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11/04/2011 12:43 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Make Mashed Potatoes

There is a fool-proof method for making smooth, velvety homemade mashed potatoes: Use a ricer. Chef Brannon Soileau of The Culinary Institute of America shows how it's done.

Homemade Mashed Potatoes

He starts with a pound of peeled potatoes, cut into even cubes and set in enough cold water to cover. He brings them to a boil, draining them once they're fork tender. He then returns them to the fire to dry -- you'll know the excess water is gone when they look white and chalky on the outside.

Next, he takes the potatoes off the heat and starts ricing them in batches. A ricer works just like a large garlic press, forcing the potatoes through small holes to achieve a smoother texture than if you mashed them by hand. Once all of the potatoes are riced, he adds 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 ounces of hot heavy cream. (The actual ratio is 4 ounces of hot dairy to a pound of potatoes, but he adds half to begin with to ensure they don't get too runny.) Salt and pepper go in now, too. He mixes the potatoes with a large spoon, being careful not to overwork them and adding more hot cream if necessary. (Keep everything warm -- the potatoes will start to get gluey when they cool.) Once the potatoes are smooth, silky and drop easily from a spoon, they're ready to eat.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

I'm Chef Brannon Soileau from the Culinary Institute of America, and today I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to make mashed potatoes with a ricer.

I've already peeled roughly one pound of potatoes, I've cubed them in equal increments, and I've put them in cold water with a pinch of salt - just enough water to cover. You always start them in cold water, so they can come up together. When they are fork-tender, you want to take the potatoes off the fire, and you want to strain the water off. After the potatoes are strained, you want to return them back to the fire and dry them out. The reason you want to dry them out is so they are velvety. You want any of the moisture the potato has sucked up from the water to get out. How do you know when they're dry? What they'll look like, they'll have the appearance of a chalky texture on the outside of the potato. You notice the outside is getting rather white and sandy, chalky.

Now the potatoes have dried properly, we're going to take them off the fire, and now we're going to rice them. We're going to use a tool known as a ricer. A ricer is basically a big oversized garlic press. I'm going to take the dried potatoes out of the pot and put them into the ricer, and press them right down into another vessel. The ricer will give you a much smoother texture than if you mashed by hand.

In my bowl I have roughly a pound of riced, dried potato starch. Now that the potato is riced, the ratio you want to remember is four ounces of hot dairy (in this case heavy whipping cream), a tablespoon of whole butter, salt and pepper, to one pound of potatoes. I'm going to take that tablespoon of butter; the butter goes into my pulp. Then I'll add half of the four ounces of hot dairy. It's important that all these items stay hot; if they get cold, then the gluten can overwork, and it can become wallpaper-paste-like. So I pour half my dairy in, season with salt and pepper, and I begin to mix it up. It's important that you do not overmix.

You notice these potatoes are too tight, too stiff. Look at them on the end of the spoon; they don't fall off. So I add a little bit more dairy to it, go back, adjust it, remix, and now it's starting to get a little more velvety, it's starting to get smoother. You have to work quickly; don't let them get cold.

Almost there! See how when I gave the spoon a little jerk, they're still hanging on the spoon? I want them a little smoother. So a little more cream, and I think I should be there. Ah, now we're getting nice and velvety, nice and silky, and watch these potatoes on the spoon. Notice how I give it a small jerk, and it falls right off the spoon. That's the fluid velvetiness that I'm looking for on the palate, nice and velvety.

One last thing: make sure your seasoning's proper. You've got the consistency; now taste it. Magnifique!