From the potatoe’s huge legacy in Ireland to “The Potato Eaters” by Van Gogh to Mr. Potato Head himself, the humble potato has grown to have a pretty big place in our hearts and diets.
Potatoes can be prepared in all manner of ways, from baking and stuffing them for Thanksgiving to chopping and frying them for Fish and Chips to taking a page out of Samwise Gamgee’s recipe book and deciding to “Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew.”
Boiling and frying them can seem pretty straightforward as to what you need to do, and sticking them in a stew opens up a world of different choices – but what about mashed potatoes?
James Brown told us to “(Do The) Mashed Potato” while introducing that dance craze to America, and The Contours sang right along, but actually trying to mash potatoes without a masher can leave you tripping all over yourself.
Well, no longer. There are plenty of ways you can mash potatoes, each of which can produce a potato dish worthy of a place at your table.
Signs of Well-Mashed Potatoes
Before we get to mixing and matching masher alternatives, it’s worth noting that different potato mashing methods yield different results. What’s more, good mashed potatoes mean more than simply pounding them down.
On the contrary, doing just that can make a mess and leave you with potatoes that are as flat as they’ll taste.
On the other hand, there are a few telltale signs of well-mashed potatoes, including:
- When mashing potatoes, less is often more. Rather than steamrolling all the texture and taste out of them, try lightly mashing them. If you succeed, they should be light and fluffy.
- By contrast, you want to avoid mashing the potatoes so much that the cells are damaged, as this can actually make your potato mash even starchier than they’ll already be.
- Different tools mash up potatoes different ways, which in turn can make them better choices depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with your potatoes taste and texture-wise. We’ll go into this more below, but suffice it to say that hand masher substitutes tend to be better for allowing more texture while electric options let you get things done faster and smoother.
- Decide early on whether you want chunky or chunk-free mashed potatoes.
- If you are using an electric option, lower settings are essential to avoiding beating the taste out of it, causing a big mess in the kitchen, or both.
- Listen to Sam and boil your potatoes before mashing them – it’ll make the potatoes softer and your task easier. Salting the water and potatoes before mashing them can give them a bit of extra kick as well.
- Last, but not least, be picky with the potatoes you choose. Russets, Yukon Golds, and other high starch potatoes are good choices for light, fluffy, well-mashed potatoes.
Keeping those tips in mind, let’s take a look at seven ways to mash your potatoes without a masher.
How to Mash Potatoes Without a Masher
1 – A Fork in the Road
You might eye this option with suspicion. After all, isn’t the whole point of a masher to avoid the kind of intensive work mashing your potatoes with a fork would entail?
Actually, this is one of the big reasons why boiling your potatoes beforehand is such a great idea. Doing so can make them soft enough that mashing them with your fork won’t be too much of a strain.
What’s more, the rewards for doing so can be great. Not only does this save you from having to use any special utensils, but as with any hand-operated tool, it allows you more direct control over the shape and texture of your potatoes.
Between the pointed prongs and the smoothed flat edge, you have plenty of mashing options.
That said, the bigger the better here. A small fork can still take forever and be a strain, so if you’re going to use a fork, try and find one that you would typically use for large portions of meat or veggies anyway.
One final tip – pierce the potatoes before mashing them. This will allow any moisture that has built up within them to drain out of them, making the process that much easier.
2 – Whip Out the Whisk
If it’s good enough to beat an egg, why not a potato?
Much of what works with a fork can also work with a whisk when it comes to basic potato mashing ability. Its smooth metal edges are perfect for lightly mashing up the different parts of the potato.
As with the fork solution, you are going to want to make sure that you have adequately boiled your potatoes and drained them. This means making sure that they are soaked through and soft enough to mash up.
What may be less clear, however, is how much is too much when it comes to exposure to water. After all, you want your potatoes to be nice and soft, but you don’t want them to be so soft as to become mushy, since at that point, there’s not only no point in mashing them up, but there’ll be no point in eating such a distasteful bunch, either.
As a good rule of thumb, soaking them for a few minutes in cold water should be enough, or even less time in warm water. Any more than that and you risk turning your soon-to-be potato mash into mush.
Once you have done all of this, place the potatoes in a bowl and whisk away as you would with eggs. The bowl gives you a nice, contained area in which to whisk them, which in turn should hopefully help cut down on the mess.
As with the water, how long you keep this up will depend on personal taste, but you should also make sure to err on the side of caution, less you mash them up too much or cause the potatoes to become sticky and lose all their fluffiness.
Another thing to keep in mind is that this method and the fork one are both naturally a bit contingent on arm strength.
