Because cold potatoes are the worst.

Lots of side dishes are delicious when eaten at room temperature. Mashed potatoes are not one of those dishes. They need to be smooth, creamy, and most of all, piping hot. Yes, gravy can help with that, but it’s also a good idea to make sure your potatoes don’t get cold by the time people come back for second helpings.

Which is where your slow cooker comes in. This handy kitchen appliance isn’t necessary to make mashed potatoes (although you can make them in a slow cooker) but it’s the best way to make sure they stay hot, especially if you’re feeding a big crowd. But it’s not quite as simple as dumping your potatoes into the slow cooker insert and plugging it in—that could actually be a food safety hazard. Follow these steps for the best results.

Grease the insert

Keep the potatoes from sticking to the slow cooker insert by coating it with an even layer of butter or cooking spray.

Start with warm potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a great make-ahead dish, but do not transfer them straight from the refrigerator into the slow cooker. To prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, mashed potatoes should be served at 140˚F or higher. A slow cooker might not reach this temperature quickly enough if you’re starting with cold potatoes. Always reheat the mashed potatoes in the oven or in the microwave before transferring them to the slow cooker.

Keep it on ‘low’

The lowest setting will keep the potatoes nice and warm without drying them out. If you notice that they are getting a little dry, loosen them up by stirring in an extra splash of milk or cream or a few tablespoons of butter.