Nothing puts a damper on dinner like a bowl of icy spuds.

Timing. The thing that bedevils both cooks and comedians.

Getting a meal on the table would be easy if it weren’t for the need to time everything perfectly. We all want our dishes to be at the perfect stage of doneness and the perfect temperature when we serve our family or guests. But the planning and timing out of a schedule that includes a number of foods that are cooked and timed differently can confuse even the best among us.

And one of the big culprits is, not surprisingly, mashed potatoes. A big pot of boiling water, filled with potatoes that have to be cooked to the right stage, and then strained out in the sink...without burning yourself because you’re in a rush! Then there’s the dairy. And the mashing. None of this is what you want to be thinking about when you have three or four or five other things cooking and your table is about to be filled with hungry friends and/or family.

But mashed potatoes can be tricky to reheat entirely. So, prepping them, and keeping them warm while you finish everything else up is a great option. And it really is fairly easy. There are two routes you can take:

Probably the simplest is to place the mashed potatoes in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. You can cover the bowl with foil, or use a lid that fits over the bowl. Make sure the water doesn’t burn dry, and never gets above a simmer—and that’s it. You might need to stir a bit more dairy (milk, sour cream, whatever you used to make them) into the potatoes right before serving; just take a quick taste before you take them to the table to check.

Your other option would be placing the prepared mashed potatoes in a buttered, oven-safe dish (covered in aluminum foil) and sliding it into a 275- to 300-degree oven. I wouldn’t recommend trying to keep your spuds warm for more than 30-40 minutes using this method or you risk drying them out. But within that window, these mashed potatoes are as good as fresh.

mr-Ranch Mashed Potatoes Image
Credit: Jen Causey; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

I have one last wildcard suggestion for you. It’s not quite “keeping them warm” but it does provide an easy way to sorta, kinda prepare ahead. You can cook/rice/cool/store the potatoes the day (or a few hours) before you need them. At the last moment, all you need to do is put them in a pot over low heat, and add in your hot milk/cream/melted butter etc. No muss, no fuss. Fresh mashed potatoes, ready to serve in a matter of minutes.

What route you choose may depend on where you have the most room in your kitchen for holding leading up to dinnertime—the stove, the oven, or the fridge. But rest assured, all of these methods will yield impressively flavored and textured mashed potatoes that are warm and company-worthy.