A Former Line Cook’s Advice for Avoiding Gummy Mashed Potatoes

published Jan 9, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Mashed potatoes are unequivocally my favorite side dish. When I worked as a line cook at a traditional French bistro, I made a point of learning how to make perfect pommes purée — the extra-creamy French version of the dish. Despite how simple mashed potatoes appear on the surface, it’s very easy to end up with a dish that is less silky or fluffy, and more gluey and gummy. That sticky consistency can turn a batch of otherwise delicious taters into an unappetizing mess. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to avoid that problem. Here are two key tips for keeping your mashed potato texture as light and delicious as it should be.

Warm the milk and butter.

It may seem like an unnecessary step, but there’s a reason most recipes suggest you add hot dairy, not cold, to the taters. Throwing in a cold stick of butter and a splash of milk straight from the refrigerator will immediately cool down some of the spuds, which will prevent a creamy, smooth mash. If you take the time to slowly heat milk or heavy cream and butter in a small saucepan on the stove, you’ll have much better results. Heat the ingredients at a low temperature, stirring occasionally, to prevent the milk from scalding and butter from burning. Then fold in the dairy to the mashed potatoes just until it’s incorporated — don’t over-stir. While this does require an additional small saucepan, the extra dish is worth it.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Use a ricer.

The other key is to use the right tools, to avoid overworking the spuds. That’s why it’s worth putting aside the hand mixer or traditional potato masher and investing a few dollars in a potato ricer instead.

A ricer looks basically like a giant garlic press. When you press the cooked potatoes through, it breaks the flesh down into a very fine texture that requires less mixing and mashing for a smooth, homogeneous mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the hot dairy and salt just until everything is evenly combined. Too much stirring, beating, or mashing will cause more starches to be released, which creates that dreaded gluey consistency.  

Whether you’re making your mashed potatoes in a large pot on the stovetop, in an Instant Pot, or with a sous vide machine, these tips are foolproof and sure to yield perfect mashed potatoes every time.