Ask Dr. Potato

With 928 posts, chances are there's already an answer to your question. Please try searching below before submitting a question to Dr. Potato. Use multiple words to help narrow down the results. For example, search for "potatoes" and "group" if looking for an answer on cooking potatoes for large groups.

Back To Dr. Potato Home

How to Make the Perfect Mashed Potatoes for Thanksgiving


I am in charge of the mashed potatoes this year for Thanksgiving and need some advice on how to make them perfect, please help!


There are some basic “must do’s” in order to prepare perfectly mashed potatoes. When picking up potatoes at the retail or grocery store, take the time to look for the “Grown in Idaho seal with the outline of the state of Idaho on the bags. Idaho’s climate and rich, volcanic soil consistently yield potatoes with a high solids content (more potato and less water), which is ideal for making mashed potatoes. 

Gather the Ingredients  

A good, standard ratio of ingredients for making 12 1-cup servings of fresh mashed potatoes is the following:

  • 5 pounds of Idaho® potatoes
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup of butter (room temperature or warmed) 
  • Minimum of 1 1/2 cups milk up to 3 cups (heated)
  • Salt (to taste, usually 1½ Tablespoons)

Most people fix a larger portion size than a cup to ensure leftovers later on.

Prep the Potatoes

Making mashed potatoes is really a simple process. To begin, peel the potatoes and then cut into a 1 ½ to 2-inch uniform chunks so they cook evenly. One of the myths is to boil the potatoes whole. For cooking purposes, doesn’t it make sense that the outer part of the potato will cook faster and become waterlogged or crumble before the inside center ever is cooked?

The next step includes heating the potatoes. You can do this one of two ways – either by steaming or boiling. If you choose the steaming process, place the cut potatoes in a perforated insert pan in a larger pan or pot and add cold water up to the bottom of the potato chunks, put the lid on the container and cook for approximately 15 minutes. 

If you opt to boil the potatoes, simply place them in a pot, cover with water and bring to a full boil. Continue cooking potatoes in boiling water for about 20 minutes. Check out this 40 second video.

The potatoes are done when they are easily pierced with a knife or fork or can be mashed effortlessly with the back of a spatula. 

Tip: To save time and labor, you may decide not to peel the potatoes but prep with the skin on. Keeping the skin on adds texture and color to the dish as well as a dose of nutrients.

Drier is Better

Did you know that water is the enemy of perfectly mashed potatoes? After steaming or boiling the potatoes, place them in a colander or sieve to drain – making certain to get all the excess moisture out.

Tip: To ensure the driest potatoes possible, place them in a single layer on sheet pan and put in a 300°F oven for 10 minutes or until very dry to the touch. Or take the potatoes from the colander and place back into the pan on the stovetop at a low heat, stirring if there are any signs of sticking.

HOT Potatoes!

Always keep the potatoes hot, use heated milk or cream, and room temperature butter. If all of the ingredients are at the proper temperature, you can be certain the mashed potatoes will be delicious.

Let the Mixing Begin

One method is to mix the potatoes and other ingredients for a short time to mash them. You can do this by hand with an old-fashioned potato masher. Or, place the cooked, very dry potatoes in a mixer equipped with a paddle attachment and add the room temperature butter. Turn the mixer on low and slowly pour in about a third of the liquids. Increase the mixer speed and continue to add the hot milk or cream until a velvety consistency is achieved. Then, season with salt and pepper.

Be careful not to over mix the potatoes. If they are over mixed, they will become gummy and sticky. Watch this video on hand mashing.

Tip: To get an even richer, creamier mashed potato - in the classic French style - just add a bit more butter, milk or even cream. For a smooth texture you can substitute sour cream for part of the liquid or a homestyle mashed could be made using chicken broth (however don’t add salt until you taste the potato and broth together).

Time Saving Tuber Tips

Keep in mind that dehydrated mashed Idaho® potatoes have outstanding flavor, texture and consistent performance that some say rivals fresh Idaho® potatoes!

Traditional Mashed Potatoes

Check out all of our mashed potato tips, tricks and recipes on our website: