A potato masher is a hand-held device used for mashing cooked potatoes. Most of these mashers have a handle attached to wire, which may be bent into a wave design at the bottom. Others may have a flat, round bottom with several small holes the potatoes are forced through when mashed. Some potato mashers are made of plastic, while others are made of various types of metal.
The hands-on action possible with a potato masher tends to make it very easy for a person to get their potatoes to the exact consistency they prefer. Electric devices such as mixers or blenders are normally recommended for making creamed potatoes rather than mashed. Both metal and plastic potato mashers tend to work well, but metal will likely last longer than plastic. Regardless of all the electric devices that have been placed on the market over the years for simplifying mashed potatoes, there will probably always be a need for the basic potato masher. If a person does not have a potato masher on hand, it is possible to adequately mash potatoes with just a fork.
Potato mashers have many other uses apart from simply mashing potatoes. There are a variety of other cooked foods that they are also effective at mashing, such as most fruits and vegetables. Cooked apples may be mashed down into apple sauce, and beans can be made into refried beans, thanks to the potato masher. Some people even use their potato mashers outside of the kitchen. The type with the wave design tends to work well as a gardening tool as well.
To get the best results with a potato masher, it is a good idea to cook a potato for at least 30 minutes in the oven. The cooking time is typically much faster in a microwave; microwaved potatoes usually cook in approximately eight to 10 minutes. Potatoes that are undercooked are generally very hard to mash, so getting the right amount of tenderness is very important to get good results with a potato masher.
In history, tools for mashing food date back to ancient Egyptian times. During their explorations of tombs, archeologists have uncovered remnants of tools most likely used for the purpose of mashing food. The Egyptians probably used their mashers for such things as vegetables and grains rather than potatoes, the latter of which they likely had no knowledge.