If there’s ever a time to kiss the cook, it’s when he or she makes perfect mashed potatoes and gravy. Because we all know great mashed potatoes are few and far between. Usually bland, boring, gummy, and even chunky. The kind of mashed potatoes you get in a school cafeteria. And don’t even get me started on the gravy.
Lacking proper technique kills any hopes for good mashed potatoes and gravy. But there is hope for the hopeless.
After much trial and error and advice, I’ve finally learned how to make perfect homemade mashed potatoes and gravy.
First, the potatoes.
Flakey Mashed Potatoes, Anyone?
Growing up, there wasn’t too much homemade cooking going on at my house. My mom was more semi-homemade like Sandra Lee. The usual mashed potatoes of choice were Idaho Spuds Classic Potatoes. Yes, the boxed kind. I didn’t know any better, so what did I care? But at some point the instant potatoes weren’t cutting it.
Something told me there was more than Idaho Spuds potato flakes.
Yes, they’re super convenient and easy to make. And you can doctor them up a little. But were they even close to real mashed potatoes? I had to find out.
From that moment on, I was appointed the mashed potato maker in our home. My family never went back to instant potatoes. And we all lived happily ever after!
My Husband Schooled Me in Mashed Potatoes 101
He sure does know his stuff, man. Just when I think I’m a good cook, my husband steals my thunder! When we got married, the truth came out.
My mashed potatoes I thought were perfect were actually terrible.
My husband, so honestly, diagnosed them as being too chunky, gluey, and runny. To top it all off, I left the skins on. How dare I do such a thing! I was back at square one. With a little guidance from my hubs, I knew I could get the perfect buttery, lump-free, and fluffy mashed potatoes. So, I took his advice.
How To Make Perfect Mashed Potatoes – Pro Tips
The recipe I now use for mashed potatoes is more technique than recipe, per se. Here is a list of pro tips and techniques for making perfect homemade mashed potatoes. I’m giving quality advice here, so listen up!
- Use a food mill or ricer. It’s super easy and it’s the only way to get the perfect consistency. If you mash with a fork or masher, you risk overworking the potatoes; leaving you with a gummy glob. You want smooth and fluffy. This is the food mill I use and LOVE.
- Use Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes. It matters because you want the best texture and flavor. And these have both. You can easily find these in 3-5 pound bags which saves you money!
- Salt your water. A salt water bath is just what your spuds need. I’m talking lots of salt. It gives the potatoes tons of flavor. Don’t worry about the potatoes being too salty. They can only absorb so much. Just remember nobody likes bland mashed potatoes.
- Cook potatoes whole. Don’t waste your precious time cutting potatoes. Throw those bad boys in the pot whole. You don’t necessarily need to peel them either. If using a food mill or ricer, most of the peelings don’t get passed through.
- Work with hot potatoes – If you let your potatoes cool off too much they will become gummy. And there ain’t no turnin’ back. If you need to keep the potatoes hot while you warm your other ingredients, put them back in the pot with the burner turned off. This will keep them hot while evaporating any residual water.
- Use tons of butter. You can totally eyeball this part. At least 1 stick, if not 2. Gasp! You want your mashed potatoes to go to flavor town. Trust me.
- Melt the dairy. Your potatoes are hot, so you should add hot dairy. It just makes sense if you want to eat hot mashed potatoes. Not to mention, you won’t have a chance to overwork your potatoes!
- Don’t overwork your potatoes. This starts by using a food mill or ricer when mashing the potatoes. But it also applies when mixing in the dairy. Don’t go crazy and whip frantically. Be gentle and fold in the ingredients. That way you keep the potatoes fluffy and avoid a gummy mess.
It’s All Gravy
This is going to be your new favorite gravy recipe. It’s simple to put together but there are a few preparations to be made before assembling the gravy.
3 Things to Prep for the Gravy:
- Homemade stock. There are times when making your own stock doesn’t make sense. For this gravy, you should totally make your own stock (chicken, beef, pork, whatever)! I store my stock in these containers because that’s what restaurants do. And they’re amazing. The flavor of a homemade stock is far superior to boxed. But IF you don’t have time or you’re feeling lazy, store-bought stock will do.
- Cider and vinegar reduction. A can of hard cider and a few splashes of apple cider vinegar will cure what ails ya! Let simmer in a saucepan and reduce by half to get maximum goodness. This mixture will add sweetness and a little tang to the gravy.
- Roux. Simply melt butter in a saucepan and add an equal amount of flour. Stir constantly until it looks brown and smells nutty. For an in-depth guide on roux, click here.
Assembling the Gravy
Once everything’s prepped, it’s time to make some magic.
Add cider reduction and stock a little at a time and stir, stir, stir to prevent lumps. All that’s left to do is season with salt and/or amino acids and stir until thickened to your taste. Ladle a generous amount over your taters and dig in!
This is definitely one of my favorite side dishes of all time. You’ll be surprised at how something so bland and boring can be transformed into a flavor bomb! It’s the best version of mashed potatoes and gravy you’ll ever eat. I guarantee it!
So, now that you know simple techniques for making mashed potatoes and gravy, I hope you feel confident to wow your family and friends. This dish is something to be proud of, especially if you come from a semi-homemade background. Enjoy these any time of year!
Mashed Potatoes Recipe
3 lbs Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
1-2 sticks unsalted butter
Place whole potatoes in a large pot. Fill with cold water and add enough salt to taste like the ocean. The potatoes will absorb some of this salt as they cook. Bring water to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are pierced with no resistance. Drain potatoes in a colander then put back into the pot off the heat. This allows excess moisture to evaporate.
Melt butter in a small saucepan.
Use a food mill or ricer to break down potatoes into a large bowl. Add melted butter and salt to taste. Gently fold in the butter and salt until just incorporated.
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
1 can apple cider
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 c chicken or pork stock
Add cider and vinegar together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until reduced by half.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir. Keep stirring until it becomes brown and smells nutty. Take pan off the heat and add cider reduction a little at a time. Add stock and stir. Put pan over medium heat and stir. The gravy is done when it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add salt to taste.