Mashed Potatoes by Hand

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2010 • all rights reserved

If you don't have an electric mixer, it's easy to make mashed potatoes by hand.Are you wondering how to make mashed potatoes without an electric mixer?  Or are you using instant and not really liking them — just as I did the first year we cruised?

I had sort of given up on the idea of having mashed potatoes on the boat.  Then I saw a friend using a hand masher — something I’d almost forgotten existed — and I tried it.  YUM!  Mashed potatoes the “old-fashioned way” from real potatoes — so much better than instant — and not at all difficult!

Hand-Mashed Potatoes “Recipe”

1 medium potato per person (adjust number for kids or if potatoes are particularly large or small)

salt OR bouillon powder (will add flavor)

butter or margarine


milk OR evaporated milk OR cream

Peel potatoes and cut into 1-1/2″ pieces.  Place in saucepan with just enough water to cover the potatoes.  Generously salt.  Cover the pan.

Bring potatoes to a boil over high heat, then turn heat down so that the water is just boiling.  Cook about 10 minutes, until a fork pierces them easily but they’re not mushy.

Remove from the stove and drain the water (save the water to use in bread, other cooking, or at least to soak gunky pans in).

If you don't have an electric mixer, it's easy to make mashed potatoes by hand.IMPORTANT:  Let the potatoes sit in the hot pan, uncovered, for 3 to 5 minutes.  Lots of steam will rise from them (you can see this in the photo at right — it’s hard to get a photo of steam!), helping to dry out the potatoes.  This will really improve the texture of the mashed potatoes.

If the pan has a nonstick coating, transfer the potatoes to a steep sided bowl before mashing.  Otherwise, mash them right in the pan.

Use your potato masher with an up-and-down motion to break up the potatoes a bit. (If using a ricer, rice all the potatoes before adding other ingredients, and then stir them in.)

Add 1 tablespoon butter per person (again, adjust if you’ve got half portions for kids)  and sprinkle with pepper.  Mash until potatoes are close to the finished texture you’d like.  Note that they’ll be a little lumpier than you’re used to with an electric mixer.

Add just a little milk — the exact amount will depend on how wet or dry the potatoes were and your own personal preference.  Mix either with the masher or with a sturdy mixing spoon.

Serve and enjoy!

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  1. Victoria says:

    Thank you.

  2. There is some personal flair here. My partner Janet uses a masher that makes me crazy. I use a ricer that she finds frustrating. I think this is an area where you have to find what works for you.

    With the ricer I run garlic through as well before using a large fork to mix the riced potato, garlic, salt, milk, and oil (instead of butter — doctor’s orders) for final service.

  3. Candy Ann Williams says:

    I have been doing my mashed potatoes this way for years…even when I am ‘on land’ and I don’t think I will ever go back to the old ‘whipped with a mixer’ variety.

    I finally got in to town to the post office and was greeted by my bright red Boat Galley bag. Caroline that is so thoughtful of you. I really appreciated it. Thanks again!! 🙂

  4. We’re joining a bunch of other cruisers here in Grenada and having a pot luck – complete with a turkey! We’re bringing cranberry sauce and christophene and cucumber salad :). Gobble gobble! 🙂

  5. That sounds fantastic! Happy Thanksgiving! And for anyone who isn’t familiar with christophene, it’s a squash — usually called choyote (or a variation on that) in Mexico and the SW US. It’s excellent! -Carolyn

  6. Chris A Barker on Facebook says:

    I likes my taters smashed and lumpy!

  7. Ann Snider on Facebook says:

    Honestly, I didn’t even know that instant existed until I started working in a supermarket at 16 years old!! I hate instant but we do take them on the boat for convenience. If we lived on board, I’d definitely wait for real. 🙂

  8. Molly Stokes says:

    Instant potato flakes make the best coating for fried
    fish. It is light almost like a tempura.

  9. an old fashioned ‘Potato Masher ” does the trick 🙂

  10. A while back, we had dinner with friends on their well outfitted Hylas. We brought the lobster and they provided the rest. We coordinated the menu before hand, and I thought that such a noble beast deserved real mash, not instant. I have always had a hand masher on hand and assumed such a fine yacht would also, but I was wrong. I looked around in her galley and decided a sturdy whisk would work in a pinch. It’s always good to have just a few lumps in your mashed potatoes to let you know they are homemade, with love 🙂

  11. Just bought reds for a corn chowdah I plan to make. Chilly in Ft Laud!

  12. I was raised to believe that using a ‘mixer’ for mashed potatoes was the sign of a bad cook! Therefore it took guts for me to stoop down to the level of (gasp) cooking with the instant stuff (I did not inform my mother of this breach of conduct), because as far as I’m concerned, after a rough passage, if it’s hot it’s good! But really, there’s nothing better than the real deal and I can mash potatoes with the best of them. You’ve got the order right; mash the drained potatoes, add butter and mash some more, add milk (we heat ours) a little bit at a time, and voila! Perfect potatoes.

  13. Wait – people use electric mixers to make them? I grew up with and still use just a plain old masher. 🙂

  14. toni borrett says:

    I didnt know there was any other way than by hand! my hubby mashes ours – the kids say I dont do it creamy enough! suits me!

    • Brian McCue says:

      I use 1 stick of room temperature (melts better) butter for every 5 lbs. Add to drained hot potatoes until basically melted, add about a cup of milk, a teaspoon of salt, and about 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Mix vigorously until desired consistency. Add slightly more milk if needed. Add more salt if needed as well.

  15. Nobody I know, on land or sea, ever uses an electric mixer to make mashed potatoes. It must be an Americsn thing. Use a hand masher!

  16. I don’t even peel my potatoes. EVER. Why waste the vitamins? Just wash the skins, cut up the potatoes, boil, then mash using whatever method you choose!

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