How we tested
Do you look at your potato masher and think, “That is a great tool that does its one job really well?” If not, maybe it’s time for an upgrade. Traditional mashers have long, solid handles attached to either a wavy wire or a perforated disk, but we’ve seen a number of products with innovative designs such as a coil shape or a spring-loaded handle. Could any of these new products make mashing easier?
To find out, we rounded up 15 different mashers priced from $6.99 to $29.99—five wavy, five perforated, and five innovative—and started with an elimination round to weed out any that were unacceptably flawed. We used each product to mash 2 pounds of boiled Yukon Gold potatoes (the type of potato we use most often in our recipes) in a large saucepan, counting the number of passes it took to get rid of lumps and rating each masher on comfort and durability. Products that bent or warped, were painful to hold, or took more than 50 passes to mash the potatoes (the best took around 30) were immediately out. This included most of the innovative products—their uncomfortable handles and inefficient mashing plates made for slow and painful mashing.
That left us with nine mashers, which we tested by mashing starchier russets, softer sweet potatoes, and more Yukon Golds in 2- and 4-quart saucepans and an 8-quart Dutch oven.
We also had different testers (men and women, lefties and righties) try each masher on a measured amount of boiled potatoes. In total, we muscled through almost 150 pounds of potatoes.
We immediately noticed that mashers with perforated mashing plates (which are round or oval) made smoother potatoes and took less effort than wave-style products. The larger gaps in wavy mashers often left lumps of untouched potato, and these mashers’ blocky footprints made it difficult to navigate the circular edges of pans, especially in smaller saucepans. Testers preferred perforated mashing plates with lots of small holes—our two favorite mashers had 50 or more—which made a smoother, more even mash. Wave-shaped mashers also occasionally bent or warped during tougher mashing, while the solid plate on most perforated mashers stayed rigid.
The size of the mashing plate was also a point of contention. The plates on the mashers ranged from 7.6 square inches to 14.6 square inches; our favorites fell solidly in the middle. Mashers with plates that were too large struggled to maneuver in smaller 2-quart saucepans, while petite products took almost twice as many passes to mash the same amount of potatoes. The ideal was a plate with an area of about 10 square inches (about the size of a baseball), which speedily navigated pans of all sizes.
Testers also zeroed in on the size, shape, and material of the handles. Larger-handed testers had trouble holding handles that were 4 inches or shorter; thin, short, or metal handles were uncomfortable and slippery. Lefties and righties of all sizes preferred handles around 5 or 6 inches long with a slight curve and a secure plastic grip.
Finally, we washed all the mashers by hand after each test and ran them through the dishwasher 10 times to simulate months of washing. Lower-ranked products trapped potato in hard-to-reach spots or emerged from the dishwasher warped and scratched. Our favorite products were easy to clean by hand and still looked as good as new after multiple runs through the dishwasher.
Our favorite product was the Zyliss Stainless Steel Potato Masher ($12.99), a traditional perforated masher that has a long, curved plastic handle and a sturdy, circular plate; it was maneuverable, comfortable, and efficient.