The 10 commandments of perfect mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes used to be the superstars of our Thanksgiving table, but lately it seems they have lost their luster. What happened to our favorite comfort food? Our guess is that there are about a million ways that mashed potatoes can be done wrong, so it's pretty easy to get turned off of the stuff.

Let's be honest: Mashed potatoes can be watery, not fluffy enough, too dry, not seasoned properly, or just plain blah. Master the rules of perfect mashed potatoes now, and you'll ensure that they're at their buttery, fluffy best on your Thanksgiving table.

1. DO use the right potatoes


Not all tubers are created equal as far as mashed potatoes are concerned. Potatoes fall into three categories: starchy, waxy, and all-purpose. You want to use the starchy ones to get a creamy mash. We prefer Yukon golds for their buttery texture (and golden color), but Russets (aka Idaho potatoes) are also good.

2. DO cut your potatoes the same size.


Different-sized chunks will cook at different rates, so some of your potatoes will be undercooked while others are overcooked. No bueno. Cut your chunks the same size, start them in cold water, and bring to a simmer until they are cooked through.

3. Do NOT add your flavorings at the end


There's nothing worse than biting into a hunk of raw garlic because it was stirred in right before serving. We like to put garlic and herbs in the pot with the dairy, so the milk or cream gets infused with the flavor before being added to the potatoes.

4. DO embrace the tang factor

Sour cream with basil leaves on blue background

Sour cream with basil leaves on blue background (iStock)

Sour cream, buttermilk, crème fraîche--all these things will do wonders for your spuds by adding richness as well as a pleasant tang.

5. Do NOT lose the fluff


There are a lot of things you can do to ensure your mashed potatoes are perfectly fluffy every time. One trick is to drain the potatoes and put them back in the pot without a lid after they have boiled. Cook them just for a couple minutes on medium-low, shaking the pot, until all the excess moisture that's still clinging to the potatoes has evaporated. That's liquid you DON'T want, since it'll make your mash all watery.

Find out the rest of the 10 commandments for the perfect mashed potatoes.

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