Mashed potatoes have appeared on Thanksgiving tables for generations, so of course there are a lot of debates about them. What’s the best potato to mash? Should I use milk or cream or both? Is sour cream invited to this party? Should the spuds be smooth or lumpy? Many of my coworkers and I are Team Smooth—and to get there, we only trust one tool for the job. And no, it’s not a potato masher.
What tools are out there to mash potatoes?
When it comes to taking your potatoes from whole tubers to the stuff of Thanksgiving legend, you have some options: No doubt the first thing that comes to mind is—drumroll—a potato masher. This handheld utensil can include a flat extruder-style surface with large holes, or a more rustic metal zig-zag.
Two other options are the potato ricer and the food mill. Though often grouped together, these two pieces of equipment are different. A potato ricer works in the same way as aor a . After filling the chamber with a few pieces of cooked potato, you gently squeeze the handles to extrude angel-hair-like strands of spuds. A food mill employs a hand crank to dole out the potatoes evenly over a perforated plate to create similar, shaggy strands. You rotate the crank clockwise to spread and press the food over the holes, then turn it counterclockwise to clear the plate.
Your last option is the tried and true dinner fork. That one’s pretty self-explanatory. And while it would do in a pinch, your Thanksgiving table deserves better.
The best potato masher is actually a ricer
If you want the most velvety, plush mashed potatoes, you’re going to need a ricer. To understand why, it’s important to know what makes potatoes gummy in the first place: overworking the starches in cooked potatoes. Much like gluten in cake batter, it’s vital not to overmix—rather, overmash—your taters.
A potato masher requires multiple passes to pulverize the whole bowl, at which point you’ve doubtless gone over the mix a few too many times. You’ll also stumble upon a few stubborn lumps, no matter how long you churn for. And while the texture achieved with a food mill is an upgrade, the apparatus is cumbersome, clunky, and includes multiple pieces, one of which you’re bound to lose.
The ricer is the most efficient tool because one single pass is all it takes to get the job done. Epicurious food editor Jesse Szewczyk is a staunch advocate for the kitchen tool: “A ricer is something that can’t be replicated or replaced. It mashes potatoes into a texture that’s uniquely silky and entirely free of lumps. As someone who prefers smooth mashed potatoes, I really do stand behind it.” Watch cookbook author Andy Baraghani make his favorite mashed potatoes, and you’ll notice he’s able to leave the potatoes whole, with their peels on, since the ricer can take care of both.
Our recommended ricer
The trusted testers at our sister brand,, have done the legwork: They put five brands against pounds of potatoes to find out which is the strongest with the most ergonomic design. The resounding winner was the . In addition to being comfortable to hold and requiring minimal exertion on the part of the user, that “3-in-1” refers to the adjustable extruder’s three settings, which let users control how coarse or fine their mash turns out.