contributed by Don Odiorne, vice president of foodservice for the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC)
With the holidays upon us, diners are looking to celebrate with comfort food favorites that won't break the bank. Mashed potatoes are the perfect classic side dish for any entrée and offer an attractive price point for operators. There are some basic "must do's" in order to prepare perfectly mashed potatoes. First of all, when ordering spuds, be certain to specify Idaho. Idaho's climate and rich, volcanic soil consistently yield potatoes with a high solids content (more potato and less water), which is ideal for making mashed potatoes. And once you've mastered perfect mashed potatoes, try a twist on the classic preparation. See below for a Southwestern-inspired recipe for Chili-Corn Mashed Idaho Potatoes, with wine pairing from Marlene Rossman.

1. Gather the ingredients. A good standard ratio of ingredients for making basic mashed Idaho potatoes is the following:

5 lbs. Idaho potatoes
1/4 to 1/2 c. butter, room temperature
Minimum 1 1/2 c. milk, heated

2. Prep the potatoes. Making mashed potatoes is really a simple process. To begin, peel the potatoes, and then cut into a uniform dice so they cook evenly.

3. Heat the potatoes. You can either steam or boil. If you choose the steaming process, place the cut potatoes in a perforated hotel pan and cook in a steamer for approximately 15 minutes. If you opt to boil the potatoes, simply place them in a pot, cover with water and bring to a full boil. Continue cooking potatoes in boiling water for about 20 minutes. The potatoes are done when they are easily pierced with a knife or fork or can be mashed effortlessly with the back of a spatula.

Tip: To save time and labor, you may decide not to peel the potatoes but prep with the skin on. Keeping the skin on adds texture and color to the dish as well as a dose of nutrients.

4. Drain the potatoes. Did you know that water is the enemy of perfectly mashed potatoes? After steaming or boiling the potatoes, place them in a colander to drain--making certain they are very dry.

Tip: To ensure the driest potatoes possible, place them in a single layer on sheet pan and put in a 300°F oven for 10 minutes or until very dry to the touch.

5. Mix the potatoes. Place the cooked, very dry potatoes in a mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, and add the room-temperature butter. Turn the mixer on low and slowly pour in about a third of the hot milk. Increase the mixer speed and continue to add the hot milk until a velvety consistency is achieved. Then, season with salt and pepper. It is important to always keep the potatoes hot. Use heated milk and room-temperature butter. If all of the ingredients are at the proper temperature, you can be certain the mashed potatoes will be delicious. Be careful not to overmix the potatoes. If they are overmixed, they will become gummy and sticky.

Tip: To get an even richer, creamier mashed potato--in the classic French style--just add a bit more butter, milk or even cream.

6. Serve or hold. With regard to serving fresh mashed potatoes, they can be held for an hour on a steam table or in a warming cabinet. If potatoes are held too long, they will oxidize and turn grey, which may affect their taste.

Tip: If you think you will need to hold the mashed potatoes for longer than an hour, add more moisture to them.

Experiment like an expert.
Part of the challenge and the fun is figuring out how to achieve the best mashed potatoes possible. Another guarantee to achieving silky spuds is to use a tamis or a food mill fit with a fine attachment. A ricer is another tried and true tool of the trade. Test a couple of different methods to determine which delivers the desired results.

Time-saving tuber tips. Over the last few years, the quality of both processed and frozen mashed Idaho potatoes have improved immensely. Their flavor, texture and consistent performance rival fresh Idaho potatoes.
  • Processed. Depending on your foodservice operation, you may consider using mashed Idaho potato flakes or granules. To begin, always read and follow the manufacturer's directions carefully. Store unopened containers away from intense heat. After opening, cover each container with a tight-fitting lid and store in a cool, dry area. When adding milk (whole, low-fat, skim or nonfat dry) to flakes or granules, it must be at refrigerator temperature (35 to 40°F). Processed Idaho mashed potatoes can be held in a steam table (moist heat #5). Granules should be held no more than 30 minutes; flakes, no more than 1 1/4 hours. Granules and flakes can also be held in 250°F warming cabinets for 30 and 50 minutes, respectively. Hold potatoes in deep pans and keep covered with a lid or plastic wrap. If a dry heat table is used, set pan in water bath.
  • Frozen. Frozen Idaho potatoes are precooked and precut, meaning less preparation time. Follow the manufacturer's directions for steaming, boiling, or microwaving. Typically, mashed potatoes made from a frozen product can be held longer--usually up to four hours on a steam table or in a warming cabinet at 175° to 200°F. Refer to the manufacturer's directions for specific steaming, boiling, microwaving and holding times.

The IPC has a fool-proof, how-to video series designed to inspire and educate the professional chef. Click on the links below to learn more:
Visit for additional recipes, tips and information about Idaho potatoes.

Chili-Corn Mashed Idaho Potatoes
Stephan Pyles, chef/owner, Star Concepts, Dallas;
wine pairing by Marlene Rossman

Inspired by the earthy flavors of the Southwest, these mashed Idaho potatoes are prepared with fresh corn, chili powder, cilantro and a hint of honey.

Yield: 4 servings (3/4 c. each)

2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 T. unsalted butter
1/2 c. milk
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. fresh corn kernels
2 t. pure chili powder
1 t. cilantro, chopped
1 t. honey
Salt, to taste

Method (1) Place potatoes in saucepan with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Drain thoroughly. (2) In small skillet, melt butter in milk. Bring to boil; add garlic and corn. Reduce heat, and let simmer 3 minutes. Sprinkle in chili powder. (3) Strain mixture, reserving corn separately from liquid. Place cooked potatoes in large mixing bowl. (4) Whip potatoes with electric mixer while drizzling in reserved liquid. When consistency is right, stir in corn, cilantro and honey. (5) Season with salt.

Wine pairing: Chamisal Pinot Gris 2008 (California)