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Mashed potato technique: work the potatoes or not?

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 

Yesterday I made mashed potatoes and they were really good, however I constantly try to improve and I like to understand the various techniques that are being used. 

 

One thing that I don't fully grasp is that on one hand, I know that using a food processor to puree the potatoes is a big no-no because  it somehow turns the starch into sugar and in the end you get a sweet gooey sticky mess instead of light fluffy mash. Got it. I use a food mill. 

 

But on the other hand, I see Chefs "work" the mashed potatoes in a pan for 5mn or more before adding the butter. I understand that you have to dry the potatoes, and that working them like that gives them a smoother texture... but when I see videos of Robuchon really whipping the potatoes very hard for 5mn non-stop like his life depends on it, I'm left wondering: 

 

Isn't that action also turning starch into sugar? 

 

As far as my experience, it doesn't seem like it does (my mash has a better texture when I work it hard for 5mn over low fire before adding the butter) - but I don't understand why. 

post #2 of 45

It's not starch to sugar, it's avoiding gluten development.Always mash vertically when possible.

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post #3 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by cape chef View Post

It's not starch to sugar, it's avoiding gluten development.Always mash vertically when possible.

OK, now I'm curious, are potatoes a no-no for gluten sensitive/celiac people?

 

I was not aware that potatoes contained gluten.

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post #4 of 45
According to Harold McGee, the FP is bad because you break open the potato cells which doesn't happen with the less aggressive methods. Breaking open the cells releases too much starch into the mash.

I quoted the local paper quoting McGee on this back in 2010:

http://www.cheftalk.com/t/63411/purees-vs-their-original-counterparts#post_334474
post #5 of 45
Thread Starter 

Thanks, very good info. 

 

Firstly I realize I used the word "mashed potatoes" to mean puree. I thought they were the same, apparently puree is smoother and mashed potatoes is a rougher texture? 

 

Secondly I realize that if the FP cuts through the cells, maybe the wooden spatula I use to beat the potatoes into shape in the pan does not? 

 

What about you guys, do you also vigorously beat the potatoes in the pan for 5mn before adding anything to them? I'm talking about the kind of actual workout that will make you tired. I used to not do that (instead I would just slowly stir as I was drying them in the pan for 5mn), but I have noticed improved texture and mouth feel ever since I started beating them up with the wooden spatula. After I've incorporated the cold butter and hot milk, I switch to a whisk to further smooth them and incorporate a bit of air. 

post #6 of 45

I've given up making mashed potatoes.  I never make them really good, they either come out too tough, too watery, safe to say I'm no good at it.  At home I stick with the instant kind, I like them very much yes I do and if you have a problem with that bring it on.  After tasting the pomme puree at Tom Colicchio's Craft restaurant I will never attempt to mash a potato again.  In the same way that Brahms only wrote 4 symphonies because he could never attempt a 5th symphony that would rival the genius of Beethoven's 5th.

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post #7 of 45

KK: I have never had instant potatoes, so I can't comment on the taste.

 

FF: There is site I thought you migt find interesting: http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/11/how-to-make-mashed-potatoes-thanksgiving-sides-fluffy-creamy.html

 

I am fond of light and fluffy and rich creamy puree. Here is another one: http://www.edinformatics.com/math_science/science_of_cooking/science_of_mashed_potatoes.htm

 

Petals.

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post #8 of 45

Rice them first, and then whip cream and butter into them.  S+P.

post #9 of 45
Like Kuan, for super smooth I use a ricer. However as an accompaniment for most foods I prefer mashed over pureed for the texture, and I use a masher.

If there's some secret is regarding overworking and not overworking when it comes to beating or mashing, I don't know it. But I've definitely had potatoes which were overworked and pasty as a result (beaten or mashed by hand and whipped in a mixer as well as spuds processed in an FP) AND have also had potatoes which were whipped with a spoon or whisk to no end and forced through a tammy which tasted great. Quien sabe?

I do believe that the timing and temp of milk (or cream) and butter makes a difference, and as it happens I make great mashed (and riced) potatoes. That doesn't mean I understand why. And... On the one hand, I hate instant potatoes, but on the other KFC gravy is quite good. Talk about ambivalence.

