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Potato mashers and potato ricers are extremely common, and many homes around the world will have at least one in their kitchen utensil inventory. After all, everyone loves mashed potatoes, right? A potato masher or potato ricer is a fairly simple device, but they are quite useful. You can use them to mash other soft foods and cooked foods as well, increasing their overall usability.

If you are like us, you probably use your masher or ricer quite regularly but have you ever paused and wondered who invented the potato masher or potato ricer? We did, and what we found out may surprise you. Keep reading to learn all about the history of the potato masher, the invention of the potato ricer, and to gain a basic understanding of the history of potatoes in general and their delicious counterpart, mashed potatoes.

A Brief History of the Potato Masher

The Earliest Potato Mashers

Woman smashing boiled food in the bowl using a wooden tool

Throughout history, many people have used tools to help mash potatoes. The first potato mashers were most likely wooden mashers that were hand-sized. With the increased access to machinery, these eventually turned into wooden mallets. Similar tools called muddlers are still used today for making cocktails and grinding herbs, like with a mortar and pestle.

Modern Potato Mashers

By the time the mid to late 1800s came around, you began to see two wire potato mashers with a more modern design gain in popularity at the same time, similar to ones we still use today.

The first wire potato masher design comprises a flat S-wire on the bottom of a long upright handle. These types of mashers avoid over mashing and are easy to clean as food doesn’t often get stuck in the wide wire base.

The second wire masher design emerging at the time had a flat grid with small holes on the bottom of a long upright handle. While this type of potato masher clogs very quickly and is trickier to clean, it is able to create a much smoother texture of mash.

These designs were so effective that they were able to stand the test of time, and you could even have one in your home right now. Of course, they are often more elaborate and can now be made from a variety of different materials like silicone, plastic, stainless steel, and more.

Potato Ricer History

Fast forward to 1887, and the first patent for what was officially called a ‘potato masher and fruit crusher’ was awarded to Jacob Fitzgerald and William H. Silver. The kitchen implement they patented is what we now know as a potato ricer.

A potato ricer mashes potatoes by pushing them through a bowl or sheet with small holes. This is similar to the grid format mentioned above but with a lever that actually presses the potatoes through. Often, a potato ricer can mash other soft vegetables and fruits as well, making them more versatile. A potato ricer will also get you mashed potatoes with the smoothest consistency possible with a handheld device.

History of Potato Consumption

Potatoes have been considered a European staple for centuries, but they are actually native to the Americas. Spanish explorers introduced potatoes to Europe sometime around 1536 when they quickly became the main part of the lower class’s diet.

Frying potatoes, or what we commonly call fries, originated in Belgium as early as the late 1600s and have become popular the world around.

Thomas Jefferson is known for many things, one of which is introducing the USA to fries. He encountered fries while serving his time as the American Minister to France in the late 1700s and brought the recipe back to the USA with him: this explains why Americans call them French fries.

History of Mashed Potatoes

Physically mashing potatoes for consumption most likely started with the Incas and other native people in the Americas. However, it is generally accepted that mashed potatoes originated in the year 1771 when Antoine Parmentier, a French man, held a competition on different ways to cook potatoes. Nonetheless, some other sources claim mashed potatoes were invented by the English and originated much earlier in the 1600s.

For a long time, potatoes were typically considered a lowly food not to be served in a fine dining restaurant, but all that changed in the 1980s when Joel Robuchon started serving his pomme puree in an upscale Parisian restaurant. His pomme puree dishes consist of four simple basic ingredients: potatoes, butter, milk, and salt.

Woman preparing mashed dish at the table

Most people agree instant mashed potatoes are no competition for real mashed potatoes, even if they are quicker and easier to make. The superiority of real mashed potatoes is even more cemented by the fact that most instant mashed potatoes are banned in certain places. They are banned in some European countries and Japan because they contain butylated hydroxyanisole, which could potentially be a carcinogen. While it can be used to keep food fresher, it is also a common compound used in wax packaging and rubber, so it may be best to avoid it entirely.

In case all of this talk of potatoes and food is making you hungry, it may be time to try out an actual recipe for gravy and mashed potatoes. Yum!

Potato Mashers Explained

Now that we have the answer to our original question, ‘who invented the potato masher,’ what do you think? Can you imagine how much creativity and inventiveness went into bringing you a variety of your favourite amazing and delicious potato recipes?

A lot of work went into getting us where we are today—starting with the idea to mash potatoes in the first place and leading up to pomme puree and the acceptance of mashed potatoes as a fine dining food.

Maybe, the next time you pull out your potato masher or find yourself eating mashed potatoes made by someone else, you’ll think back to their long history and appreciate them even more.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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