Mashed potatoes are a quintessential Thanksgiving side dish, right up there with stuffing and green bean casserole. But did you know you can make mashed potatoes in advance? (Like, really far in advance.) Our go-to make-ahead mashed potato recipe allows for the ‘taters to be boiled and creamed up to two days ahead. But sometimes—especially if you’re cooking for a larger group—a more advanced head start is necessary.
That’s certainly true for Brendan Smith, executive chef for Constellation Culinary Group. His “humongous family” always encounters a shortage of oven and stovetop space during holiday dinner prep, so he’s been known to freeze batches of mashed potatoes (and other holiday necessities) months before Turkey Day. While he’s never frozen mashed potatoes for work, Smith says it’s a great way to save time for an at-home Thanksgiving celebration and emphasizes his philosophy to “take the shortcuts when you get the shortcuts.”
For Smith’s method, scroll on down, but first, allow me to present a second option: Chef Christian Rowan of Marian’s in Manhattan’s West Village suggests that instead of freezing mashed potatoes and reheating them to their former creamy glory, you should chill the mashed potatoes, then “cut them into blocks, then freeze and fry them” for appetizer-sized fritters he calls “crispy fried mashed potato heaven.” Rowan’s method works for repurposing any leftover mashed potatoes, including mashed sweet potatoes.
Still craving traditional? For mashed potato redux, we got tips from Smith, as well as meal-prep pros JB and Jamie-Len Royer, owners of Royers Top Round Café in Round Top, Texas, who ship their mashed potatoes nationwide via Goldbelly. Just like when freezing pumpkin pie, ice crystals and freezer burn are the enemies. The overarching rule: Cool the mashed potatoes completely before freezing them, and reheat them slowly.
How to freeze mashed potatoes:
Once the mashed potatoes are completely cool, the Royers vacuum-seal them in freezer-safe plastic bags, and into the freezer they go. They then ship frozen potatoes in the same storage bags (along with a helping of fried chicken or short ribs). For home cooks freezing mashed potatoes as a Thanksgiving shortcut, Smith recommends a different route.
If you’re starting fresh, it’s a good idea to reserve some of the liquid or butter that you normally add to your mashed potatoes. When you reheat them, you’ll incorporate the remaining ingredients. Using a recipe that includes sour cream or cream cheese is also an excellent way to make them redeemable; the built-in stabilizers of these ingredients help the potatoes retain their richness. But if you’re starting with a batch of already-made mashers, the methods below will still work.
To freeze an entire batch of mashed potatoes:
1. Transfer potatoes to an oven-safe dish.
An oven-safe container, like our favorite glass food-storage containers or a freezer-safe casserole dish with an airtight lid, is key here. Using a baking dish that can withstand both cold and hot environments means one less thing to clean and side-steps any questions you might have about reheating foods in plastic containers. Smith also points out that once you reheat the potatoes, a glass or ceramic container will retain heat longer, helping to keep the potatoes warm on your buffet. Use a shallow container if possible, to allow the potatoes to cool more quickly.
2. Cover the potatoes with parchment.
When the potatoes have cooled to room temperature, press a piece of parchment paper directly onto the surface of the potatoes “so you don't get any wacky film on top of it,” says Smith.
3. Wrap the dish in plastic.
Even when using an airtight container, it’s wise to tightly wrap the entire dish—not just the top—with three layers of plastic wrap to prevent freezer odors from penetrating the mashed potatoes. This is especially true if you plan on storing the potatoes for a long period of time (like more than a week).
To freeze mashed potatoes in portions:
1. Scoop potatoes into single-serve portions.
Use an ice cream scoop or half-cup measure and transfer the potatoes to a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet in mounds.
2. Cover with parchment.
Press a second piece of parchment on top to flatten the potatoes into disks (this limits their surface exposure).
3. Freeze for 2–4 hours.
Once solid, transfer the disks to a freezer bag or other container. You can then wrap the bag in plastic, as above, or stick the first bag inside a second freezer bag to mitigate exposure.
Either path you take, your frozen potatoes should last at least two weeks and up to three months.
Reheating frozen mashed potatoes:
On the stovetop:
Defrost your frozen mashed potatoes in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. Add the mashed potatoes to a medium saucepan and place over low heat. Fold in a small amount of milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half (keep an eye on the texture to determine how much liquid to add). When your potatoes are warm, re-season to your liking with kosher salt (and freshly ground black or white pepper if desired) and serve.
In the microwave:
Smith prefers reheating frozen mashed potatoes in a microwave, finding it easier to control the reintroduction of heat. Here’s his technique: Uncover the mashed potatoes, leave them in the glass container, and evenly scatter several pats of butter over the surface of the mashed potatoes. Cover loosely with parchment paper and heat in the microwave in five-minute increments—peel off the parchment and gently fold in the butter between intervals, then replace the parchment—for about 10—15 minutes or until steaming. The total cook time will depend on how many servings you’re working with. “I gotta tell ya,” Smith says, “you would not know the difference.”
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit
More potato pointers: