Perfect restaurant mash, oh how I used to marvel thee! For years I visited many a restaurant and almost got annoyed at how good and silky and smooth their mash was, knowing my efforts would be entirely futile when for the next few days as I tried and failed to replicate it. This was the type of mash you wouldn’t sniff at coughing up a fiver for as an extra side dish. The extortion of the price forgotten in an instant as the velvet passes along your lips.
I love a good mash, me. But this comes with a qualifier – it HAS to be good mash. Bad mash isn’t just naff and a disappointment, it can be entirely inedible, sticking to everything else on the plate and ruining any good work done on the rest of the ingredients. I went to a friend’s wedding a few years back and we had bad mash at the wedding breakfast. VERY bad mash. The rest of the food was sort of ok-ish, but the mash was probably the worst I’ve ever eaten. When we talk about that friend’s wedding, we talk about the mash. It didn’t just affect the dinner – it affected the entire wedding! Tarnished the whole day with it’s gloopy, lumpy, pasty brush! As simple as mash might be, it is SO easy to get wrong. Using the wrong potatoes is probably the biggest error you can make, as even the best chefs can’t make a salad potato mash well. But adding too much milk, not mashing it properly, using the wrong tools, undercooking or over-boiling the potatoes… They all can spoil the experience. And let’s be honest – bad, lumpy mash just makes you look like an amateur.
However, during my short time training to be a professional chef (I’m not a professional chef, let me add), I learnt how utterly simple it is to make consistently perfect mash. With just a few chef secrets, perfect restaurant mash is easily achievable for everyone! Easily! Every single time! The three main keys to success are the choice of potato, baking the potatoes, and passing them through a ricer at least twice. There’s other tips in the mix to improve the end product as well, and as always – we analyse what’s going on, work out if and how it’s adding to the process, then making changes to suit our preferences.
Chef Secrets for Perfect Restaurant Mash
- 750 g potatoes (Desiree Maris Piper, or King Edward), about 3 medium-large spuds
- Butter – unsalted few good knobs
- 1 tbsp Single cream/milk – heated until warm
- Get your butter out the fridge. This needs to be at room temperature by the time we're ready to use it.
- Heat the oven to 400/200/gas 6, and place the potatoes on the top shelf. If you have many smaller potatoes rather than 2-3 big potatoes, you will need more than 750g as you'll have more skin, meaning less potato.
- Bake the potatoes for 1 1/2 hours, turning every 30-45 mins, until the skin is very crispy and they're totally soft inside. If they appear done much before the time has elapsed, feel free to test them with a knife and continue onwards if they're good.
- Cut the potatoes in half while still hot. Scoop the potato out into a potato ricer set over a bowl that has been heated (fill a metal or glass bowl with hot water for 30 seconds, then empty and dry thoroughly).
- Run all of the potato through the potato ricer. If your ricer has multiple settings, use the smallest hole. You will probably need to fill the ricer 2-3 times before all the potato has been riced.
- Once done, run all the potato back through the ricer for a second time into a second warmed bowl.
- The potato should now be very light and soft – give it a taste and season with salt to your preference.
- Add a knob of butter and about 1tbsp of the heated cream or milk. Beat these into the potato with the silicone spatula until well combined.
- Taste the potato and add either butter, cream/milk, and/or salt as necessary. Butter will make the mash silkier and richer, cream/milk will make it thinner, and add salt if it’s tasting a bit bland/starchy/like it’s missing ‘something’. I usually don't add any more cream, but add as much butter as I can get in there before it overpowers the flavour.
- Keep beating and tasting until you have your perfect mash! Just remember that you can always add more, but can’t take away. So be very conservative with the salt and cream/milk, and keep tasting frequently.