General Question

poofandmook's avatar

How do you properly cook potatoes to make mashed potatoes?

Asked by poofandmook (17222 points ) November 22nd, 2009

I just saw a commercial for some frozen bagged potatoes that you steam in the microwave and then mash the way you normally would, which is what inspired this question. The woman in the commercial is LABORIOUSLY [rolls eyes] peeling raw potatoes to boil them. It’s such a big deal that she has to buy some too-expensive frozen stuff instead.

Now, when I boil potatoes for my potato salad, I scrub the skins, boil the potatoes with the skins on, and then they peel as easy as pie. Yet when I’ve watched people make mashed potatoes, they always peel before boiling. Is there a difference? Can you boil potatoes skin-on for some things, but not others? Or has nobody thought to do it that way before?

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37 Answers

nebule's avatar

I would personally always peel first… (for mash!) for anything else the skin is left on

gemiwing's avatar

I use golden potatoes and leave the skin on. I cube them, boil them then mash em up with garlic, sour cream and butter. The only potatoes I skin first are the cheap ones because the skins are too tough. I skin them first and for a huge pot of mashed taters it takes about ten minutes. that commercial drives me nuts too. plus she’s peeling like 50 potatoes. is she feeding the entire East Coast?

MissAusten's avatar

If I’m using little red potatoes, I leave the skin on even when mashing. If I’m using regular potatoes, I peel them first. I don’t think you have to do it that way, but I find it easier to peel them while they’re cool.

I’ve seen the commercial you’re talking about, and it always makes me laugh. It’s like the commercials that show someone going through hell to clean their food processor, or making a huge mess trying to cut brownies or flip pancakes so you’ll buy their product. If you really want to make it easy to peel potatoes, and you do it often, get one of those apple peeler/corer gadgets. Take the corer blade off, and you’ve got a quick potato peeler! I got one because I make my own applesauce, but it works on potatoes too.

NewZen's avatar

Depends on the quality of the potatoes: I boil potatoes with their skins when I have nice, clean white potatoes and peel them when they aren’t. The peel is healthy and tastes better, too.

poofandmook's avatar

I should have said I’m talking about plain old russets. I know, they’re cheap and not fancy, but some of us like them :)

janbb's avatar

Garlic mashed potatoes or “country smashed” Potatoes are often made with the peels on and are more coarsely mashed. I’m a mashed potato purist and prefer to make mine with peeled potatoes. It is not at all hard to peel potatoes before boiling if you have a good sharp peeler; takes all of ten minutes to peel about 4–5 potatoes. (I rail against stupid convenience foods like cooked and peeled hard-boiled eggs or tuna salad “mix.”)

gemiwing's avatar

@poofandmook It depends on the variety of russet whether I peel them or not. Burbank doesn’t get peeled (it’s got a lovely peel) while I will always peel a Ranger (their peels hold a LOT of dirt taste imo- even if they are scrubbed).

poofandmook's avatar

I know that when I buy the typical 5lb bag of russets, scrub them, and boil them… let them cool a bit, and then peel them warm, my potato salad always comes out absolutely delicious and never tastes of dirt.

I wasn’t sure if there was a consistency difference if you peeled them after they cool, and then mashed them.

janbb's avatar

Well, the thing is that you want to mash them hot if you are adding butter and milk, so letting them cool and then peeling them would impede the mashing process.

poofandmook's avatar

@janbb: Didn’t even think of that…

PandoraBoxx's avatar

A lot of the “laborious” factor depends on the type of potato peeler you use, and how adept you are at using your utensil of choice. Cheap peelers or a dull paring knife make peeling potatoes a pain in the neck. I use OXO kitchen utensils, and the peeler they have is great for potatoes.

I peel russets, but not new or red potatoes. I cut the potato into 1–½ inch cubes, and boil in salted water until a fork goes into the potato easily. Drain, then return to the pot. I like “lumpy” potatoes, so I just mash them, and add butter, cream, and salt and pepper. Sometimes I will put the potatoes through a ricer so they come out smooth.

@poofandmook, I’ve noticed that sometimes the potatoes are grainy after they’re cooked. I wonder if they’ve absorbed too much water in the boiling process? I’m going to try the peel-on boiling method next time, and see if the potatoes are different.

dpworkin's avatar

I just scrub them with a pot scrubber and leave the skins on. I have heard this called “dirty“mashed potatoes. I think (well, I have heard, but I don’t know if it is true) that you leave more nutrition that way; I’m convinced they taste better, and I even kind of like the way it looks, although it’s not the snowily perfect look you see in food advertisements.

