Butter Does More For Mashed Potatoes Than Just Add Flavor

Mashed potatoes are easy to make but difficult to perfect. While individual tastes vary, nobody wants gooey or runny mashed potatoes at the dinner table.

One critical ingredient is butter. Allrecipes states that butter helps make the starch in the potatoes richer and creamier and also helps prevent them from clinging together. As per Bon Appétit, the fat in the butter helps prevent liquid from other dairy products from soaking into the potatoes and making them soggy.

The order you add the ingredients matters, too. Because part of the role of butter is to insulate the potatoes from the rest of the dairy, you should always add it before pouring in milk or cream.

Remember to warm the butter — along with other dairy ingredients — before incorporating it into the potatoes. Since starches bind at cooler temperatures, adding cold dairy can make the mashed potatoes stiff. Plus, you can use the opportunity to infuse the dairy with herbs like rosemary or garlic while it warms.

If you'd prefer not to use butter, you can still find substitutes. Fine Cooking explains that, while mashed potatoes need some kind of fat, butter isn't a necessity. A common substitute is olive oil and some people use duck fat.

Different potatoes require different amounts of butter

Exactly how much butter you use is dependent on the type of mashed potatoes you're trying to make. If you want ultra-creamy French-style pommes purée, load up on the butter. According to Serious Eats, French chef Joël Robuchon's world-famous mashed potatoes contain an impressive 2:1 ratio of potatoes to butter. However, you shouldn't necessarily use the same type of potato that you would use for fluffy, American-style mashed potatoes.

For French-style mashed potatoes, opt for Yukon Golds rather than the standard American Russet. Since French-style mashed potatoes contain so much butter, using the wrong kind of potato can cause the butter and potatoes to separate. Butter will cling to the Yukon Golds, and the creamy texture and rich flavor of the potatoes will complement the butter nicely. Want the best of both worlds? Consider a 50/50 split between Russets and Yukon Golds.