I’ve tried different methods of making mashed potatoes: squashing with a masher, whipping using a hand mixer or my Kitchenaid mixer, and using a potato ricer. Each method gives potatoes a different texture.
I reach for a masher when I don’t mind if the potatoes are a bit lumpy (I like to call it more of a rustic mash). When I’ve experimented with the hand mixer and Kitchenaid mixer, I’m always left with gluey potatoes (not exactly the texture I’m after). My best mashed potatoes (the ones that were perfectly smooth, light and fluffy) were the result of using a potato ricer, a kitchen tool that forces the cooked potatoes through little holes. You can spend upwards of $50 on a fancier model but I went with a basic yet sturdy Norpro Potato Ricer, which sells for under $15. Below is an article I found on the pros and cons of potato ricers and mashers. Hopefully this will help you as you prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
Potato Ricer vs. Masher
-from Fine Cooking Magazine (by Lisa Waddle)
Ricer: This extrusion tool forces cooked potato through small holes, resulting in rice-like pieces of potato (hence the name). It’s constructed of a hopper into which you put a cooked potato (peeled or not) and a plunger that forces the potato through the holes. Because air is incorporated into the potato as it’s pressed, this tool gives you the lightest mashed potatoes possible. A ricer guarantees no lumps, and your potatoes will be very smooth. The only downside is that it can be a bit time-consuming, especially if you’re using unpeeled potatoes, as the skins must be removed from the hopper after each pressing; otherwise, they clog the holes.
Masher: Hand mashers get a bad rap for leaving lumps, but I found that they can, in fact, deliver smooth, creamy potatoes. You just have to be methodical with your mashing method, getting into every corner of the pot and using a press and twist motion with the masher, adding a little liquid at a time if you must. (Be sure your potatoes are thoroughly cooked, too.) If you like the skins in your finished dish (for nutrition and texture), a masher or metal spoon is the only way to go. Don’t expect mashers to deliver light or fluffy potatoes, though.
The bottom line: Which tool you use depends on your definition of ideal mashed potatoes. If you’re after a bowl of textured spuds, especially good when adding extras like herbs or cheese, a masher should be your choice. If fluffy and smooth is your idea of potato nirvana, go with a ricer. Either way, be sure to buy a durable model that feels good in your hand. When you have a pile of potatoes to work through, you don’t want a flimsy tool that’s going to cause a hand cramp.