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9 Smart Ways to Mash Potatoes (Without a Masher)

9 Smart Ways to Mash Potatoes (Without a Masher)

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Thanks to its versatility, the humble potato takes up a big place in our hearts and diets.

Baked and stuffed for Thanksgiving? Warms up the heart and fills up the tummy.

Chopped and fried for Fish and Chips? An undisputed classic.

Prepared Samwise-Gamgee-style (aka “Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew”)? You can’t say no to that.

Now, boiling and frying are both pretty straightforward, and sticking potatoes in a stew opens up a world of choices. But what about mashing?

James Brown told us to “(Do The) Mashed Potato” while introducing that dance craze to America, and The Contours sang right along. Yet, trying to mash potatoes without a masher can leave you tripping all over yourself.

Well, no longer.

There are plenty of ways to mash potatoes, each of which can produce a dish worthy of a place on your table. I’d love to share my favorite ones with you today, so let’s dig in!

Signs of a Good Potato-Mashing Process

Bowl Of Mashed Potatoes

Before I get to the alternatives, it’s worth noting that different potato-mashing methods yield different results. None is necessarily better than the other, and it all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish in terms of taste and texture.

That said, good mashing means more than simply pounding potatoes down. On the contrary, doing just that can make a mess and leave you with potatoes that are as flat as they’ll taste.

Here are a few telltale signs of a reliable mashing technique:

  • 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 nine ways to mash your potatoes without a masher.

How to Mash Potatoes Without a Masher

1 – A Fork in the Road

A Potato On A Fork

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.

I also know that some people prefer using two forks rather than one, and this method works best if you don’t chop the potato into cubes before boiling it. You’ll hold the whole potato in place with one fork and go to town with the other.

One final tip – pierce the potatoes before mashing them. This will allow any moisture that has built up within them to drain out, making the process that much easier.

2 – Whip Out the Whisk

Mashed Potatoes With A 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 since 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 adequately boil your potatoes and drain them. What may be less clear, however, is how much is too much when it comes to exposure to water. 

Sure, you want your potatoes to be nice and soft.

Still, you don’t want them to be so soft as to become mushy. After all, there’s no point in mashing (or eating) such a distasteful bunch.

Generally speaking, 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 whisking area, which in turn should hopefully help cut down on the mess.

How long you keep this up will depend on personal taste. However, I’d recommend that you err on the side of caution, lest you mash too much or cause the potatoes to become sticky and lose all their fluffiness.

Another thing to consider is that this method and the fork one are contingent on arm strength. How long can you mash those taters up with the flat edges of the fork or whisk without your arm tiring out?

3 – An Electrifying Option

This is obviously cheating a bit. However, since electrical mashers aren’t potato mashers per se but rather designed to mash any old food item, they’re still worth a quick mention if your arm strength isn’t quite up to whisking 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 risk of overdoing it. The gadgets are naturally prone to leaving your potatoes a flattened mass of goo.

As such, you want to keep the settings on the lower side. Remember – you have already pre-soaked 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, too. Pause every couple of minutes to see how they’re doing.

4 – Fire up the Food Processor

Food Processor

If you’re looking to purée your potatoes, this is the easiest way to go. Whether or not you want to do that, of course, depends on your taste and what kind of meal you’re making.

Just note that this is another method that could potentially mash all the flavor out of your potatoes if you aren’t careful.

In addition, you’ll need to remove the lid and other attachments to clean them. I find this time-consuming and tedious, but then that’s the price you pay for 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.

5 – Mash up the Food Mill

Sometimes, I like letting gravity do the hard work for me.

I simply pre-soak and cut the potatoes into cubes. Then, I just throw them inside the mill.

Unlike many options on this list, this method doesn’t rely on downward mashing. Instead, it works by spinning the potatoes around so fast that the centripetal force applies a great deal of pressure to the veggie.

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’s one way to avoid the kind of over-mashing that’s 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 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

Mashing Potatoes With A 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 mashing done the easy way. But this time, you’ll force 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 aesthetics and presentation. You can expect a nice creamy paste out of this no-masher method.

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 ricer to the food mill, the former relies more on brute force, while the latter is gentler. Mills can be more versatile, though.

As with other methods, you’ll want to boil the potatoes ahead of time for the best results.

7 – Push It Through a Cooling Rack

Empty Coffee Mug To Mash Potatoes

A while back, I came across this hack on TikTok and had to give it a shot. After all, there’s absolutely no cubing or peeling required.

You boil the potatoes whole, slice them in half, put them on top of a cooling rack (yes, the one you use for baked goods), and push. The potato “flesh” will fall through the rack’s grid and into the bowl underneath, leaving the skin behind.

The technique is so simple yet so smart that I was slightly annoyed with myself for not adopting it sooner.

Fair warning: You need to let the potatoes cool down before squishing them with your bare hands!

8 – Grab a Colander and a Spatula

Building on the previous idea, you can put the boiled potatoes in a colander and use a spatula to push the mash out of the holes.

Ideally, you’ll want to use a colander and not a strainer for this method. Strainers typically have small, mesh-like holes, and you want to give the potatoes a bit more room to ooze out.

However, if a smooth zero-lumps texture is what you want, go ahead and use a strainer.

Either way, don’t forget to put a large bowl under the colander/strainer to catch all the oozing mash.

The only gripe I have with this method is that I need to hold the colander with one hand and manipulate the spatula with the other. This takes some dexterity, and if I’m being completely honest, I occasionally forget to center the colander above the bowl.

So I dropped tiny bits of mash on the countertop once or twice, but it’s still not a deal-breaker.

9 – 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 inexpensive and accessible.

There’s no explanation necessary. This alternative is exactly what it sounds like.

Simply take your mug and mash your potatoes with the bottom side.

You can also use a mason jar, but I prefer mugs. The handle makes things easier for me and reduces the risk of cramping.

Keep in mind that this method works just as well for other foodstuffs. For example, if you are looking to mash up some guacamole to use with your potatoes, a mug can get the job done without having to switch between two tools.

Final Thoughts

This list is in no way comprehensive.

In fact, I’ve heard of some folks using a grater box to mash their taters. Others pop the boiled potatoes into a ziplock bag and punch them up with a rolling pin.

However, those nine methods should do the trick for most people out there.

Even if you don’t have a mill or food processor, at the very least, you’ll have a couple of forks in your kitchen. Believe me, those forks are more than enough!

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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. :)