The One Small Step You Should Never Skip When Making Mashed Potatoes

published Nov 20, 2022
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Want to make your best batch of mashed potatoes ever this Thanksgiving? Of course you do — us too! And I have great news: The key to a truly marvelous mash doesn’t require any fancy footwork, special ingredients, or even a whole lot effort. There is only one simple step you need to remember (regardless of the recipe you use) for making your fluffiest, creamiest mash yet — and it all has to do with the temperature of the dairy.

Always Warm the Dairy First

Butter, along with milk (or half-and-half, cream, or some combination) are essential to really good mashed potatoes — unless you’re going the vegan mashed potato route, of course. Regardless of the mashed potato recipe you’re making, the one thing to always remember is that the temperature of the dairy when it’s added to the potatoes is hugely important. For the very best result every time, always gently warm the butter and milk before adding to the potatoes, rather than adding cold dairy straight from the fridge.

Here’s why: Warm dairy is absorbed faster and more easily, with less stirring than its cold counterpart. Cold butter and cream don’t absorb well into the potatoes, so it takes a lot more stirring to mix in cold milk, which means you run the risk of overworking the potatoes, leaving them with a gluey texture, rather than the soft, fluffy texture that makes a good mash so irresistible.

Adding cold dairy to your mashed potatoes also cools the mash down — and very few people like cold mashed potatoes.

Ready to put this tip into action? Bring the milk and butter to at least room temperature or, better yet, gently heat them on the stovetop before adding them to your potatoes.

Even if you hit the point when it’s time to mix in the butter and cream and you realize they’re still hanging out in the fridge, no big deal. Add the liquid and butter (cut into even-size pieces) to a small saucepan and warm over low heat on the stovetop — it won’t take more than a few minutes and you’ll be rewarded with smooth, delicious mashed potatoes that are well worth the small extra step.

Try Some of Our Favorite Mashed Potato Recipes