Making Fluffy Mashed Potatoes? Don’t Peel Before Boiling.

updated Jun 28, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Among Thanksgiving side dishes, mashed potatoes rank high so it’s pretty important they taste amazing. There are countless recipes out there, but over the years I’ve found the recipe matters less than the technique. One of the most important techniques that people tend to forget, especially when making fluffy mashed potatoes, is don’t peel your potatoes before boiling them.

Why Peeled Potatoes Don’t Boil as Well

For fluffy mashed potatoes you want to use spuds high in starch, such as Russets. (Waxier potatoes tend to make creamier mashes.) But here’s the thing: Starchy potatoes soak up water more easily. So you should think of the potato’s peel as its protective jacket. If it’s removed before boiling, the flesh will soak up too much of the water in the pot. When you go to mash the potatoes, you’ll end up with a watery, gluey mash. The potatoes will also be less able to absorb all the butter and milk or cream, so they’ll be less rich.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

When and How to Peel Boiled Spuds

There are three ways to deal with your boiled, unpeeled potatoes.

  1. Leave them on. This is obviously the easiest method, and the rustic style of mashed potatoes is one that many people enjoy; the peels contribute great flavor.
  2. Use a ricer. This is the second-easiest method, and has the benefit of making ultra-fluffy mashed potatoes. The skins will come right off in the milling or ricing process: Just drop them into the ricer, squeeze into a bowl, and you’re ready to go!
  3. Use a towel and paring knife. If you’re going to be using a masher and you prefer to not have skins in your mash, you will have to peel the potatoes yourself. But after they’re boiled the skins slip off easily. Hold the hot potatoes in a clean kitchen towel-covered hand, then use a paring knife to scrape or pull off the peel.