Chef reveals the secret to making seriously spud-tacular mashed potatoes

Nov 26, 2023
The secret to perfect mashed potatoes may be a matter of technique. Source: Getty Images

Mashed potatoes are a staple on plates across the country and with the silly season coming up, they’ll be making their way into countless Christmas dinners once again. But what exactly is the secret to making the best mashed potatoes?

This appears to be quite a contentious topic, especially among home cooks. There are many people out there who purport to have a recipe that means their mashed potatoes always make the clean plate club.

Salt, pepper, milk, and butter are found in almost all recipes but some people make extra additions. These can range from commonplace to a bit out of left field.

Herbs such as garlic, onion powder, sage, and rosemary are all fairly common additions to the mix. Other people add vegetables such as pumpkin, broccoli, and cauliflower. Additions that one might not expect include vegemite, cheese, and even tzatziki and corn relish!

However, a cook in the United States has revealed that the secret to making great mashed potatoes might have more to do with technique rather than recipe.

Rosemary Gill is the Director of Education at Milk Street Cooking School. The school aims to teach better cooking skills to home cooks across the world via online classes.

In a recent video, she said that making great mashed potatoes involves cooking the potatoes in milk!

@177milkstreet Simmer your mashed potatoes in milk, not water! Potatoes are like pasta, in that they leach starches into their cooking liquid. In the case of pasta, you want to reserve some of that liquid to give sauce a luscious shine and bind it to the noodles. In mashed potatoes, cooking in milk, and preserving that starchy liquid, gives your potatoes a natural creaminess and allows you to skip the weighty heavy cream. #MilkStreetCookingSchool director Rosie Gill demonstrates. #milkstreet #milkstreetrecipes #milkstreetsides #sidesrecipes #thanksgiving #thanksgivingrecipes #potatoes #potatorecipes #mashedpotatoes #mashedpotatorecipes #vegetables #milkstreetrecipes #holiday #holidayrecipes #food #cooking #easyrecipes ♬ original sound – Milk Street

“We simmer our potatoes in milk, not water, and here’s why” she explains at the beginning of the video.

Gill then says that potatoes are like pasta.

“They release starch into their cooking liquid and that becomes liquid gold, allowing us to get lush, silky, creamy mashed potatoes. When you throw out the water that you cook your potatoes in, you’re throwing all that starch down the drain which means you’re wasting it,” she explains.

Rather than cooking the potatoes in water and adding the milk afterward, Gill advises cooking the potatoes in the milk and then adding in the butter, salt, and pepper.

The potatoes can then be mashed right in the pot. This method means that the addition of heavy cream as seen in some recipes is unnecessary.

It is worth noting that milk is very easy to burn. This method can potentially be time-intensive because the potatoes will take much longer to cook at a lower temperature. In the current economy, milk is also very expensive too! Cooks looking to try this recipe may have to save it for special occasions.

The type of potato used will also affect how well they mash. Yukon golds tend to be a very popular choice, followed by russet potatoes.

For those on the hunt for a more traditional mashed potato recipe, Starts at 60’s fluffy mashed potato recipe may be just what you are looking for. 


  • 2 pounds of russet potatoes – (washed)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Peel and cut potatoes into 1-inch chunks. It’s important that they are all the same size for even cooking. Rinse them through a colander to wash off the starch.
  • Place the potatoes in a medium pot with cold water. Make sure that the water covers all the potatoes. Bring to a boil on high heat, and then reduce to medium heat. Cook until tender and easily pierced, about 15-20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat milk with butter until melted and warm. You can also do this in the microwave oven if you prefer.
  • Once the potatoes are done cooking, drain them through a colander. Rinse with hot water for about 30-60 seconds to get rid of the starch.
  • Press the potatoes through a potato ricer into a large bowl (see note about potato ricers below). Gradually, fold in the milk and butter mixture using a rubber spatula until light and fluffy. You may not need all the milk and butter, add until desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste and fold in a few more times. Enjoy!


  • Special equipment: Potato ricer, rubber spatula.
  • Potato ricers are designed to press potatoes into thin shreds with low force, helping them stay light and fluffy. I’d definitely recommend getting one!
  • The secret to fluffy mashed potatoes is removing as much starch as possible and minimizing the amount of starch released. To do so, 1) wash off the starch before and after cooking the potatoes, and 2) limit the force used while mashing by using a potato ricer to press the potatoes and a rubber spatula to fold in the milk and butter into the pressed potatoes.
  • Start with cold water instead of pre-boiling water)to ensure even cooking. If you add the potatoes to boiling water, the outside of the potatoes will break down too much, changing the consistency desired.


Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up