When you’re planning a major feast, you want to get as much prepared in advance as possible. Nobody enjoys hurrying around 15 minutes before dinner guests arrive, trying to coordinate oven temps, serving dishes, and last-minute finishing touches (not to mention getting yourself ready).
If mashed potatoes are on the menu — and oh, we hope they are! — you may have wondered if you can shave off some party-day stress by making them ahead of time.
We’ve got good news: You can prep the potatoes themselves a few days beforehand — and actually mash them up to 1 day before. Read on to find out how to take this shortcut early and enjoy your taters later.
To save time on peeling and chopping on Thanksgiving Day (or any other day that includes mashed potatoes), you can peel the spuds and keep them submerged in a bowl of water in the fridge, whole or cut up, for hours — even overnight — before boiling.
For even easier storage, you can keep peeled potatoes refrigerated in water-filled zipper-lock bags for several days with no ill effects.
Unlike leaving peeled potatoes out en plain air, keeping them submerged in water prevents them from oxidizing (the cause of unsightly browning). Browning doesn’t change the quality or edibility of potatoes, but unless you like sepia-toned side dishes, you’ll probably want to avoid it.
Here’s another strategy that circumvents the whole issue: Simply steam potatoes whole, and then pop them into a potato ricer with the peels on. Like magic, the peels will stay in the hopper. Plus, you’ll get less moisture in the potato, which makes for better mashed potatoes.
Some cooks take it a step further and actually mash their potatoes ahead of time, up to the day before, and then reheat them in the oven or microwave.
In fact, if reheated in the microwave with a bit of extra butter, your favorite starchy side may taste even better the next day. Or you can dollop in a supercreamy mixture of butter, half-and-half, and sour cream to keep pre-mashed spuds from drying out. For aficionados of uber-rich flavor, cream cheese (around 6 ounces per 5 pounds of potatoes) is another delicious addition.
Here’s what not to do: Don’t boil your potatoes ahead and wait to mash them, even for half an hour, and don’t hold mashed potatoes in a slow cooker. Both result in a mash so gluey that even a paste-eating kindergartener wouldn’t touch them.
And if a timing glitch means your mashed potatoes are table-ready before the rest of the meal, don’t dismay! Instead of leaving your taters on the stovetop too long (where they can scorch on the bottom), consider a hot water bath.
Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil, and then take it off the heat. Now, place your pot of cooked mashed potatoes inside (carefully!). Stir periodically to keep heat circulating. As long as the water stays hot, your taters will, too — with a nice, even temperature distribution and no sticking to the pot.
More of a visual learner? Here’s how we prefer to reheat cold mashed potatoes, whether they’re made ahead or left over:
For more potato inspo, check out our 3 Ways to Make Mashed Potatoes for Picky Guests, 5 Recipes for Smashed Potatoes, and How Many Pounds of Potatoes to Use Per Person.