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post #10 of 45

I've always thought of pureed potatos and mashed potatos as two very different items. Mashed potatos should have some texture Vs Whipped potatos that can be quite airy.

You need to match the spud to the technique IMO. Starch potatoes like russets (AKA I-Da-Hoe) can absorb ample cream and butter and yet still hold plenty of air when whipped Vs a lower starch or waxy Yukon-Gold that takes on an entirely different texture.

Always cook the potatos with the skins on so they don't absorb water. After I drain them I allow them to dry a bit before peeling.

Skip some of the butter and use Duck fat. Just don't try to serve with foie in California.

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
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post #11 of 45

I don't have a problem with instant mashed potatoes. I use instant if I don't have time to peel, steam or mash/rice them, or if it's the time of year when high-starch spuds aren't at their best or when it's new potato season. I'll also add instant mash to whole potatoes if I've accidently over-cooked them or added too much milk.

post #12 of 45

I also don't like instant potatoes, there is just something odd about the texture to me.  For both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners last year I put cream cheese in the mash, folks really liked that.

 

mjb.

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post #13 of 45

Your right as far as I am concerned . Years ago riced potato was served as were mashed ,as were  hashed in cream ,as were smashed,(with skins on usually red bliss # 2s)

Each was different. Many people do however rice first then mash. Today though they just put steamed potatoes in the hobart mixer the milk or cream, butter  and seasonings and turn on to mash.

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      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #14 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by DuckFat View Post

I've always thought of pureed potatos and mashed potatos as two very different items. Mashed potatos should have some texture Vs Whipped potatos that can be quite airy.

You need to match the spud to the technique IMO. Starch potatoes like russets (AKA I-Da-Hoe) can absorb ample cream and butter and yet still hold plenty of air when whipped Vs a lower starch or waxy Yukon-Gold that takes on an entirely different texture.

Always cook the potatos with the skins on so they don't absorb water. After I drain them I allow them to dry a bit before peeling.

Skip some of the butter and use Duck fat. Just don't try to serve with foie in California.

 

Dave

"I've always thought of pureed potatos and mashed potatos as two very different items. Mashed potatos should have some texture Vs Whipped potatos that can be quite airy"

 

That is what I have have always known and it depends the dish I am making to serve it with. 

One thing I do and maybe this may seem odd but I always heat my cream enough to melt the butter in it, whisk , then slowely add to the prepped potatoes. Chef Levesque taught me this way and I have had good success.

 

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post #15 of 45
Couple more things:

"Whipped," pureed and mashed are each different things. Pureed potatoes don't have much air; they are soft, smooth and silky. For whatever reasons, I associate "whipped" with chains, and don't make them anymore.

Before mashing boiled potatoes, it's a good idea to cook the potatoes a little after draining them to allow some of the water to steam out of the boiled potatoes. After the potatoes release some steam, I add cold milk or half and half and heat it until it's hot enough to melt the butter quickly; then I introduce cold butter, and finally mash. The butter melts into the potatoes and milk as they're mashed and mixed together. I learned this from Chef Rolf from the Blue Fox and from the late, great PIerre Franey as well.

I like to herb mashed (or pureed potatoes) using a variety of herbs separately or in combination. I especially like garlic chives.

When making pureed (or riced potatoes), I add hot dairy to the potatoes, then cold butter. I generally use a "French whisk" (elongated pear with very thick, stiff tines) which doesn't add much air at all.

There are frequently several right ways to do things. For instance, petals melts the butter in the dairy before incorporating. Both methods are, no doubt, equally good.

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post #16 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

OK, now I'm curious, are potatoes a no-no for gluten sensitive/celiac people?

 

I was not aware that potatoes contained gluten.

