Baking potatoes the right way

Some people bake their potatoes in the oven, wrapped in foil or not and some use potato spikes to speed up the process. Others cook potatoes in their microwave oven and other use their charcoal or gas grill. We decided to compare the three basic methods and tell you what we found.

A baked potato means cooked using dry heat. This leaves out the possibility of using a pressure cooker, which steams the potatoes, giving quite a different result. But it turns out that if you wrap your potato in foil, as many do, you are actually steaming the potato using the moisture trapped inside the foil. And there is a difference in the result.

We took 3 russet potatoes each weighing around 200 grams. One we wrapped in foil and one we left unwrapped but inserted a potato spike in the middle to help heat transmit to the center, speeding up the cooking process.  You can get these spikes on Amazon for about $6.50 for 6, and at many hardware and cooking stores as well.

We set the oven to 400° F and baked the potatoes until inserting a fork indicated they were done. At 400°, the spiked potato took about 40 minutes, but the foil-wrapped one took nearly 50 minutes. You could expect these times to be about 10 minutes less at 450° F.

Then, for comparison, we pricked the third potato about 8 times with a fork and cooked it in the microwave oven for 5 minutes. When we removed this potato, it was wrinkly and shriveled, presumably because the microwave process forced more of the potato’s moisture out as steam.

All of the potatoes came out rather differently. The baked potato with the spike was flaky, tender and flavorful. The foil-wrapped potato was mushier, and took 10 minutes longer to bake, which makes foil a silly idea. The microwaved potato was the worst of all, being the mushiest, and having an odd off-taste, perhaps picked up from the peel. It was truly terrible.

on-grillIf you want to grill your potatoes, add spikes and throw them on the grill, near, but not on the actual fire source. Yes, the outsides will blacken a bit, but it is worth it for the improvement in flavor and texture. A baked potato should be flakey, like many politicians, but not mushy like some other politicians. It will have a nice pleasing texture and a much better flavor. We found that grilled potatoes took about 20 minutes and had an excellent flavor and texture.

Our conclusion: only the oven and grill make an actual baked potato. Foil wrapped takes longer and is mushy, and microwaved potatoes are the worst of all.



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