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Which Mashing Method is Best?

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2011

The equipment you use to mash your potatoes will have a big effect on their texture.

For the fluffiest mashed potatoes, the goal is to use the gentlest touch possible to avoid bursting the potatoes’ swollen starch granules. Once released, the sticky gel inside will turn the mash gluey. We’ve found that the vigorous action of a food processor guarantees glueyness—and although a potato masher is fine for producing a rustic chunky texture, it yields a mash that’s far from fluffy. In tests, we’ve zeroed in on the ricer as the best tool for producing a fluffy texture. But is a ricer really the top choice if your goal is not only a fluffy mash, but a supremely smooth one as well? We made two identical batches of our Fluffy Mashed Potatoes (see related recipe), putting one through a ricer and the other through a food mill. While tasters found the riced potatoes a tad fluffier, they were also a bit grainy. The potatoes that passed under the food mill’s sweeping blade were almost as fluffy and boasted a far smoother texture. We still stand by the ricer as the most effective tool for fluffy potatoes, but there’s no need to rush out and buy one if you have the more versatile food mill in your cabinet. Here are our notes on other tools you can use to mash your potatoes:

Electric Mixer: A real no-no, unless you like gluey potatoes

Masher: Even with a good workout, some lumps are inevitable.

ULTRA-FLUFFY
A ricer provides the gentlest touch for the fluffiest mash.

ULTRA-SMOOTH
More aggressive than a ricer, a food mill will still produce fluffy results—and a super-smooth texture.