 

They are fine, potatoes do not contain any gluten whatsoever.

post #17 of 45

When I was coming up in the business, the first French chef I worked under always taught us that you could beat, mash, whip, etc. potatoes for quite a long time as long as you didn't add the butter or cream.  Once you added those you had to finish it off quickly or risked getting gluey potatoes.  Whether there is any basis in fact, to this I don't know but I have always followed this guideline to great success.  First off this is assuming you are a drier potato such as a russet.  I peel them, dice them and cook them in salted water.  When done I drain them and place the potatoes in the oven for about 5 minutes, with the door cracked open to dry them slightly.  Then we either ran them through a food mill, if making a large amount, or used a heavy whisk to mash them.  I used to spend 6-7 minutes mashing them with a whisk before adding cold butter.  Continued mashing until the butter was just melted and finished with hot cream.  Stirred the cream in and then gave a quick, fast whip to get a bit of air into them and fluff them up.  Doing it this way I've never had problems with dense, gluey, or starchy mashed potatoes.  Using potatoes like red skinned or Yukon Gold potatoes though you do need to be very careful about over mashing as these potatoes can go from perfect to gluey in a matter of seconds.

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post #18 of 45
Thread Starter 

Thanks to everybody who responded! Interesting ideas in this thread. petalsandcoco, thank you for the links. 

 

 

Quote:
BDL said: I add cold milk or half and half and heat it until it's hot enough to melt the butter quickly; then I introduce cold butter, and finally mash.

 

 

Quote:
petalsandcoco said: One thing I do and maybe this may seem odd but I always heat my cream enough to melt the butter in it, whisk , then slowely add to the prepped potatoes. Chef Levesque taught me this way and I have had good success.

 

I remember hearing Robuchon explain that it was very important to add the fridge-cold butter first, and the hot boiling milk then. The reason he gave was that your mashed would then have the taste of cold butter, otherwise they have the taste of melted butter. I have always followed his directions because he is famous for his incredible puree, and I am very happy with the results and the butter taste - but honestly I have never researched this more scientifically nor made blind taste tests. 

 

I also beat the potatoes alone with a wooden spatula for 5-10mn to make them smooth before adding the milk, then I switch to a whisk to whip them a bit and make them light and fluffy. 

 

I prefer to use Yukon gold because I don't like the taste of the russets I find here. 

post #19 of 45

Robuchon is a master is in his own right. I have made mashed potatoes that  way to.

 

I have never found the flavor profile of the butter to change. When the cream is put in the pot I add a stick of butter (room temp when added) , it slowely melts with the cream. I have noticed that the butter is incorporated well into the potato mixture. The other thing is knowing how long to mash the potatoes (depending on which type you want).

 

The potatoes should always be dry/hot, foodmill, etc.

 

The other important thing is that they be seasoned well.

 

Then there is the matter of personal taste. It would be interesting to know whenever you may try this way FF (if you do) to know your thoughts.

 

A heavy yet delicate dish to enjoy.

 

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post #20 of 45

One thing I have learned over the years when making anything in bulk in particular with a mixer. Whenever possible add herbs and spices to a liguid first then into whatever your making. This way  it can properly be disbursed or mix into the total produce where if added dry at times forms pockets  that will make the finished product taste differen t with each taste. IE put salt and papper into the milk and butter mix when making mashed then add to potatoes.  In commercial batch cooking this is what is done.

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Chef EdB
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      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #21 of 45

So, question is, what's better, or correct?  Boil the potatoes in salt water or plain water?

 

Boil them whole or boil them cut up?

post #22 of 45

I lightly salt the water (season towards the end) .

Boil with jackets on.

 

But as ChefEd said , when making commercial batches, its alot different. I am sure they do not boil with the jackets on.

 

If I need it asap, you can be sure I will peel & cut  etc......

 

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post #23 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by French Fries View Post

I remember hearing Robuchon explain that it was very important to add the fridge-cold butter first, and the hot boiling milk then.

 

Robuchon did use chilled butter however he noted that was to help with a finer puree. He put far more emphasis on changing your proportions of butter and milk with the type of potato and the season. Mashed or whipped potatos can certainly utilize different techniques. It's also worth noting that Robuchon used a very specific French heirloom fingerling potato.

For those who may be interested you can find that on page 88 in L'Atelier of Joel Robuchon. He also used milk instead of cream.

The best bet is to experiment with different techniques and find what you prefer.

 

Dave

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post #24 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by petalsandcoco View Post

But as ChefEd said , when making commercial batches, its alot different. I am sure they do not boil with the jackets on.

 

There's no reason not too cook potatos with the skins on in a commercial setting. They are far easier to peel after they are cooked so this saves time and you have less waste. The only reason I can think of for using peeled potatos is for those who buy pre-peeled spuds in a bag but those can have a very gummy texture when you put them in a mixer. No idea if that is because of the type of spud or if the anti-oxidation solution they are soaked in has some impact.

