I Tried Alton Brown’s Creamy Mashed Potatoes

updated Oct 15, 2019
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

All month long, we’re testing out some of the most popular Thanksgiving recipes on the internet. And if there’s one Thanksgiving side that people have the most opinions about, it’s mashed potatoes.

In my view, mashed potatoes should be just that: all about the potatoes. So I was excited to see that Alton Brown’s buzzed-about version kept them front and center. Compared to the other famous mashed potato recipes I made (here’s Ina Garten’s, Martha Stewart’s, and Ree Drummond’s), Alton’s also called for the fewest ingredients: just Yukon gold potatoes, heavy cream, and butter. But could such a seemingly simple recipe stand up (and stand out) at a packed Thanksgiving table? Here’s what I found out.

How To Make Alton Brown’s Mashed Potatoes

You start by peeling and cubing the potatoes, then you add them to a pot of cold water. (Which, notably, Alton says not to salt.) Bring them to a boil, simmer until tender, and then drain them.

As those potatoes cool, you use the same pot to then warm the the dairy, salt, and pepper. Next, Alton tells you to run the cooked potatoes through a food mill set over the pot, and stir them into the melted dairy. The recipe notes that the whole process should take 40 minutes total. And for me, that was spot on.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

What I Thought of the Results

I ended up with a pot of mashed potatoes that were thick and fluffy, lump-free, and incredibly buttery. And to my surprise, despite not salting the water upfront, they were seasoned just right. I didn’t even need to add any extra salt or pepper before serving.

They tasted exactly like what I crave when I think of classic, no-frills mashed potatoes. (Side note: To be honest, I was nervous that using heavy cream instead of whole milk or half-and-half might make for too rich of a dish, but it didn’t do that. The potatoes were creamy, but not overly indulgent.)

One of my favorite things about this recipe was that it included some seriously smart tips that will save you time and limit the amount of dishes you dirty. More on that below!

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

If You Make Alton Brown’s Mashed Potatoes …

1. When boiling potatoes, remember to toss a lid on the pot.

This is such a simple step and saves you a few minutes of cook time because the water comes to a boil a whole lot faster. (You don’t often see recipes call for this step because it’s thought that boiling potatoes in a covered pot can make them mushy, but in the case of mashed potatoes, that doesn’t matter.)

2. Streamline your cleanup by cooking the potatoes and heating the dairy in the same pot.

The recipe instructs you to do this, and I loved the efficiency of it. (This was definitely a Why didn’t I think of that? moment for me!) Not only does it mean there’s one fewer pot to wash, but it also gives the potatoes a few minutes to cool so you’re not burning your fingers as you put them through a food mill or ricer.

3. If you don’t have a food mill (like Alton calls for), use a ricer instead.

A food mill will give you fluffy, lump-free potatoes, but if it’s a not a staple in your kitchen, a ricer will get you similar results. If you don’t have a ricer, you can run the cooked potatoes against a box grater.

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10

If your idea of perfect mashed potatoes is classic through and through — without any fancy twists — this is the version for you. (But if you crave a little extra something, like I do, you won’t find that here.)

Have you tried Alton Brown’s creamy mashed potatoes? What did you think of them? Or is there another famous recipe you swear by every year? Tell us everything in the comments below!