Turn your favorite spuds sides into masterpieces.

By Alyssa Sybertz
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Potatoes have been a supper staple our entire lives, and for good reason: They're inexpensive, difficult to mess up, and can be transformed in many delicious ways. But even though we have our favorite time-tested preparations for spuds that we turn to again and again, it can never hurt to peek our heads out and look for ways to take our potatoes from good to great. Here, some easy-to-do tips to level up your go-to side dish.

Try These: See our entire collection of Potato Recipes.

You've Mastered Mashed Potatoes… Now Heat Your Dairy

After years of serving them to friends and family, you've undoubtedly come up with the perfect combination of milk, butter, cream, and anything else you stir into your mashed potatoes. But to make them silky-smooth, try heating all these ingredients together in a small pot until the butter is melted and the mixture is uniform and nearly boiling. Then when you stir these flavor-boosters into your cooked potatoes they will mix in easier and smoother for an even more indulgent dish.

You've Mastered Baked Potatoes… Now Microwave Them First

It's hard to go wrong with a steamy, fluffy baked potato. The only drawback: It takes an hour in the oven, and even though that hour is hands-off, you still need to remember to pop it on the oven rack with enough time to bake. To level up and slash that cooking time in half, microwave your potato for five minutes first, then rub it with oil and salt and bake it for 30 minutes. The combination of the microwave and the oven ensures you'll have a fully cooked potato with a mouthwatering crispy skin in a fraction of the time.

You've Mastered Home Fries… Now Add Softened Onions

When you order home fries at the diner, part of what makes them so good is the melt-in-your-mouth onions tossed with the potatoes. Many recipes for home fries do call for onions, but if they're cooked in the pan with the potatoes they often don't cook evenly or you're forced to toss the ingredients more frequently, disrupting the browning of the spuds. The fix: Dice an onion and cook it in some oil in a separate pan until soft and beginning to brown, about five minutes. Then toss the onions in the skillet with the potatoes just before serving.

You've Mastered French Fries… Now Soak Them in Hot Water

French fries might be the recipe that you love ordering at restaurants that's the hardest to replicate in your home kitchen. And while frying potatoes on the stove might come close, it can be tedious and messy. To level up your baked French fries, soak the sliced potatoes in hot water for about 10 minutes before baking. This removes excess starch from the potatoes, which means they will bake up even crispier.

You've Mastered Potatoes Au Gratin… Now Stand the Slices on Edge

The creamy, cheesy goodness of potatoes au gratin can't be beat for a holiday, special occasion, or even just a weeknight dinner. But what if you could have the silky indulgence of au gratin plus the crisp edges of hasselback potatoes? To do: After tossing your thinly-sliced potatoes with your cheese sauce, stand them all up in the baking dish instead of laying them flat, making sure to pack them tightly so they all remain upright, and then bake as usual. The result will be a wow-worthy casserole that's melty and cheesy in the middle and crispy and browned on top.

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