5 pounds Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes, well-scrubbed
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
2 cups half-and-half
3 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
Finely chopped fresh chives (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Additional pat of butter (optional)
Boil the potatoes. Place the potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to cover then by about 1 inch. Stir in 2 tablespoons of salt. Cover and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Uncover and reduce the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer. Test for doneness at 30 minutes. A sharp knife should easily go through the potato. Larger potatoes may take longer, up to 45 or 50 minutes total.
Heat the butter and half-and-half and add salt. About 20 minutes into the potato cooking time, melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Heat the half-and half and remaining 1 tablespoon salt over low heat in another small saucepan. Keep both warm.
Drain the potatoes. When the potatoes are ready, drain them in a colander. Turn off the heat on the butter and half-and-half.
Mash the potatoes. If using a potato masher or ricer, peel the potatoes — you can pick each one up with a pot holder and peel with a paring knife. If using a food mill, don’t peel the potatoes. In either case, the mash, rice, or process the potatoes back into the pot they were cooked in. This will cut down on extra dishes and help the potatoes stay warm from the pot’s residual heat.
Add the dairy. Add the hot butter to the potatoes, gently stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula to incorporate. When all the butter is absorbed, add the hot half-and-half. It will seem soupy at first, but the potatoes will gradually absorb the liquid and turn into a creamy mixture.
Taste, garnish, and serve. Taste your potatoes and add more salt as needed. This is also a good time to add pepper if using. Spoon into your serving dish and top with optional garnishes, such as a pat of butter or some chopped chives.
Make ahead: You can make your potatoes in advance of serving. If it’s just an hour or so, leave them in the pot you mashed them in and don’t garnish yet. Place the pot in a large pan of gently simmering water to keep warm. If they’ve been refrigerated, the best way to reheat them is to place them in a low oven, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes. Reheated mashed potatoes are often drier and may need additional (warmed!) dairy to bring them back to their creaminess. This post has some great tips on reheating mashed potatoes.
Storage: Leftover mashed potatoes can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Electric mixers: Some people get away with using a stand mixer or hand-held beaters. Just be very careful and don’t let it rip or you will end up with the unhappiness of gluey potatoes. Stick to low speed.
Additions: Cream cheese, sour cream, and yogurt are a popular additions to mashed potatoes. They all add a nice dairy tang and contribute to a creamy texture. Feel free to substitute some or all of the half-and-half with either of these ingredients if you like a little tanginess in your mashed p