When it comes to modern updates to classic dishes, I feel that it’s fine to change the technique, but the finished product should be as good as the original if not better.
I wanted to figure out a slow cooker version of classic Thanksgiving mashed potatoes so that I could save some space on my stove top, but all my attempts kept turning out beige.
Beige mashed potatoes on my holiday table won’t do. I was determined to find a solution.
The root of the problem is that cooking potatoes in the slow cooker requires less liquid than the traditional stovetop method, which means the potatoes are exposed to air. Which in turn means that they oxidize and brown.
There’s not much you can do to avoid this dilemma if you (like me) have your heart set on slow cooker mashed potatoes. But tinkering with the type and amount of cooking liquid and the way the potatoes are cut can help mitigate the browning.
I tried various combinations of broth, buttermilk, whole milk, and heavy cream for the cooking liquid. Broth and buttermilk seemed to only contribute to the beige potatoes, so they were out (although I loved the flavor of buttermilk). Whole milk and heavy cream both had good results, and I settled on heavy cream for the richness and creaminess it gave the finished potatoes.
Next, I tested the shape of the potato chunks. I tried haphazard pieces, 1-inch cubes, and 1/2-inch cubes. The smaller 1/2-inch cubes of potatoes cooked the quickest and released their liquid faster, so they sat above the liquid for a shorter period of time. This resulted in less oxidation. They were my winner.
So, it turns out that the key to creamy, fluffy non-beige slow cooker mashed potatoes has everything to do with the liquid used for cooking and the size of your potatoes! I finally have my ideal slow cooker mashed potatoes – just as good as Grandma used to make.
This post and recipe have been updated; first published November 2016.
Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes RecipePrint
When you first combine the milk and potatoes, the potatoes won’t be completely covered by the liquid. The butter will eventually melt, and as the potatoes heat up they will release their own liquid eventually covering the potatoes.
- 5 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons, 6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Chopped chives, to garnish (optional)
1 Combine the potatoes, cream and water to the slow cooker. Stir to coat. Dot the top of the potatoes with butter and sprinkle with the salt.
2 Cover and cook on high for 3 1/2 hours.
3 Mash the potatoes: Mash with a potato masher for chunkier potatoes, use a ricer, or whip with a hand mixer. Add more salt or pepper to your liking and serve.
Potatoes are best if served soon after mashing them, however:
Holding Potatoes on "Warm": Mashed potatoes can be held on the "warm" setting of your slow cooker for up to two hours or so without noticeable loss of flavor or texture. However, note that the color does begin to deepen the longer you hold them.
Reheating Potatoes Later: Reheated mashed potatoes are always a bit tricky since the potatoes seem absorb more butter and cream. Plan on adding a little more butter and cream the next day as the potatoes warm – just eyeball it (too much cream and butter is rarely a problem!). Once warmed, whip the potatoes with a hand mixer for about 45 seconds to recreate your desired consistency.
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