America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo
Cooking Tips

3 Ways to Make Better Mashed Potatoes

It’s all about how you cook the potatoes. 

Published Nov. 15, 2022.

There’s nothing better than well-seasoned, light-and-fluffy yet rich-and-decadent mashed potatoes that can stand up to a nice puddle of gravy

There’s nothing worse, though, than bad mashed potatoes—a gloopy, sticky, leaden mess with an uneven texture. 

To avoid the dreaded stodgy potatoes, it’s all about the cooking technique. Long before you add butter and cream (or. . . potato chips?), the potatoes themselves must be soft and not overcooked. 

Our recipe for Fluffy Mashed Potatoes falls firmly in the perfect-potato camp. Here are the three key steps to getting the best mashed potatoes. 

Sign up for the America's Test Kitchen Watch and Cook newsletter

Latest recipes, episodes, and behind-the-scenes stories from the ATK team.

1. Steam (Don’t Boil) the Potatoes

In the time it takes to bring a pot of water to boil, you could already have your potatoes cooking. 

Steaming your potatoes in a colander set in a pot with less water and a tight fitting lid not only helps them cook more evenly, but it also reduces the cooking time. Plus, steaming the potatoes instead of boiling them releases less surface starch, resulting in a better final product. 

2. Rinse the Potatoes Partway Through

Our recipe for the fluffiest mashed potatoes calls for cutting the potatoes into 1-inch chunks before steaming, resulting in a lot of exposed surface area. It reduces cook time, but increases starch release as well. Before you cook them, you’ll rinse them to get rid of any excess starch, which certainly helps. 

But here’s the key: you rinse them a second time part way through cooking as well. This cools them down and prevents even more starch from forming in the potatoes, which keeps them from getting gummy later on.  

1,001 Foolproof Recipes!

The Side Dish Bible

Enhance your meals with these scene-stealing side dishes. Find the perfect side for any meal you’re planning, from quick weeknight basics to make-ahead pairings for a wintery roast.

3. Don’t Mash the Potatoes; Rice Them

Using a potato masher to mash your potatoes might sound like the logical tool. But that can result in a chunky, rustic mash. Nothing wrong with that necessarily, especially if you’re into textured mashed potatoes. But using a potato masher can also agitate all of those starches, which is what you want to avoid. 

Instead, for smooth, supple mashed potatoes, a potato ricer or a food mill is the best way to ensure a uniform texture without a single lump. (You can use that potato masher to make lemonade instead.)

Here’s how to save those fluffy mashed potatoes for later.

This is a members' feature.