Ask us to single out our favorite type of potato, and we’ll say: “Impossible!” Each variety has its strengths and weaknesses—i.e., the best potatoes for mashing aren’t necessarily the best for a potato salad. But let’s couch that mayo-slicked summer staple; today, we’re talking about everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving side.
So, which potatoes are best for mashed potatoes?
Yukon Gold potatoes are the BA team’s top pick for classic mashed potatoes. With “gold” right there in their name, there is no arguing they’re the (ahem) gold standard for a mash with a creamy, rich texture. Their medium starch content, density, and inherently buttery flavor make Yukon Golds great for all your mashing needs. “Yukon Gold potatoes tend to absorb less water than most other potatoes as they cook,” says former senior food editor Christina Chaey, “so they don’t run the same risk of getting water-logged or gummy.”
A true all-purpose potato, these versatile spuds are also suitable for shredding, roasting, grilling, blending (?!), and shingling. So when shopping for Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, or any occasion that calls for the smoothest, creamiest mash imaginable, keep an eye out for their bright yellow skins.
What other potatoes are good for mashing?
First, let’s talk about some potatoes to avoid for mash: No matter how much melted butter, sour cream, or white pepper you add, if the tubers are gummy or grainy, your dish is a goner. Waxy potatoes, such as Peewee potatoes, fingerlings, and red potatoes, hold their shape when boiled, making them great for roasting or tossing into a potato salad—not so much for mash, where they’ll turn into bitsy, unappetizing pieces.
On the reverse side, high-starch Idaho and russet potatoes can make excellent mashed potatoes but also truly terrible ones. Starchy potatoes are more susceptible to turning gummy when overworked. Handle them gently, and you’ll be rewarded with a lighter, fluffier mash compared to silky, dense, medium-starch Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. If you’re a pillowy-soft potato person, go for high-starch potatoes, but take extra care when mixing in the butter and cream.
How should I cook the potatoes?
Depends on the kind of potatoes you’re using. Read more about how long to cook potatoes in our guide, but here’s a quick primer:
To cook Yukon Gold potatoes: Start by placing the potatoes in a large pot, then filling the pot with cold water to cover the spuds by about 1 inch. No need to peel the potatoes: Boiling them with their skins on keeps them from taking on too much moisture too soon, which means you can add more milk and cream later. Add a large handful of kosher salt to the water to season the potatoes inside and out, then bring the salted water to a boil over high heat. Simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 30–35 minutes, then drain.
To cook russet or Idaho potatoes: While many recipes call for peeling russets before boiling and mashing them, we prefer a no-boil method. Roasting extra-starchy potatoes in the oven, as for baked potatoes, ensures they don’t take on too much water or fall apart in a bubbling bath. Roast them whole until tender, then remove the skin (or switch gears and turn them into twice-baked potatoes), mash the flesh, and incorporate melted butter and half-and-half (or heavy cream).