On the pulverisation of potatoes

I should write things here. I used to write things here all the time. I stopped to write a book, and haven't written that yet either. Sorry about that.

Apropos of what I am currently doing: Potatoes!

Because I am a human and am sane, I like mashed potatoes. I didn't make mash very often, though, because I am also lazy, and all the peeling got me down.

Because I did not wish to use a drill, a brush and a bucket, I bought one of these contraptions...

Crank peeler

...which actually works pretty well for peeling vegetables in bulk. (It can also be used to make curly fries, and the long spirals of peel it creates when peeling potatoes make surprisingly good biodegradable cat toys. The crank-peeler I have has a suction cup that holds it onto the kitchen bench well enough; there are also versions with a clamp.)

I also bought a potato "ricer", like this one...

Potato ricer

...which works like a gargantuan garlic crusher, and turns any chunk of cooked potato (or other vegetable) small enough to fit into it into instant extruded mash, with one squish of the handle. (There are many other models, some quite large. I don't know if the suspiciously cheap metal eBay ones are any good.)

But this was all still too much of a production. The ricer's a bit annoying to clean (one of the deadly flaws of many kitchen gadgets), and you can't effectively mix additives (butter, egg, garlic, whatever) with the spud in the ricer. So you end up having to mash "manually" anyway, to mix the additives in.

But now, in what I think we can agree is one of the greatest examples of laziness improving the human condition ever witnessed, and which I'm sure we can also agree is a brand new idea that could have come from nowhere but my own genius, I have developed a technique which solves all of your pesky potato problems. (You won't believe this one weird trick! Chefs hate me!)

What you do is, you don't peel the potatoes.

Buy washed potatoes so you don't have to wash them either. Cut them into similar-sized lumps. Lumps with skin on will, I think, cook a bit slower on the skin side than lumps without. Adjust lump size and shape accordingly.

Remove any really egregious eyes or gashes or other spudular injuries. Don't worry about this too much, though. You're going to be pulverising these things; little imperfections will vanish.

Continue to dress and cut spuds and dump them into your large pot until you think a suitable mountain of spud has been achieved. Put pot in sink, run it full of water, slosh some out again, let it flow through a bit, to wash the lumps clean of whatever stuff still clings to supermarket washed potatoes.

(My house has one of those "instant" hot water systems where the water flows through a gas heater rather than sitting in a big tank, so our hot water doesn't taste funny. I therefore do this washing stage with hot water, to make the cooking a bit faster.)

Transfer spuds to stove. Cook until when you poke a chunk with a knife or skewer there is no longer any perceptible crunch.

Drain spuds and mash, with ordinary or fancy handheld masher.

To prevent your masher from getting clogged with skin, pull a knife through the spud-chunks to slice the skin-bits up. (My potato ricer is completely useless on spuds with skin. The skin blocks its holes immediately, and then what it manages to mash squirts out vertically or seeps around the blockage in a quite faithful simulation of the phenomenon of "paradoxical diarrhoea". Don't all thank me at once for this information.)

Add butter and egg and whatever else you like. To make mixing butter with spud easier, melt the butter in the microwave. (Cover the butter if you do this; it tends to explosively splatter before all of it is melted.) If you've somehow managed to make the spud too dry - by, for instance, not adding all the butter that exists in the world - add some milk too. If the spud is too soggy because you've by some terrible wicked miracle managed to add too much butter, add egg; the egg cooks in the hot potato and stiffens the mix.

And you're finished. There's surprisingly little difference between mash with and without skin; when it's thoroughly mashed the skin can be quite hard to see. And leaving the skin in lets you pretend you're being virtuous and getting more vitamins and stuff.

I invite suggestions of ways to streamline my mashed-potato workflow even further!

23 Responses to “On the pulverisation of potatoes”

  1. Itsacon Says:

    If you happen to own a Kenwood Chef or similar device, these things actually work surprisingly well, especially on fresher potatoes (potato skin tends to harden as potatoes get older). It's pretty much the fancy version of the drill-in-bucket method you posted.

    And even if it doesn't remove all the skin, what's left will be clean, and if properly cooked won't be noticable (at least not more than just leaving the skin on).

    The big question that remains: Can you use a meat grinder to mash potatoes, or would one of these be better?

