Thanksgiving may be looking a little different this year, but one thing remains the same: Preparing a big meal like this is stress level 💯. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Cravings is here with our inaugural Tipsgiving: A week of tips, tricks, fixes, and hacks to make Thanksgiving easier. Whether that’s a foolproof way to guarantee crispy turkey skin and juicy meat, a guide to what side dishes you can actually make in advance, or a way to make your store-bought pie crust look waaay fancier, we’ve got you. For day three, here’s our guide to mastering all the kinds of potatoes you can dream of.
1. Spud Selection: What Kind of Potato Is Best for What?
Potatoes are one of Chrissy’s all-time favorite foods for a good reason. But not all potatoes are created equal. The type of tater—starchy, waxy, or all-purpose—will determine the best way to prepare it for maximum deliciousness. Here’s a roundup of all the potato recipes we have at Cravings to get inspired.
Just as the name implies, starchy potatoes are higher in starch, lower in moisture. This means they have a flakier texture, rougher exterior, and are more absorbent. Think: Russet potatoes, Idaho, or sweet potatoes (orange ones are commonly labeled yams in the United States). Because the flesh tends to break down while cooking (as a result of the starch expanding and crumbling), the insides become super fluffy while outsides get crispy, making them great for baking, mashing, or frying. Try making a classic gratin, or, if you like syrup and butter on your sweet potatoes, you’ll love this sweet potato streusel pie!
Waxy potatoes are the opposite of starchy; they’re low in starch and high in moisture, which yields a creamier texture and firm exterior. They also run smaller in size. You can tell if a potato is waxy just by feeling its skin—it’s smoother and, well, waxy (but not as waxy as... a candle?). The most common types are fingerling, baby, or red bliss, which work great in potato salads or crispy wedges, or boiled and smashed.
If you’re looking for a potato that can do it all, then look no further. All-purpose potatoes, like Yukon Gold, purple, or white potatoes, fall in between starchy and waxy. They have medium starchiness and medium moisture levels, which make them great in any potato dish or as a substitute for any type of potato. We love Yukon Golds for mashed potatoes since they are super creamy. Try making a potato pancake or purée into a comforting potato-leek soup!
2. How to Cook Potatoes FAST!
Forget to cook your potatoes and Thanksgiving dinner time is approaching? The microwave can save the day. Scrub whole potatoes (such as russets or sweet potatoes), pierce them all over with a fork to prevent them from exploding in the microwave—this lets steam escape!—and then microwave them on full power for 5 minutes. Carefully turn them over and cook for another 5 minutes, piercing with a knife to test if they are tender. For that classic baked potato crustiness, you can throw them in the oven at 400°F for 10–15 minutes to develop more of a crust while maintaining a fluffy interior. For mashed potatoes, peel Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, chop into about 1-inch cubes, rinse (to help rid of excess starch), and put into a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, poke a hole in it to vent steam, and microwave on high for 8–10 minutes, or until fork-tender. Then mash with butter, milk, and seasonings.
If you have an Instant Pot, there’s a fast way to cook potatoes in there, too! Add 1 cup water to the base of your Instant Pot, add the trivet, and place whole medium-sized potatoes pierced with a fork on top of the trivet. Set on high pressure for 15 minutes and let the pressure release naturally. You’ll have fully cooked potatoes that can be eaten as-is with butter and sour cream, or you can peel the skin off and mash them.
3. The Easy Hack That Guarantees the Crispiest Roasted Potatoes
Without deep-frying, it sometimes seems impossible to get truly crispy potatoes. But by doing just one thing differently when you roast potatoes, you can get beautifully caramelized, ultra-crispy potatoes. Put your sheet pan in the oven to preheat for 10 minutes at 425°F before you add the potatoes. This will help the oiled and salted halved fingerling potatoes (or another small potato you like) start getting golden brown immediately once they make contact with the hot sheet pan. Get the recipe here (with an optional, but delicious, dipping sauce of homemade aioli!).
4. Topping Combos to Take Baked Potatoes to the Next Level
Any way you prepare a baked potato will be delicious. But why not spice things up? Here’s some fun twists on baked potato toppings to try:
Loaded: sour cream, crumbled bacon, cheddar cheese, chives
‘Shroomy: sautéed mushrooms and onions
Savory sweet potato: butter combined with brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey and a tiny sprinkle of flaky salt for balance
Fancified : butter, crème fraîche, caviar or salmon roe, chives
Thanksgiving-squared: green bean casserole right on top of your potato
Mexican: onions, jalapeños, cilantro, crema, avocado, shredded cheese
Inside-out Shepherd’s pie: turkey, gravy, and mixed vegetables
Thai: sliced chiles, peanut sauce, shredded carrots, fish sauce, scallions, cilantro
Italian: prepared pesto, grated Parmesan, basil
Parmesan-garlic: garlic sautéed in butter, hefty sprinkle of Parm, fresh herbs
5. How to Make the Creamiest, Dreamiest Mashed Potatoes in Advance
Mashed potatoes are best eaten piping hot, immediately after mashing. But they can be prepared in advance if you know how to reheat them right. So if you make Chrissy’s Yukon Gold Smashed Potatoes a day or two before Thanksgiving, hold the crispy shallots on the side and then put the potatoes in a covered saucepan over low heat until they are warmed through. If the potatoes seem stiff, add a little warmed milk and butter to reintroduce moisture until they are as creamy and fluffy as they can be. (More butter never hurts.)