How long can you whisk those potatoes without your arm tiring out? How long can you mash them up with the flat edges of the fork or whisk without starting to feel arm pain?
The answer to that question will have a huge impact on the amount of time this method takes.
3 – An Electrifying Option
If you wish to skip all that, on the other hand, you could instead simply opt for the ease of an electrical masher.
This is obviously cheating a bit, but since electrical mashers aren’t potato mashers per se but rather designed to mash any old food item, it’s still worth a quick mention if your arm strength isn’t quite up to whisking your potatoes for several minutes at a stretch.
Aside from the fact that this method is a good choice for giving your arms a break, it also tends to give your potatoes a nice dense texture.
That said, the biggest danger with using an electrical masher of any kind is the fact that they are naturally prone to leaving your potatoes a flattened mass of goo if you leave it on too high of a setting.
As such, you want to take care to make sure that the settings are on the lower side. Remember – you have already presoaked your potatoes, so it shouldn’t require that high of a setting or that much effort, electrical or otherwise, to mash them up.
When using this method, you’ll want to check on the potatoes often. Pause every couple of minutes to see how they’re doing and what their texture is like.
4 – Fire up the Food Processor
If you’re looking to purée your potatoes, this is the easiest way to do so. Whether or not you want to do that, of course, depends on your taste and what kind of meal you’re making.
This is another method that can be susceptible to mashing all the flavor out of your potatoes if you aren’t careful.
In addition, you’ll need to be careful about removing the lid and other attachments to clean them. This can be time-consuming and tedious, but then that’s the price you pay for it puréeing your potatoes so fast.
Unless you mean to blend your potatoes into a fine paste, or you want a solution that’s best suited for quick quantity over painstaking quality, other options may be better.
Nevertheless, for those looking for a smooth creamy paste or an incredibly quick mash job, this is a viable option.
5 – Mash up the Food Mill
This is an example of how to make gravity do the hard work for you. Simply presoak and cut the potatoes into cubes, balls, or whatever other shape you want, and throw them inside.
Instead of mashing them downward as is the case with many of the other options on this list, a food mill works by spinning them around so fast that the centripetal force applies a great deal of pressure to them.
This is what mashes the potatoes up, and why these potatoes come out so unique and fluffy-looking.
In fact, if you don’t have the patience to fluff them up with a fork, this is probably your best bet. It’s fast and effective, and it avoids the kind of over-mashing that is common with the electrical options on this list.
Once they are finished, your potatoes should be incredibly soft and smooth as well. That’s bad news if you want them chunky as for a soup or stew, but if you’re looking to get them nice and creamy, this is about as easy as it gets.
6 – Go Nicer with the Potato Ricer
This option is very much the same as the food mill. It likewise works by using gravity to get the hard work of potato mashing done the easy way, this time forcing them through small holes, thus creating long or short rice-shaped potato shapes.
That shape certainly gives this method a unique touch, especially if you care about the aesthetic side of food presentation.
As with other methods, you’ll want to boil them ahead of time for the best results. This is also another method that won’t leave your potatoes chunky at the end but rather reduce them to a nice creamy paste.
You should know this far into the article if that’s what you want and, thus, if this option sounds right for you.
In comparing the potato ricer to the food mill, the former relies more on brute force, while the latter is gentler. On the other hand, food mills are a bit more versatile in the type of potato dish they are capable of producing.
7 – The Makeshift Mug Option
No, really – a simple mug as a potato masher substitute might be the answer you’ve been looking for, in part because it’s obviously inexpensive and accessible.
There’s no special training or explanation necessary. This alternative is just what it sounds like, simply taking your mug and mash your potatoes with the bottom side.
For as strange as this might seem, this method words well in part because a mug is obviously naturally suited to being held with ease. Mugs with their handles make it that much easier to mash potatoes without your hands cramping up.
What’s more, while mugs vary in weight, they are typically far more lightweight than some of the other options on this list.
Then there’s the fact that this method is so easy to use that you can easily switch between mashing potatoes and other foodstuffs. For example, if you are looking to mash up some guacamole or other sauces to use with your potatoes, a mug can get the job done without having to switch between different tools.
By examining these different methods, you can determine the best choice for you when it comes to how to best mash your potatoes in a way that would make even Hibernian and Hobbit chefs proud.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.
Monday 22nd of November 2021
Thank you for sharing. I began boiling my potatoes to make mashed potatoes for a potluck before realizing I have no masher or ricer (we just moved and still haven't unpacked everything). I will try a combo of the fork/whisk/mug and see what I like best. :)