 

 

Dave

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post #25 of 45
Boiling them whole, skin on does taste better to me. It also protects against excess water absorption. I think this is true for making potato salad as well, not just mashed potatoes.

On the other hand, I have a hard time getting them to cook evenly. The outside is mushy while the inside is still hard. I suppose this is the peril of buying large potatoes at Costco so my own fault.

So if you use a small enough potato, and are ready to peel very hot potatoes when you're done cooking, there are certainly gains to be had.

On the other hand, I do still cook cut up potatoes for salad and mashing. It's faster to cook and easier to deal with the end product. Those are factors that come into play on plenty of evening meals as a home cook.

For those times I want to make the potatoes their very best, cooked in the skin is the way to go with a properly sized potato.
post #26 of 45

I claim expertise on few things with so many professional chefs in the house, but mashed potatoes I can do well. My former in-laws love mashed potatoes but the various family members were all over the map on making them. There was usually a shortage at the thanksgiving and christmas meals... until the task fell to me one year, after which I became the designated potato guy. Here's how I've done it---not to claim it's better than any other but they'll be good.

 

Peel and slice or dice 10 lbs. of Russets. White or Yukon turn into a gooey mess in this recipe. Soak the cut up potatoes for 5-10 min. and rinse. Boil until they just start to loose the firmness, then a minute or two more. Rinse in cold water again to remove more starch. Mix at medium-low speed in the kitchenaid mixer using the wire whisk attachment, adding milk and heavy cream (or half and half) a little at a time, until the lumps are mostly gone and no more. If you go to higher speeds or mix too long the fibers break down, at which point you get a less desirable, flat texture. 10 lbs. will require 2-3 batches in the mixer. Add salt as you mix and taste often to get exactly the right amount---seasoning is key. Put them back on the stove in a shallow stock pot over medium heat to get them back up to temperature and cook a bit of water out. Texture at this point should be a bit stiffer than you want them to end up. Fold in a half pound of butter (cold, cut into pieces), possibly more depending on taste, and perhaps a bit more cream if necessary to achieve the desired firmness. Finally add black pepper to taste, stir a little and bring them to serving temperature. Make about 20 generous servings. This is a feely-judgement kind of thing and you'll gain confidence after a few times.

post #27 of 45

Great comments and suggestions, my tuppence, humbly offered, I have been using various flavorings (demi glaze, garlic, herbs, whole pepper corns sachet, veggie stock etc.) in the potato water and bullion instead of just salt, e.g. chicken bullion for roast chicken, always use some cheese whether cream whipped with chives or Gouda, subscribe to the skin on, riced, warm whole cream and room temp butter, have also reduced the cream with herbs to infuse flavor, remove liquid and increase flavor, try flavored sea salt, roast whole peppercorns before grinding, and IF you or someone messes up and makes them to loose. you can bring them back to consistency with potato flour or instant potatoes (gasp!) just don't use to much as the instant have a pretty distinct processed flavor so if you go to all the trouble and have to "rescue" them at the end it's a shame, you can always add more butter and cream if your mix is to dry, tough to fix if it's to wet.

 

Cheers,

 

EDG   

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post #28 of 45

I was taught that you should boil and then let dry in the oven on a sheet pan for 10ish minutes to dry out.  Into the mixer they go until beaten well, thru a Tammy and THEN add HOT Cream that has had the butter melted.  I also was taught never to make mashed pots out of Russests since they have too much starch in them as well and that is what makes them gummy. 

 

Also NEVER salt the water when cooking potatoes for Mash, but salt boiled potatoes are AWESOME

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Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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post #29 of 45

In potato salad I agree. Boil in skin let coolthen peel. You will break less. As far as  mashed I see no difference.  As far as already peeled product they are treated with sulphites and other yummy things. and I don't like smell or taste

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
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      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #30 of 45

There is a reason . I have an electric potato peeler. It works by abrassion and water . You can't put cooked taters in this machine . It saves me hours in peeling . Keep in mind when we do mashed or any kind of potato  I am doing a minimum of 2 bags of chef specials (100Lbs) at a clip

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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