5 Ingredients or Fewer

Diane Morgan's Classic Mashed Potatoes

May 11, 2016
10 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

As the result of a conversation with food scientist Shirley Corriher, cookbook author Diane Morgan happened upon a clever, very easy way to make mashed potatoes taste more buttery (without adding any more butter). As she told me, "When making mashed potatoes, it is typical to see a recipe suggesting that the milk and butter be heated together, simmering the milk and at the same time melting the butter. That mixture gets added to the just-mashed, cooked potatoes. Easy enough, right? However, using the same quantity of milk and butter, but heating them separately and adding the melted butter first to the mashed potatoes, you end up with a butterier tasting potato dish. The fat absorbs into the cells of the potato, which have swelled and pulled apart from one another. Then, the milk loosens and flavors the potatoes." Adapted slightly from Diane Morgan. —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 4 large russet potatoes (about 2 pounds total)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Peel the potatoes and rinse them under cold water. Cut each into quarters and place in a 3- to 4-quart sauce pan. Cover with cold water, partially cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil. Uncover, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and reduce the heat so that the water boils gently. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the milk to just below a simmer. In a separate pan, melt the butter. (Alternatively, use a microwave to warm the milk and melt the butter in separate containers.)
  2. Drain the potatoes and return them to the warm pan over low heat for 1 minute to evaporate any excess water. Use a potato masher, ricer, or food mill to mash the potatoes. Stir the butter into the potatoes. Then add the milk, a little at a time, until the potatoes are as soft and moist as you like. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, or keep warm in the top of a double boiler for up to an hour, or cover and rewarm in a microwave oven.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • chefrockyrd
  • Taylor Stanton
    Taylor Stanton
  • Ron McCormack
    Ron McCormack
  • Susie Williams
    Susie Williams
  • Lori McCarthy
    Lori McCarthy
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

