Mashed potatoes are an incredibly popular food, thanks to their simplicity and deliciousness. The traditional preparation method involves using a potato masher, as that kitchen tool is designed specifically to make the task of mashing easier. But what if you don’t own a potato masher and don’t want to buy one?
The good news is that there are plenty of other methods to mash potatoes without a masher. Some of them use other kitchen tools not everyone has, but several use basic tools you already have in your kitchen.
In this post, we’ll explore the best ways to mash potatoes without a masher, things to avoid when mashing potatoes, and how to know when your potatoes are mashed to perfection. Let’s get started!
Best Potato Mashing Techniques Without a Masher
There are plenty of suggestions on how to mash potatoes without a masher, but not all of them are created equally. Below, you will find some of the best techniques to mash potatoes without a masher.
Use a Fork
Using a fork is a great alternative to a potato masher, as everyone has a fork in their kitchen. This means that you only need extremely basic supplies to do it. The downside is that it is a bit intimidating as, obviously, mashing potatoes with a fork will take longer than some other methods.
That being said, you should not be overly worried about whether you can mash potatoes with a fork. As long as you boil your potatoes before mashing them, you should not have any issues, as boiling will soften them. You will also want to pierce the potatoes with the tines of the fork or a knife before you mash them; this lets moisture drain out and makes mashing easier.
It will still take longer than other methods, though. Minimize that issue by opting for a larger fork if you have one. You should also keep in mind that the results are unlikely to be as smooth as the other methods on this list. It’s also possible that the occasional potato chunk will feel a bit grainy.
A great bonus to using a fork is that you are in complete control to a degree that is not possible with any other method. You can completely adjust the texture and shape of the potatoes. You also have fewer dishes to do, and forks are much easier to wash than some of the other tools on this list. You can even experiment with using different sides of the fork to mash the potatoes for different results: Try the smoothed flat edge then the pointed prongs.
Use a Whisk
Using a whisk to mash potatoes may not seem to make much sense in the beginning of the process when the potatoes are still solid; however, this is easy to overcome. As is the case when you use a fork to mash, always make sure to boil the potatoes before using a whisk. This will soften them up, and if they are soft enough for a fork, they are soft enough for a whisk. You should also still pierce the potatoes to let them drain before starting.
Using a whisk works well as the whisk’s smooth metal edges are sturdy enough to break through the potato. When you are ready to whisk, just put your potatoes in a bowl and whisk them like you would do with eggs. The first few strokes will be quite a bit lumpier than eggs but they will quickly start to smooth out.
Use a Food Mill
Using a food mill to mash your potatoes is likely to result in incredibly smooth potatoes that are light and airy. As soon as you put these potatoes in your mouth, they will start to dissolve.
When you use a food mill, the tool will whirl the potatoes in circles, forcing them through perforations using a combination of downward pressure and centripetal force. You essentially let gravity take care of mashing your potatoes for you.
If you have a food mill on hand and want a quick method to mash potatoes with fluffy results, then this is the best option.
Before opting for this method, just make sure you have time to clean your food mill afterward. Cleanup won’t be as quick as cleaning a whisk or fork.
Use a Potato Ricer
You’ll get similar results to those of the food mill if you use a potato ricer, although the mashed potatoes will be even fluffier. This comes from the fact that ricers are gentler on the potatoes than mills are.
If you are unfamiliar with the tool, potato ricers are extrusion tools. You cook potatoes and then push them through what is essentially a very large garlic press. This makes the texture uniform.
To make using a potato ricer even easier, consider cutting your potatoes into cubes and then boiling them so they become smooth. Then, you can just place several of the cubes in the ricer at a time so you don’t overwhelm the tool.
This is probably the best method if you want your potatoes to be as light and fluffy as possible. Just be prepared for some cleanup, as a potato ricer requires some disassembly to clean.
Use an Electric Hand Mixer or Stand Mixer – But Only for Dense Potatoes
Most people prefer their mashed potatoes to be light and fluffy. Others, however, prefer denser potatoes that feel heavier. If you are in that latter category, you can also mash the potatoes with a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer.
If you choose to go this route, always opt for a low setting to avoid overmixing, which would give results closer to what you would expect from a food processor, which is something you want to avoid.
The key here is to make sure you stop mixing the potatoes in time. As soon as you notice they start to look silky, stop mixing. If you keep going at this point, the potatoes will become too gluey.
Use a Mug
It may seem like odd, but you can use a mug to mash potatoes. This is yet another option that requires only items you likely already have in your kitchen, but it is a bit less labor-intensive than a fork. The bonus of using a mug is that it is easy to hold thanks to the convenient handle.
This method is exactly what it seems: Just put your potatoes on a flat surface or in a bowl and use the bottom of the mug to flatten and mash them. As a bonus, you can choose a mug based on the weight that is most comfortable for you to use.
Things to Avoid – and Do – When Mashing Potatoes
Whether you use one of the above methods to mash your potatoes, a potato masher, or get creative, there are a few important things you want to keep in mind. Being aware of potential mistakes lets you easily avoid them and ensure your potatoes come out great.
Avoid Overworking the Potatoes
One of the most important things to keep in mind as you mash your potatoes is that you want to avoid overworking them. Most people prefer light potatoes, and to get light potatoes, you need to minimize how much you work with them.
If you are in the minority and don’t like light potatoes, then go ahead and ignore this rule. Just know that while you may like the heavier potatoes you get in the end, they will likely take your guests by surprise.
Avoid a Food Processor
Since overworking your potatoes is an important mistake to avoid, it should not be surprising that you should not use a food processor. If you put the potatoes in a food processor, you are almost guaranteed to overwork the potatoes.
Even more importantly, the food processor will cause damage to the potato cells which results in more starch in your mash. Instead of the light, fluffy potatoes you probably want, you will end up with a gummy, gooey, odd consistency.
