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13 Mashed Potato Mistakes Everybody Makes (And How To Avoid Them)

Plus, how to fix them.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

We recently tested a bunch of mashed potato recipes to find the best one.

After 30 pounds of potatoes and several days of carbo-loading, we learned a thing or two about what makes a good mash.

Here are 12 of the most common mistakes we encountered, and how to avoid them:

1. You add all of the liquid at once.

The sad truth is not all recipes are accurate ― and the amount of liquid your potatoes need varies by size and type. If a recipe calls for one cup of cream, go slow and start by adding a quarter cup. Slowly add more until your potatoes are moist, but not runny. Remember, you can always add more liquid, but you can't take it away.

2. You undercook your potatoes...

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Don't be tempted to drain your potatoes too early ― you wan't them to be fork tender and falling apart. If you accidentally do undercook them, simply throw them into a baking dish and cook them in a low oven. The heat should soften them just enough to smooth 'em out.

3. Or just as bad, you overcook them.

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The problem with overcooked potatoes is that they absorb a ton of water. When you go to mash them, they'll be soupy and sad. One way to fix them is by placing them in a pot over low heat and gently cooking them. The excess water will turn into steam, and your mash will dry out.

4. You make them in a food processor or blender.

This might sound like an easy shortcut, but don't be tempted. Food processors and blenders overwork the potatoes and turn them into a starchy mess. Instead, invest in a hand masher ($11.99 on Amazon), food mill ($26.99 on Amazon), or a potato ricer ($24.95 on Amazon) ― any of which will result in potatoes that are perfectly smooth, but not gluey.

5. You use the wrong type of potatoes.

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When it comes to mashed potatoes, there are two varieties you should know about: russets and yukon gold. If you prefer super fluffy, light-as-air mashed potatoes, russets are for you. If flavor is what you're after (and you're OK with them being a little denser), go with yukon golds. Starchy potatoes are better suited for mashing, while waxy potatoes are better for keeping whole.

6. You try to make them with 100% sweet potatoes.

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Mashed sweet potatoes are delicious, but they can be quite heavy. One way to work around that is to cook your sweet potatoes with a few russet potatoes. The russets will lighten the sweet potato mash and make it nice and fluffy without sacrificing the taste.

7. You don't salt the cooking water.

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Seasoning the cooking water is a crucial step ― it's the only time you'll be able to season the potatoes from the inside out. You want your water to taste pretty darn salty, so don't be afraid to go heavy. You won't actually be consuming all of the salt, and your potatoes will taste so much better.

8. You start cooking your potatoes in boiling water.

You may think you're saving time by cooking your potatoes in boiling water, but doing so will only cause your potatoes to overcook on the outside and remain hard in the middle. Instead, start them in cold, salted water and bring them to a boil. The potatoes will cook evenly and result in a consistent mash.

9. You add cold butter and milk to hot mashed potatoes.

Adding cold ingredients to hot potatoes not only brings the temperature down (cold potatoes, ew), but it also prohibits the potatoes from absorbing liquid. Make sure to heat your butter and milk in a pan before adding them to the mash. Your potatoes will absorb more liquid and turn out creamier.

10. You let them get cold and don't readjust their consistency.

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You can make mashed potatoes ahead of time, but it's important to take the proper steps when reheating them. Make sure you readjust the consistency with more liquid. As potatoes sit, they dry out and before stiff. To counteract this, simply add warm milk and give 'em a stir to loosen up. No one likes dry mashed potatoes, so make sure to give your leftovers some love.

11. You underseason them.

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Mashed potatoes are both starchy and fatty, two things that require a lot of salt to counteract. Don't be afraid to add a good bit of salt ― mashed potatoes really do need it. One to two teaspoons of salt is not uncommon, and the saltiness will help elevate all of the other flavors.

12. You cut the potatoes into irregular sized shapes (or you don't cut them at all).

Cutting potatoes into uniform pieces makes sure your potatoes cook evenly and quickly. If you don't cut them at all, they will take a very long time to cook ― and if you cut them into irregular sized pieces, you'll end up with pieces that are overcooked and pieces that are still raw in the center.

13. You don't drain them long enough.

Excess water is one way to ruin a perfect mash. A simple way to get around that problem is to fully drain your potatoes and place them back into the hot pot. The heat from the pot will make any excess water evaporate and prevent your mash from getting soupy.

Let's get mashing ― you got this!