simplest mashed potatoes

Foolproof mashed potatoes

23 November 2016

I finally figured out the best way for a distracted cook to manage homemade mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving. No peeler, no risk of overcooked spuds – just potatoes, butter and milk in the most fuss-free and relaxed method I’ve found.

Here’s the trick: quickly score each potato around the center before boiling them whole. You don’t need to worry much about overcooking potatoes this way; the skins will keep the flesh from getting waterlogged.

Then leave the cooked potatoes in the covered pot until just before you want them. They stay hot forever. Get on with your other cooking and come back when you’re ready. The scored peels slip easily slip off the cooked potatoes, and the mashing part is easy.

Scoring takes no time. Light cut around the center.

scoring potato skin

scored potato

Cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to boil and then simmer. Whole potatoes will take a while to cook – at least 30 minutes – but it’s completely hands off.

cover potatoes with water

If you’re too distracted to fork test, just peek at the potatoes every so often. When they’re well done, you’ll see the skins splitting at the scored cut.

boiled potatoes

Just before you’re ready to eat, drain the potatoes, and the skins peel off easily.

peeling boiled potato

half peeled boiled potato

Put the peeled potatoes back in the pot with the butter.


Mash the potatoes. It’s easy when they’re this soft.

mashing potato

Add hot milk (because you don’t want lukewarm mashed potatoes).

hot milk

Mix well with salt and pepper.

mixing mashed potatoes

mashed potatoes

This bowl of creaminess is what makes turkey worth eating. Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

foolproof mashed potatoes

Foolproof Mashed Potatoes
Put away your peeler! My easy way for foolproof mashed potatoes: score potatoes around the center, then boil them in their skins. Leave them in the hot pot until just before you want to mash them – the peels will keep the flesh from becoming waterlogged while the potatoes sit, and the scored skins slip easily off the cooked potatoes.


  • Potatoes (I like Yukon Gold for their medium size and creamy flesh)
  • Butter (1 tablespoon per pound of potatoes)
  • Milk (I like whole milk; 1/2 cup per pound of potatoes)
  • Salt (about 3/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt per pound of potatoes; or a scant 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
  • Ground pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon per pound of potatoes)


  1. Scrub potatoes. Using a small sharp knife, score each potato (cut lightly through the skin) in a circle around the center of each potato. Place potatoes in a pot large enough to hold them all with room to spare.
  2. Fill pot with water to cover potatoes completely. Bring to boil on high heat, then reduce to a low simmer.
  3. Cook time varies depending on the size of your potatoes – plan on at least 30 minutes. I’m pretty relaxed about overcooking whole potatoes, because the skins will protect the flesh from getting watery. Test with a fork, or you can see they’re well done when the skins are splitting from the scored center.
  4. Leave potatoes in hot covered pot until you are ready to make the mashed potatoes. They will stay hot for quite a long time in the hot water.
  5. When you are ready to make the mashed potatoes, drain the potatoes in a colander. Depending on how hot they are, you may need kitchen gloves to protect your hands as you peel the potatoes. Put the peeled potatoes back in the pot.
  6. Add butter to potatoes and mash them. I use a simple hand masher, but you can also use a potato ricer. Heat milk (because you don’t want lukewarm potatoes). Add hot milk, salt and pepper and stir well. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot.


  • Plan on 1/3 to 1/2 pound of potatoes per person.
  • For 6-8 people: 3 lbs potatoes, 3 tablespoons butter, 1 1/2 cups milk.
  • For 10-15 people: 5 lbs of potatoes; 5 tablespoons butter, 2 1/2 cups milk.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rae 24 November 2016 at 5:25 pm

Good tips! For the “mashing” part, I like to use a ricer. I also like a dollop of cream cheese or sour cream for extra flavor and richness.

Happy Thanksgiving!


cg 25 November 2016 at 7:34 pm

hi rae – you are right on all counts! =) hope you had a great thanksgiving!


Susan C 30 December 2016 at 4:16 pm

Tried this for Thanksgiving! It worked great! I’m doing it again for tonight. Thanks for the great tip!


cg 30 December 2016 at 5:12 pm

hi susan c – fantastic, thanks for sharing! happy new year to you. =)


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: