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7 steps to the perfect mashed potato

7 steps to the perfect mashed potato

When it comes to carbs, it has to be said that we in the UK love potato best of all. Part of our culinary heritage and protector against our dubious climate, potatoes are the soothing panacea of the produce world. There are countless ways to serve and prepare potato, and certain potatoes suit particular dishes but, when it comes to the king of the tea-time table, mash is the one that scratches the bits that the others can’t reach.

We can vary in our particular proclivities when it comes to mash, and it often comes down to the rest of the food on the plate, but generally speaking the best mash perfectly balances the fluff and the creamy. Ask a chef to make you mashed potato, especially one who has risen through the ranks of the culinary supreme, and they will present you with some something very creamy, and probably rather soft. Fluffy may not even get a look in. Try adding gravy to that and you will have a bowl of soup.

Mash is notoriously difficult to perfect; especially if it needs to stand for a while. Follow these steps and you will get it right every time.

Step 1

Choose the right potato

Potatoes come as two main types; floury and waxy. As the name suggests, floury will break apart nicely whilst waxy will remain stubbornly solid. But it goes further than that. Some floury types are wetter than others, so what you really want is dry floury. It also depends on the time of year; a new main crop potato may indeed be of a floury type but when it first leaves the ground it is far more difficult to mash than later in the year. Have you ever noticed the difference in the chip shop during summer? That’s the potato season at work. Different chips. Again, a soft potato that is far past its best won’t yield fluffy mash either.

Other than any local varieties that you may find to do the job, we tend to choose King Edwards, then Rooster, and at a push Maris Piper. If you buy those bags of white potatoes then chances are that they will not mash to perfection.

Step 2

Boil until tender

People have many suggestions about the best way to cook potato for mash; some boil in skins, others prefer to bake the potatoes. All well and good, the inside of a baked potato is a lovely thing, but it is just that. Baked potato. It being tea time and all, we don’t want to be messing about. Peel, chop to roastie size, and put in cold well-salted water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender, slightly further if some bits feel a little underdone but not so far as they disintegrate.

Tip into a colander and place colander back over pan.

Step 3

Let them dry out

One sheet of kitchen roll, placed over the potatoes will provide absorption for excess water, without creating a steam bath underneath. Leave them like that for no more than ten minutes.

Step 4

Mash whilst hot

If potatoes go too cold then they will not mash well. Use a good old fashioned hand masher, preferably the one with zig zag holes if you can find one. Every other method can lead to over working the starch and that results in sticky, gluey mash. Mash until fluffy. If you want to serve now, then proceed to the next step. If you want to serve later, then leave the potatoes aside still in their fluffy naked state.

Step 5

Add butter

Fold a good sized knob of butter into the still hot potato. It will cling together and come away from the sides of the pan. You could stop there if you wish.

Step 6

Let it down with milk

To get the fluffy/creamy combo you will need to add milk. Add about a tablespoon, going further afterwards if you wish. Fold the milk in and the mash will stop sticking together and now stick to the sides of the pan in a lovely fluffy mashy manner.

Step 7

Check your seasoning

By seasoning we mean salt; black pepper with mash should be a matter of preference. If it needs more salt, add it now.


That’s it. Serve your perfect with some succulent sausages, a cheeky lamb chop or two, or follow our delicious belly pork recipe. Enjoy your tea!

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