When you’re preparing a big meal for the holidays, there are so many ingredients and different dishes to prep that you can easily get distracted. One minute you’re creaming corn, and the next, you’re cleaning up apple pie spillover in the oven. While you may be able to throw away a few forgotten burnt rolls, one mistake will be too obvious to hide — a bowl full of grey mashed potatoes.

If you’re not planning to use your potatoes within 20 minutes after exposing the inner flesh to air, you should takes steps to prepare.

Here’s how to keep your potatoes from turning grey or brown, so they’re be worthy of praise at your holiday table.

Why do potatoes brown?

If you ever took a long phone call in the middle of chopping potatoes and came back to a brownish-grey mess on your cutting board, you’ve seen the science in real time. Potatoes brown rather quickly because their high starch content interacts with oxygen and they undergo a process called oxidation. Blame it on the PPO — or polyphenol oxidase — enzyme that is also responsible for browning apples, pears, peaches, and bananas. They are still perfectly edible, but they’re left a brownish grey, rather unappetizing color.

Keep potatoes from turning brown this holiday season2
Make sure your mashed potatoes stay deliciously bright with these helpful tips.

Stop potatoes from browning

Protect the color of your precious little spuds by submerging them in cold water. Cold water helps to slow the oxidation process.

Cut, chopped, shredded or peeled potatoes can be stored in cold water for up to 12 hours before it will start to change the texture of the potato. The color should remain stable for as many as six hours.

The smaller the pieces of potato your creating, the sooner they will brown. Grated potatoes for hash browns, for example, are particularly susceptible. Waste no time and grate those potatoes directly into a bowl of cold water.

Potatoes of any size shouldn’t sit in warm water. If you expect you need more than an hour, refrigerate your cut potatoes and keep the water cold.

Add some acid for extra time

If you need to prep your potatoes longer than six hours ahead of time, adding some acid will help ward off gross shades of grey and brown.

Acid lowers the pH of the potato. A squirt of lemon juice or white vinegar in the water bowl should do the trick. Mix one teaspoon of acid to every half gallon of water to get the effect without adding flavor.

Another alternative

If all of this sounds like a lot of particulars you don’t want to deal with in the middle of making a big meal, consider crock pot mashed potatoes. You won’t likely use your crock pot for anything else during a typical holiday feast, so might as well put it to good use. Find the recipe here.

Keep potatoes from turning brown this holiday season
Mashed potatoes in the crock pot is an easy alternative.

ALSO SEE: 15 recipes that use eggnog.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.