food processor to get the last few lumps out of your potatoes!

What are your tricks for getting good mashed potatoes?

Related: How to Pick a Potato

(Image: Flickr member VirtualErn licensed under Creative Commons)