To make matters worse, the food processor is likely to be annoying and time-consuming to clean, as you’ll have to disassemble, clean, and dry it before putting it back together.
You should only use a food processor if you prefer your mashed potatoes to be gluey and sticky. Eating mashed potatoes that you mashed with a food processor will give you something similar in consistency to peanut butter, at least when it sticks to your mouth.
Avoid an Electric Mixer If You Want Light Potatoes
If you want dense and creamy potatoes, go ahead and use an electric mixer. However, if you want light ones, avoid these tools and use something else on our list.
If you’re looking to make french fried or other types of potatoes, you might consider investing in a potato slicer to make your favorites.
Avoid Overmixing with an Electric Mixer
If you do decide to use an electric mixer, whether a hand mixer or stand mixer, do not overmix the potatoes. Most people will notice there is a fine line between creamy and rich, and dense and sticky. If you overmix with the electric mixer, you will run into the same issues you do with a food processor.
Avoid High Settings with an Electric Mixer
Yet another mistake to avoid if you use an electric mixer is using the wrong speed setting. You always want to opt for a lower setting for the same overmixing risks that we’ve mentioned.
There’s also the fact that mixing your potatoes in an electric mixer on a high setting can be a recipe for potato bits flying around your kitchen.
Do Use the Right Potatoes
Some potatoes result in better mashed potatoes than others. If you want fluffy and light potatoes that are well-mashed, opt for potatoes that are high in starch. Good options include Yukon Gold and Russet.
At the same time, avoid any potatoes that are waxier, such as fingerlings or Red Bliss. These waxier potatoes have less starch than the other varieties which makes them worse at breaking down and properly absorbing dairy. If you use these low-starch potato varieties, your mashed potatoes are more likely to have a gummy or gluey texture.
Do Use Multiple Types of Potatoes
While you can just use one type of potato to make your mashed potatoes, this is not ideal: The best option is to combine two types of potatoes. A popular combination is an even amount of Russets and Yukon Golds.
Do Make Sure to Wash the Potatoes
You may be tempted to skip washing the potatoes. Some people assume that the boiling water will be more than enough to clean them – but you don’t want to rely on that.
Think about what happens when you put dirty potatoes in water and boil them: The dirt comes off the potatoes and ends up in the water. Remember that potatoes absorb the water, so they would absorb this dirt. Simply put, forgetting to wash the potatoes before you boil them will result in dirty-tasting mashed potatoes.
Do Boil the Potatoes First
No matter the method you choose to mash the potatoes, you should always take the time to boil them before doing so. This will soften the potatoes, making them easier to mash.
As a bonus, adding some salt to the water as you boil the potatoes can take the flavor of the finished result up a notch.
Avoid Putting the Potatoes Directly into Boiling Water
You know that you want to boil the potatoes before you mash them, but don’t let the water boil before you add the potatoes. Instead, put the potatoes in a pot with cold water, and then put the entire thing on the stove and start heating it up.
Boiling the potatoes this way helps them cook evenly. If you add them to boiling water, you are likely to end up with interiors that are underdone and firm and exteriors that are overcooked.
Do Keep Some of the Potato Water
As you boil the potatoes, a lot of the starch from the vegetable will release into the cooking water; this results in the water becoming slightly viscous. You can toss most of it, but make sure to save some.
Then, if you have issues getting your potatoes to the ideal temperature and they are just too sticky or dense, add a little bit of the potato water back in.
Bonus Tips: Other Ingredients to Consider
While the rest of this article focuses on how to mash the potatoes themselves, there are also some quick things you should know about the other ingredients you are likely to add. Avoid the following mistakes as you follow your favorite recipe.
Salt the Water
Potatoes absorb water as you boil them. This means that they will absorb the salt in the water, giving you a head start on the flavoring process.
More importantly, the cells on the exterior of the potatoes close off when they are done cooking, which makes it much harder to season the potatoes after boiling. The ideal amount of salt is about a tablespoon for each pound of potatoes you use.
Avoid adding cold cream and butter
Mashed potato recipes nearly always include cream and butter, and rightfully so. However, it’s important that you add them at the right point in the process. For example, if you add them when they are cold and right from the fridge, the potatoes won’t be able to absorb them and they’ll cool your potatoes down. The fact that you would need to work the potatoes more to absorb cold butter and cream means you are more likely to ruin the texture of the potatoes.
Instead, you have two options: You can heat the butter and cream gently before you mix them into the potatoes, or you can just take them out of the fridge ahead of time and let them reach room temperature.
Avoid making them too far in advance
While you can make some dishes ahead of time and save them for later, mashed potatoes are better fresh. They tend to get sticky and thick if you wait too long to eat them.
How to Know When Potatoes Are Mashed Perfectly
You will notice a common theme when discussing how to mash potatoes without a masher: You should not overmix them or they will become too gluey and sticky. But how do you know when they are ready without accidentally going too far?
Personal Preference Matters
Some of it will come down to personal preference. Many people prefer their mashed potatoes to be fairly smooth and uniform. Some people, however, like to still have the occasional chunk in their finished dish.
Less Is More
As mentioned, one of the most important rules to follow is that less is more. In most cases, your potatoes will be mashed perfectly when you have only mashed them for a few minutes.
Final Thoughts on Mashing Potatoes Without a Masher
If you want to make some mashed potatoes but don’t own a potato masher, you can still follow your favorite recipe. The fluffiest potatoes come from a using food mill, with a potato ricer delivering a close second. You can also use a whisk, fork, or even a mug. Never use a food processor to mash potatoes, and if you use an electric mixer, keep a close eye on the potatoes to avoid overmixing. No matter the method you choose, you will be on your way to delicious mashed potatoes.