STEP 1: PREP THE POTATOES
- Peel the potatoes (optional – I’ve grown to like peeled potatoes best! Peeling also makes it easier to use a ricer or food mill if you like)
- Cut potatoes into evenly sized, 2.5″ ish pieces – it usually works best to cut large potatoes into quarters and smaller potatoes in half.
- Place potato pieces in a pot or large saucepan and cover with COLD water (more on why I do this here!) I find 6-8 cups of water is usually plenty to cover the potatoes.
- At this point, you can move directly to Step 2 and cook the potatoes, or you can cover the potatoes and set the pot aside for a few hours until you’re ready to cook. This is a great make-ahead trick – on Thanksgiving, I always cut my potatoes first thing in the morning, then cover them with water and set them aside until I’m ready to cook them. The cold water keeps the potatoes from browning so they’re ready to go whenever you are.
STEP 2: COOK THE POTATOES
- Add 1 Tbsp. of Kosher salt to the water and potatoes. No need to stir – just throw it in there!
- Cover potatoes and place the pot on a burner over medium heat. If you’re using a glass or electric stove (or if you just want to speed the process a bit) you may want to bump the heat up to medium-high.
- Let potatoes cook until they reach a low boil, about 25-30 minutes. By the time the water boils, the potatoes are usually pretty close to being done. To check doneness, pierce potatoes with a fork: if the fork slides easily through the potato, they’re done. If they aren’t yet soft, cook 3-4 more minutes and then test again.
- When potatoes are cooked through, drain them and set aside. Return the pot to the stove and proceed to Step 3.
STEP 3: MASH THE POTATOES
- Return the empty potato pot to the stove over low heat.
- Add butter, half and half, salt, and pepper to pot and bring to a low simmer. Give everything a stir to bring it together, then turn off the heat.
- Return potatoes to pot and mash with your favorite method (see a full breakdown and comparison of mashing techniques here!) For this recipe, I used a traditional potato masher and worked through the potatoes in a clockwise circle, trying to only mash each area of the pot once or twice. One the potatoes are mashed, use a spoon or spatula to gently fold everything together. The less you process the potatoes, the better texture you’ll have!
- Taste the potatoes and add seasoning as necessary, then move on to Step 4!
STEP 4: GARNISH YOUR MASHED POTATOES (optional, but fun)
- Spoon the potatoes into a serving bowl. If you’d like to make swirls (like we did for these pictures!) use the back of a large spoon to apply light pressure and “draw” a spiral, starting from the very center and working your way outwards.
- Drizzle melted butter over potatoes and top with a sprinkle of fresh herbs, a few turns of cracked black pepper, and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Serve immediately.
A note about salt: I use Morton Kosher Salt, which is a bit, well, saltier than some other varieties. If you’re using Diamond Kosher Salt, I recommend adding an extra 2 tsp. of salt to the cooking water and an extra 1/4-1/2 tsp. when you mash the potatoes. If you’re using regular table salt, I recommend using just 3 tsp. in the cooking water and 1/4 tsp. or so when you mash the potatoes. No matter what salt you use, make sure you taste often and adjust as needed! If you like things less salty, start with just a pinch or two, then taste and add as needed. For more info, check out Mashed Potatoes 101!
This recipe makes fluffy, airy mashed potatoes – if you like your potatoes runnier or richer, by all means add more butter and half-and-half! For roll-across-your-plate potatoes, I recommend using a potato ricer or food mill (for that silky smooth, lump-free texture!) in place of a potato masher and adding an extra 1 oz. of butter. Rice, mix, and taste the potatoes, and – if you want them richer or runnier still – add an extra splash of half and half.
If your mashed potatoes are too dry, fold in an extra pat of butter or a splash of half and half.
To add extra flavor to your mashed potatoes, try one of my favorite mix-ins (you can add these when you simmer the butter and half and half or stir them into your just-mashed potatoes):
- 2 Tbsp. chicken stock
- 2-3 Tbsp. cream cheese
- Roasted garlic
- Fresh herbs (I like chives, rosemary, parsley, and basil)
- 1/2 cup grated cheese (I like parmesan, gruyere, smoked gouda, sharp white cheddar, brie, or goat cheese!) – if you add cheese, you may also want to add an extra pat of butter or splash of half and half to keep the potatoes loose and fluffy.
- 2-3 Tbsp. sour cream
Leftover mashed potatoes will keep for 5-6 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
To reheat mashed potatoes, put a pat of butter on top of cold potatoes and microwave (I like using a cover) until hot. Stir the melted butter in and serve. You can also reheat mashed potatoes in a slow cooker – put a pat of butter (or two! or three! #YOLO) on top, cover, and cook on low until warm (best for reheating larger quantities rather than single servings. I usually let the potatoes cook on low for 2-3 hours depending on when we plan to eat). If reheated potatoes are dry, gently stir in additional melted butter or a splash of half and half to loosen them up again.
Wondering why we used certain ingredients or methods in this recipe? Read all about it in Mashed Potatoes 101.
Have questions about your mashed potatoes? I cover EVERYTHING you need to know – from potato types to mashing techniques to ingredients – in Mashed Potatoes 101.