Sides, Technique, Tips

Fluffy Mashed Potato Secrets

mashed potatoes in cast iron dish

I’ve always had a knack for mashed potatoes. My kids say it, my guests say it, I’ve come to accept it as the truth: my mashed potatoes are da bomb. I credit this fact to my dear mother, who taught me all her secrets for perfect mashed potatoes, every time. Here is the step by step to fluffy and delicious mashed potatoes:

Fluffy Mashed Potatoes

Yield: 1 potato per serving (6 potatoes equals 6 servings)


  • 6 mature potatoes, peeled
  • Salted water
  • ½ cup or more of the fat of your choice: butter, margarine, or oil
  • (milk)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Begin by choosing older potatoes, which have more starch and less moisture. Place potatoes of a similar size (or cut the potatoes into pieces approximately equal in size) into salted water to barely cover. Cover the pot and bring to a boil on high heat. Lower the temperature to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are just soft when pierced with a knife tip. Depending on the size of the potatoes, they may need to simmer anywhere from 20 minutes, to an hour and a half.
  2. Drain the potatoes well. Shake the drained potatoes in the pot (make sure the lid is on tight!) until you no longer feel/hear the potatoes moving around. This gets the starch going.
  3. Now you can mash the potatoes with a potato masher, but only until just mashed. If you go at the potatoes with the masher for too long, the potatoes will turn to glue.
  4. Next, fold in your fat of choice: butter, margarine, or oil, plus salt and pepper to taste. Note that one of the main secrets to good mashed potatoes is enough fat and salt. Start with 1/2 cup of fat for 6 potatoes. If the potatoes don’t look creamy, add more fat until the potatoes attain that perfect creamy texture. (Potatoes can hold quite a lot of fat. But add too much and the potatoes will begin to separate and look watery.)
  5. Use 2 ½ teaspoons of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to start with per every 6 potatoes, adding more seasoning to taste, as necessary.
  6. If you are serving the potatoes with a dairy meal, you can use a bit less fat, adding some milk to get that creamy, dreamy texture. I add about ¼ cup of milk at a time, until I get the texture I like.
  7. If you are serving the potatoes with a meat meal or just avoiding dairy, you can use the oil from making crispy shallots to give a delightful oniony flavor to your mashed potatoes.
  8. Once you have added fat, salt, and pepper, cover the potatoes and let them sit on a low fire (or just steam in the pot) for five minutes before serving, to make them even fluffier! Yum.
  9. Some nice additions to the potatoes include chopped chives, fried onions, or grieben. A nice topping for mashed potatoes, when serving with a dairy meal, is a dollop of sour cream.