In the hierarchy of Thanksgiving side dishes, a big bowl of mashed potatoes is forever firmly planted at the top of my list. In fact, it's my favorite dish on the holiday table, period. And this month I tested some of the most popular mashed potato recipes out there — from Alton Brown, Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and Ree Drummond — to determine which one was the absolute best.
Cooking and tasting these four recipes back-to-back showed me the clear differences — sometimes small, sometimes big — that can set this staple dish apart from its peers. So, which one deserves a prime spot at your Thanksgiving table? Here's how they ranked, from my least favorite to most favorite.
The Most Flexible Mashed Potato Recipe: Martha Stewart's Perfect Mashed Potatoes
A pinch of nutmeg added at the end of cooking gives these classic mashed potatoes a tiny twist that tastes special. It was the highlight of the recipe for me, which felt like a choose-your-own adventure game instead of a definitive set of instructions. It includes a lot of flexibility — from the type of potatoes, to the type of dairy — which could be potentially confusing for a new cook. The recipe will walk you through getting a nice-tasting batch of mashed potatoes on the table, but depending on the adventure you choose, the texture, creaminess, and richness will vary.
Read more: I Made Martha Stewart's Mashed Potatoes
The Most Indulgent Mashed Potatoes: Ree Drummond's Creamy Mashed Potatoes
What really sets Ree's recipe apart from the pack is not that it's baked into a casserole, but that it uses four (!) kinds of dairy: butter, half-and-half, cream, and cream cheese. They were probably the most buttery and creamy mashed potatoes I have ever tasted, but partnered with the rest of a Thanksgiving feast, they cross the line into the territory of being too rich.
The Most Efficient All-Purpose Mashed Potatoes: Alton Brown's Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Of the four recipes Alton's calls for the fewest ingredients, and his streamlined process only needs a single pot. They tasted exactly like what I crave when I think of classic, no-frills mashed potatoes, with just the right amount of dairy and seasoning. In addition to the potatoes, Alton's recipe will also make you feel like a better cook. It's full of smart takeaways, like adding a lid to the pot when boiling potatoes for faster cooking, or later warming the cream and butter in the same pot to minimize dishes.
Read more: I Tried Alton Brown's Creamy Mashed Potatoes
The Very Best Mashed Potatoes: Ina Garten's Classic Mashed Potatoes
These were fast, fancy, and so incredibly delicious that I'm still thinking about them weeks later. If I could eat just one type of mashed potatoes for the rest of my life, it would be Ina's, without question. The remind me of the fancy, French-style mashed potatoes I made in culinary school. With a slightly thinner texture than classic mashed potatoes, this version is super creamy and lush, with just a hint of richness. Ina calls for stirring in sour cream, which is brilliant and adds a subtle tangy undertone. And as a bonus, the recipe is easy to follow and comes together in just under 30 minutes.
Read more: I Tried Ina Garten's Classic Mashed Potatoes
Thanksgiving is the ultimate food holiday, and when it comes to stand-out dishes, everyone has their favorites. This year we decided to put some of the internet's most popular Thanksgiving recipes — from Alton Brown, Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and Ree Drummond — to the test in our own kitchens.