You’ll be making plenty of batches of mashed potatoes in the months to come, so why not figure out why yours are less-than-awesome now? Although they’re one of the easiest side dishes you can make, there are still plenty of pitfalls waiting for the well-meaning home cook. Heed our advice and churn out perfect, fluffy, melt-in-your mouth mashed potatoes every time.

You added the potatoes to boiling water
Don’t do this, start the potatoes in cold water, bring them to a boil, then simmer. This will help them cook gradually and evenly, which contributes to a velvety potato instead of a grainy, falling-apart potato.

You beat the hell out of them
The worst thing you can do to a potato destined for mashing is use a stand mixer. Sure, you’ll get perfectly smooth spuds…with the consistency of a gummy, stiff potato mess. Beating the fluff out of a potato is definitely a thing. Mash kindly and sparingly using a food mill for smooth potatoes and a hand-masher for chunky, finito.

You underbuttered
Now is not the time to save calories, or else pick another potato side. The kind of mashed potatoes you want to be eating are spiked with butter (and hopefully cream), and if they’re not, they’re going to taste and feel like something very important is missing. If your potatoes are dry and falling apart, add more liquid in the form of melted butter, extra-virgin olive oil, cream or milk. Whole milk, not 2%, obviously.

You undersalted
Don’t underestimate the value of salt in a recipe like this. Potatoes can suck up a lot of it, more than you think. If the finished product doesn’t taste “mashed potatoey” enough, try a little more of the good stuff.

You overmilked
There shouldn’t be such a thing, but if you added too much milk, stock, cream or whatever else you’re using to loosen and bind the potatoes, they’ll cease to be a side dish and become more of an amorphous spill. Don’t worry — stir in more mashed boiled potato until the consistency thickens up, and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

You used the wrong dang kind of potato
Some potatoes don’t really want to be mashed. “Waxy” potatoes like red, purple and some varieties of white are low in starch and are typically used in recipes where they need to keep their shape. “Floury” potatoes, like Russet and Idaho are high in starch and break down easily, which make for airy, fluffy mashed potatoes.

And if all else fails…gravy.

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