Do You Actually Need to 'Dry' Your Boiled Potatoes Before Mashing Them?

Some chefs swear that using completely dry spuds is the secret to perfect mashed potatoes...but is it really worth the extra step?

Mashed potatoes...just writing those words makes me happy. I know that any meal containing them is going to be a good one.

Having said that, I must admit that mediocre mashed potatoes make me very sad. It's not that it's especially hard to make them, but there are a few rules that I think are good to follow.

First, you need to choose your potatoes. Russets are my favorites because of their strong "potato" flavor. Yukon golds also work well, and their buttery color makes them especially appealing on the plate. Any potato described as "waxy" however will not yield a great batch. (But for any potato preparation where "holding their shape" is the goal, waxy wins!)

Next, the method of boiling is important. Many people swear by boiling the potatoes IN their skins to prevent the potatoes from becoming soggy. I have never had a problem with that, (and I hate peeling really hot potatoes) so I peel them, cut them into similar sized chunks, and gently boil in salted water until very tender. When boiling, the water should be above a simmer, but not at an aggressive rolling boil. Finally, I drain them and let them sit in the colander for a few minutes.

And here's where we encounter a major question. Many chefs recommend putting the drained spuds back in the pan, over low heat for a few moments to "dry out" the potatoes. This is suggested so that the potatoes will not be wet enough to contribute extra liquid to the final mash.

Mashed Potatoes
Try this recipe: Sour Cream and Chive Mashed Potatoes | Photo by Meredith.

I'm not one of the cooks who does this, and it started out with my being lazy. I didn't want that one extra take the time draining, drying, and pouring them out a second time before mashing. I know, that seems silly if it's going to make a better mash. But here's the thing: I don't really think it does. The few moments I let them drain in the colander seems to accomplish all of the drying necessary. As far as my taste buds can tell, potatoes handled this way do not have extra liquid in them. (And as a mashed potato obsessive, I trust my taste buds!)

So, if not that, what actually makes superior mashed potatoes? For me, the final steps are the non-negotiables. First, use a potato ricer — which is essentially a giant garlic press — to do your mashing. This will give you the smoothest, creamiest mashed potatoes you'll ever taste. I know you all know not to use a blender or food might just as well buy wallpaper paste at the hardware store. Second, rather than use milk and butter for my mash, I use heavy cream. Yes, really. The result is ethereal. As a final suggestion: don't under-salt. Potatoes love and need salt.

Now, while I'm not convinced drying the potatoes post-boil is necessary, will it hurt? Not at all. Do it if you want to. Or skip it and maybe make mashed potatoes more frequently because you've officially dropped that one extra step. Anything for more mashed potatoes!


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