29 Reviews

brushjl May 8, 2023
Delicious! Not sure how the bitter first, then milk worked, but it definitely was buttery. Great use for a potato ricer.
chefrockyrd October 13, 2022
If you have time watch Helen Rennie, a cooking teacher on YouTube. Her make ahead mashed potatoes with onions are a fabulous dish. I have made them many times and my guests always ask how they are made. There are never any leftovers.
Linda D. November 22, 2021
Delicious! Thank you!
Taylor S. November 15, 2021
These are amazing! Extremely simple and a good salted, sweet cream butter makes all the difference.
Joy November 19, 2020
What if you cooked the potatoes in the instapot? Would you drain them semi recook out any juice then do melted butter and heat milk?
knoh January 2, 2020
The consistency (I used a masher) and flavor were just perfect using the method in this recipe!
bettye198 October 9, 2019
Just to knock your socks off, I will share my Italian families Potato Puff. This is after you make the mashed potatoes. To that, add parm or romano cheese ( handfuls), an egg or two, parsely, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Pour in buttered casserole and top with either cornflake crumbs, plops of butter or a breadcrumb panko you prefer. Bake for 30-45 min at 350 deg. Wow. People will never forget that dish. Excellent at holidays.
Robert H. March 10, 2019
Easy as can be, and the change to add the butter first and then the milk made all the difference in the world! I'm guessing that from this base you can add any ingredient that you like with mashed potatoes (bacon, garlic, rosemary whatever) and you can't miss.
Mitwocents November 21, 2018
I’ve been known to put a tad of buttermilk in, just to add a bit of tang. Full fat works best of course. I mix it in with the cream and butter before adding.
jodyrah November 2, 2018
I use 2# yukon golds or a combo of yukons and Idahoes. Return to low heat after draining to dry a bit. Add approx. 2/3 stick of unsalted, melted butter. Add 2 heads ( yes, heads) of roasted garlic that has been pureed (immersion blender) in 1/2-2/3 C warmed heavy cream. It will form a thick paste. Be sure to blend in a tall container, working the blender up and down. Add additional warmed cream to the potatoes if needed. Salt to taste. I’ve tried ricing the potatoes before putting them into the Kitchenaid. I found no discernable difference. Note: all quantities (except roasted garlic) are guesstimates.
jodyrah November 2, 2018
My grandmother always used Carnation evaporated milk. It actually tastes as delicious as the heavy cream. I dare anyone to tell the difference). I just always keep a quart of heavy cream in the frig so I use what’s on hand.
Ron M. January 8, 2018
My mother never used milk,said all the vitamins were in the water,she just poured some out,added the butter,then added 3/4s of a stick of extra sharp cheddar chease,salt and pepper to taste.Never had to worry about freezing leftovers.
Pat K. December 5, 2017
Looks great. I had to laugh that it "serves 8" though. Not in our family, lol!
Susie W. April 30, 2017
This about melting the butter and heating the milk is a little too-too for me.; I have the butter and milk at room temp, which is usually pretty warm if I'm seriously cooking. For me, the critical thing is to dry the potatoes after I've drained them - put them back in the pot over low heat, mash them roughly with a wooden spoon, drive off the excess moisture. Rice the dried potatoes into a bowl, add about 6 T of butter in blobs, mix it in with a big fork, taste for salt, add enough milk to satisfy your creaminess threshold. I've never had any leftover mashed potatoes.
cookinalong November 23, 2016
Interesting food science tid-bit about the butter/milk thing. But, seriously? 2 lbs. of potatoes for 8 people??? Not in my house! If 8 people sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with a miserly 2lbs of spuds on the table, there will be blood. Extra stuffing might soften the blow, but only just...
Karen C. November 2, 2016
Cooks Illustrated used this technique and one other. Instead of cutting the potatoes and submerging them, you leave them whole and steam them. It takes forever but you end up with much more potato flavor. They do turn a little brown on the outside; I suppose if that bothered you, you could steam them in the peel and peel them before mashing.
amy.d.cutting November 7, 2016
Hmmm, I might try them in the Instant Pot and cook them in there (which steams them as well but much quicker and hands off!) and then follow the rest of the recipe. Love good mashed potatoes and your idea of combining the techniques further sounds great!
Susie W. April 30, 2017
I've done it Cooks Illustrated way: the idea being that the potatoes don't soak up too much water with boiling. Their method works, but so does Julia Child's method of returning boiled pieces of potato to the pan on low and mashing them roughly, driving off the excess moisture. Water-logged potatoes will not turn into fluffy mashed potatoes, no matter how much butter and milk you add.
Lk G. August 11, 2021
Would you please share how this technique worked out for you?
Lori M. October 30, 2016
What makes these freezer friendly? How long do they keep in the freezer & what's the best way to reheat them?
Kristen M. October 30, 2016
Here's some (yes, surprising) advice Ina Garten shared with us on re-heating frozen mashed potatoes: https://food52.com/blog/11742-ina-garten-s-make-ahead-thanksgiving-advice And here are a whole bunch more freezing and reheating options from the Kitchn: http://www.thekitchn.com/the-best-way-to-freeze-and-reheat-mashed-potatoes-225440
Cristy May 17, 2016
What's amazing about this recipe...this is the way my mom and grandmother taught me how to mash potatoes. Remember many holidays doing just this method!
keg72 May 16, 2016
That's interesting. I have a cookbook, The Peefeft Recipe by Pam Anderson, that makes the exact opposite recommendation. Based on loads of tests, she recommends adding the milk before the butter. It's been a while since I've read the recipe, but, if memory serves, she found that the fat coated the potato molecules in such a way that they were prevented from absorbing enough milk.
james M. May 15, 2016
Jim Miller.

A very interesting and delicious technique, but not new. James Beard, in his 1972 cookbook, American Cookery, included adding butter to the potatoes prior to adding cream.
wenderzz May 11, 2016
Is there any reason I couldn't just add the butter to the pan with the drained potatoes, letting their heat melt the butter for me rather than dirty another dish? That's what I currently do, but I'm open to change it if melting the butter beforehand makes for a better result.
Imbatnan May 11, 2016
My thoughts exactly! Why is the secret not just "add the butter first"?
linda May 15, 2016
I read some time ago about heating butter and milk to same temp as potatoes and it does make a difference imo. Not one to dirty too many dishes I have long used a mug to melt the butter in the microwave, tip the butter in the potatoes and use the same mug to heat milk in the microwave (while mashing the butter in).
Traveler May 15, 2016
@Linda - That is exactly what I do!