How Not to Mess Up Mashed Potatoes, Arguably the Most Important Holiday Dish

If you're making a dish as important as mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, you'll definitely want to get them right. Think fluffy, creamy, and indulgent — never gummy, sticky, or, worst of all, gluey. While the turkey is the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving table, the side dishes are arguably the stars of the show, and gluey mashed potatoes just won't cut it.

We've laid out exactly what to do if you wind up with gummy masked potatoes. But because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, we've also gathered together a foolproof strategy for avoiding gummy mashed potatoes in the first place. (Hint: the road to creamy mashed potatoes starts at the grocery store.)

What Makes Mashed Potatoes Gummy?

Several things can factor in, but for the most part, gluey mashed potatoes are the result of overmashing. That's why using a food processor or blender often results in gummy mashed potatoes; these appliances tend to overmash the potatoes, creating an undesirably starchy consistency.

How to Avoid Gluey Mashed Potatoes

Nailing the dish starts with selecting the right potato: either one high in starch, like a tough-skinned russet, or waxy (like a thin-skinned, yellow potato). My personal favorite are Yukon Golds, which have a buttery flavor and creamy consistency. From there, you want to avoid overcooking and overmashing the potatoes to keep gumminess at bay. Peel the potatoes prior to cooking (otherwise they'll be too hot to handle), and boil them until they're soft but not yet dissolving in the pot. Once cooked, steam off any remaining moisture completely, and mash the potatoes while they're dry but still hot — letting them cool too much may also result in a gluey texture. And again, avoid using a food processor or a blender if you can help it to prevent overmashing. Mash them just until they're lump-free, taking care not to overdo it.

How to Fix Gluey Mashed Potatoes

If you've already gone too far with your food processor or masher and you don't have the time or the potatoes to start over, transform the potatoes into a gratin instead: spread a thin layer across a baking dish; top with butter, cheese, and breadcrumbs; and bake to form a crispy top. Or try one of these other leftover mashed potato recipe ideas to transform the gluey mashed potatoes into something unique and tasty. Then play it cool, and pretend you meant to make the fresh dish all along — no one will be the wiser.

Additional reporting by Lauren Harano