All you need is one kitchen tool.

Advertisement

Mashed potatoes are an annual holiday conundrum. On the one hand, is it really Thanksgiving or Christmas without a giant bowl of fluffy mash waiting to be anointed with butter and gravy? On the other hand, isn't it always a stressful last-minute project to get the potatoes cooked and mashed right before serving?

I'm a fan of advanced prep that makes my life easier, but not when it is to the detriment of the quality of the dish. Many holiday dishes I make ahead and freeze or refrigerate for easy reheating or baking off on the day, but mashed potatoes don't freeze or reheat particularly well. And while there are a lot of mashed potato casseroles that can be frozen or reheated, those are not part of my family tradition. For me and mine? It is all about those freshly mashed spuds.

But it turns out there is a secret, savvy hack for making mashed potatoes in advance, and it has everything to do with your slow cooker. 

Mashed potatoes
Credit: Getty / bhofack2

How to make mashed potatoes in advance with a slow cooker

The genius here is that fully cooked and prepped mashed potatoes can be held safely and deliciously in a slow cooker set to warm, and therefore can be prepped a few hours in advance of Thanksgiving dinner (or any dinner, actually). 

Here's what to do when.

In the morning

Peel and cube your spuds and put them in a large pot of cold well-salted water, being sure they are covered by at least 2 inches and put the pot on a back burner on the stove.

Three hours before guests arrive

1. Three hours before guests are due to arrive, turn on the heat to high and bring to a boil, then cook until tender.

2. When done, drain and mash. My recipe includes no liquid milk, just butter and sour cream and cream cheese, seasoned with salt and white pepper, but you mash however you usually do.

3. Once mashed, transfer the potatoes to a well-greased bowl of your slow cooker. (I use nonstick cooking spray.)

4. Lay a clean, lint-free tea towel over the top of the cooker before putting the lid on. I cannot stress how important this step is! If you do not put a towel over the top, condensation from the lid will drop on your potatoes and make them watery. I then pull the edges of the towel up over the lid and tuck them under the handle so that they are out of the way.

5. Turn the slow cooker to its lowest setting—warm or low. If you have specific temp controls on your slow cooker, turn it to 140°-150°. You're all set!

Mealtime

When you're bringing serving dishes to the table, give the mashed potatoes a good stir, taste for seasoning, add some fresh herbs like chives or parsley, or an extra pat of butter. You can serve straight from the slow cooker if you want to keep things warm on the buffet, or transfer to a serving bowl.