If you’re a big fan of the Thanksgiving feast, then you probably also consider the meal’s leftovers an exciting annual highlight. Turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes can all keep in the fridge for a few days post-Thanksgiving for seasonal sandwich-making purposes.
But what if you want to store a supply of leftover mashed potatoes in the freezer, ready to be reheated if you find yourself craving smooth, creamy taters far into the future? Our experts tell us that it’s very possible to freeze and reheat mashed potatoes, as long as you follow a few simple steps.
Let the mashed potatoes cool completely before transferring them to the freezer.
"The safest way to freeze mashed potatoes is to [first] cool them quickly and completely,” says professional chef and culinary instructor Melanie Underwood of Gather Culinary. The idea behind cooling hot food prior to freezing is that the steam from a hot container of food can raise the temperature of already-frozen foods in the freezer, potentially nudging them into the temperature “danger zone” at which bacteria is most likely to develop.
Speaking of the "danger zone," don’t allow the mashed potatoes to sit out at room temperature for a lengthy period of time prior to freezing. "It’s important to maintain the potatoes at a safe temperature before freezing. Letting them sit between 41 and 135°F allows for bacterial growth. You wouldn’t want to let Thanksgiving potatoes to sit on a buffet table for 2 hours [prior to] freezing. Move them to the fridge to cool properly, then freeze in airtight containers,” explains Kris Bordessa, certified master food preserver and author of Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living.
Put the potatoes in a freezer bag or airtight freezer container.
Once the mashed potatoes have been cooled, they should be transferred from their serving dish (or the container used to store them in the refrigerator) into a vessel specifically designed for freezer storage.
“Use a thick-walled, protective container that is meant for the freezer,” recommends food-freezing expert and author of Freeze Fresh Crystal Schmidt.
“Exposure to oxygen encourages freezer burn, so if using a rigid container [like a glass container or a plastic container], fill to the top [and leave] just a bit of headspace so that there is little room for excess air in the container. If using a freezer bag, squeeze out all the air before [sealing and] freezing.”
Keep the potatoes in the freezer for up to one year.
Schmidt tells us that, for best results, you can keep mashed potatoes in "a freezer set to 0°F or colder" for "up to one year." At this temperature and for this length of time, frozen mashed potatoes can be thawed and reheated without losing texture or flavor (and without risking the transmission of foodborne bacteria).
To ensure that you’re eating the potatoes while they’re still safe and appealing, take the time to label the freezer bag or container with the date before placing it in the freezer.
For best textural results, thaw and reheat on the stovetop.
Frozen mashed potatoes can be reheated in the oven or even in the microwave for a speedy solution. However, oven and microwave reheating can result in a less-than-ideal texture, which is why Schmidt advises reheating the mashed potatoes on the stovetop instead.
"To reduce the graininess that frozen mashed potatoes often have, thaw [the potatoes in the refrigerator] and then heat them in a saucepan. Once [they’re] warmed through, use a silicone spatula to fold the potatoes forcefully against the sides of the pan for 15 to 30 second,” Schmidt says.
If you find that the reheated potatoes have a drier texture than you’d prefer, try "adding cream or butter" while the potatoes are on the stovetop and adjusting your seasonings (like salt and pepper) as desired, suggests Underwood.