  2. Malcolm Says:

    You could try the method demonstrated in the film "The Turin Horse" by Béla Tarr (excellent arthouse apocalypse flick, incidentally): boil whole (preferably LARGE), unpeeled potatoes until done; put on your plate; smash with your fist; sprinkle with salt; eat with fingers (callouses will help you achieve this more quickly).

    Sorry, copyright law prevents me from providing a video to illustrate.

  3. c.j. kerr Says:

    In the Scouts we'd boil whole peeled potatoes, then shake the whole pot (lid on!) to mash.

    This does require cleaning the pot afterwards, but smooth surfaces of stainless steel aren't exactly tricky to wash.

  4. El Mariachi Says:

    Washed potatoes are a thing there? Christ, you boil them and hit them with an object, add a bit of cream and garlic and salt, it’s not a complicated production. Anyone who complains about dirt in their mashed can fuck right off and buy their own supper.

  5. invinciblegod Says:

    Oh yeah? How about peeling potatoes in less than a minute? For instance, this method.

  6. Mister Peepers Says:

    Why does hot water taste funny when it comes from a standard water heater? I have not noticed this, but I live in the land of non-metric-ness. Perhaps things are different here.

    • dmanuel Says:

      Most hot water heaters have a sacrificial anode. Usually magnesium. Any system with a tank of hot water will have one. So basically, your hot water is full of rusty magnesium.

  7. Itsacon Says:

    Taste is a part of it, but it's also a health risk.

    First of all, there's a chance of drinking water that was heated a while ago, but didn't get used, so cooled down again. Multiple heat-cool cycles are bacterial utopia.

    Second there's the fact that most water-pipes are copper. Copper will slowly dissolve into the water over time. With warm water this process is sped up. Combined with the fact that you generally use less hot than cold water, so that water has been in the pipes longer, and you get a much higher percentage of copper in the water.

  8. KozmoNaut Says:

    That's how I always do mashed potatoes. The skin is full of stuff that's good for you, and I'm of the firm belief that mash should be chunky and have unmashed bits in it, and be made with nothing but potatoes, butter, milk, salt and pepper.

    Did you know that you can survive on nothing but mash, indefinitely? The nutritional profile isn't ideal, but it contains all of the vitamins and minerals you need to live, plus fats and protein from the butter and milk. Dig in!

  9. RichVR Says:

    I am seriously considering trying the Danish Peeling method. The wife will not approve.

  10. Stoneshop Says:

    Some time back I came across a device that looked a bit like a small clothes centrifuge; about the size of your average bucket. The presence of a coarse, sandpaper-like structure on the inside, and that only the bottom end of the cylinder rotated while the cylinder wall was fixed, initially puzzled me, but then I figured it must be a potato peeler.

  11. arboreal Says:

    I'm sorry, but eggs? What in the name of all things good and proper are you doing putting egg in mashed potato?

    Peeling potatoes is a zen-like procedure for me. You've just got to get the right peeler. Some fools apparently prefer the t-shape peeler whereas I much prefer the straight type. I can peel 2 lbs of potatoes in about 1 minute (always peel under running cold water). Peel, salt, boil, drain, add milk, butter and pepper. Take fresh crusty baguette, split it and fill with mash. Apply lots of brown sauce (HP preferably). Eat.

    • TwoHedWlf Says:

      Now the real big question is....Peel away or toward you?

      • arboreal Says:

        Away! Maybe it's that 'cut away from yourself' knife rule which I've applied subconsciously but peeling towards myself just feels very wrong. Though, thinking about it, when using a cheese slicer I do actually pull it towards myself...

        • TwoHedWlf Says:

          Here(NZ) most people peel towards themselves. I don't know why. When I moved here from the I was asked several times by the inlaws, "Why are you peeling those potatoes wrong?" or similar. It definitely seems slower than peeling away, but I've switched just to avoid ridicule.

  12. arboreal Says:

    Ooh, meant to say that the peeler shouldn't have a fixed blade, the ones that move are much better (not sure what the official term is for the moving blade-type peeling utensil is.

  13. Mlurp Says:

    There's also the German potato masher, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRAktdhdpNc, which gets the job done very quickly and efficiently.

  14. karlosinperth Says:

    don't be too quick to mash everything au naturale - my mother was a big fan of chasing vitamins and would regularly ignore conventional wisdom accumulated over generations in favor of the health fad of the day.. Just remember the toxins found in plants are the teeth and claws of that kingdom, and the potatoes particular defense, solanine can be lethal. More info can be found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solanine

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