Janka's avatar

You do it whichever way is most convenient for you and gives you the tasty result. I do the same as @pdworkin most of the time these days: just leave the skins on. I find the peels add a nice taste and texture. Not to mention I’m lazy.

poofandmook's avatar

I sort of hate mashed potatoes with peels. I like my mashed potatoes creamy throughout. Some things just don’t need different textures.

lfino's avatar

@poofandmook, my son has the same opinion about mashed potatoes – no peelings! Personally, I like them with a little bit of peeling throughout, but it doesn’t matter so much to me how they’re made. I’ll eat them either way.
@pdworkin, as far as I know, the peelings do add nutrition and fiber.
I wonder if leaving the peelings in the mashed potatoes is a regional thing? I’m from the midwest, and when I was growing up, it was unheard of to leave peelings in mashed potatoes. Or is it more of a recent thing because everybody has become more health consious?

laureth's avatar

I’m from the Midwest too, and when I was growing up, there were no peels left in the mashed potatoes. (In fact, my sister-in-law peels hers as if she’s afraid of the peels, taking a full quarter inch of potato off with it. Wow.)

Then I grew up and made my own, and didn’t see why people take the trouble. It’s not difficult to peel them, but why bother? I like to know my food came from the earth, not the Uniform Food Factory Extruder, so I leave the peels in.

Psychedelic_Zebra's avatar

@laureth as a major stockholder in the UFFE, I take offense at your insinuations.~

ubersiren's avatar

I leave the skins on reds, and peel russets. If the russets’ skins are especially smooth and tender, I’ll peel most, but leave a few in. That’s where a lot of the nutrients are! Then I chop them into bite sized pieces and boil just until a fork will pierce them easily.

Check out this potato peeling video with the adorable Dawn Wells

Buttonstc's avatar

I take the easy way out for my perfect fluffy mashed potatoes. I never peel them (except for potato salad in summertime) and I either bake in oven or microwave depending on time.

I then cut each one in half and use a POTATO RICER. It basically looks and functions like a really giant garlic press.

The texture is amazingly smooth and the peels are just left behind after squeezing.

There is a significant difference in flavor between boiling in water vs cooking them in their jackets.

Val123's avatar

Peel them, cut ‘em up and boil them until, when you pull one out and poke it with a fork, it falls apart easily. If you don’t boil them enough the taters won’t be fluffy. If you boil them too much, they’ll be runny. If you have to err, err on the side of not boiling them quite enough. You can always add extra milk, but you can’t get out too much water.

filmfann's avatar

I like the potato peels on a baked potato, but when you make mashed potatoes or potato salad, it makes the food look less clean.
Peel them for mashed potatoes, just for the appearence.

Val123's avatar

@filmfann Well…the peel won’t mash and yeah, you’d have papery stuff in your taters!

Fernspider's avatar

Clean, boil, mash mash mash!!! No peeling for me. I personally like my mashed potatoes to have texture.

I had mashed potatoes at a friends place once and they looked like they had been pureed. Ewwww shudder. It was like eating baby food. Sloppy, gooey mess that kinda tasted like potato.

Mmmm, I think I might do mashed potatoes with dinner tonight. Thanks guys! :D

poofandmook's avatar

@Rachienz: You won’t get enough on Thursday? hehe

Fernspider's avatar

@poofandmook – Thursday? What’s happening on Thursday? Oh god, have I forgotten something important again!?? lol

poofandmook's avatar

@Rachienz: Thanksgiving? lol

Fernspider's avatar

Awwww, I’m in New Zealand. No celebrate this one!

poofandmook's avatar

@Rachienz: ah, I saw Alaska as the last place you listed… I figured that meant you lived there lol

Val123's avatar

@Rachienz You guys got nothing to be thankful for?? Don’t you have Zebras or something there that we surely don’t have in ‘Merica? For some reason I have ALWAYS associated New Zealand with Zebras…must have first heard the name of the country when I was five, or something…

Fernspider's avatar

No zebras in NZ, other than zoos. lol

Well, no pilgrims or Native American Indians in our history so the holiday holds no relevance.

We have Waitangi Day and Anzac Day.

I lived in the States as a kid but don’t specifically hold American holidays while in NZ.

Val123's avatar

@Rachienz Uhhhh….Waitangi Day and Anzac Day…whaaaaa?

janbb's avatar

@Rachienz I know about the Treaty of Waitangi – was in NZ two years ago.

Val123's avatar

@janbb And? You gonna tell us about it??

Psychedelic_Zebra's avatar

You must leave the peels on a potato when boiling them, otherwise, they soak up lots of water. A very well-known chef taught me that.

janbb's avatar

@Val123 It was a treaty made in the 1840s (?) I believe betwen the Maoris and the British settlers establishing the government of NZ. Thus, Waitanga Day is somewhat similar to our July 4.

Fernspider's avatar

Yep – there is a great big world out there with different holidays etc etc! LOL Many countries don’t share the American holidays.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@Psychedelic_Zebra, I boiled the potatoes with the skins on and they did seem less grainy, and more or less had the consistency of boiled new potatoes. I couldn’t find a ricer at Bed, Bath and Beyond, so I sprung for an OXO food mill, and used that, leaving the skins on. Most of the peel remained in the food mill, but there were little bits of it in the potatoes that aren’t objectionable. The potatoes are very creamy, and it took less milk. I could easily see using chicken broth with riced potatoes to bind them instead of milk.

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