Half-baked: a microwave start speeds baked potatoes to the table

by Terry B on December 27, 2017

Starting baked potatoes in the microwave and finishing them in the oven cuts cooking time and still yields crisp skin and fluffy potato flesh. Recipe of sorts below.

Quick Baked Potato

We end the year with a simple potato, and that feels somehow appropriate. Because while you’ll find plenty of recipes here designed to impress, just as often, the focus is getting good food on the table quickly, simply. Such as this baked potato.

go-to-the-recipeWe love potatoes in all forms here—mashed, pan roasted wedges, potato salads, in soups and stews… But delicious as it is, the elegantly simple baked potato seldom sees action in our kitchen. It’s usually relegated to being a nice find on an old school restaurant menu (the last one I remember was on our road trip this fall, at the Mill Street Grill in Staunton, Virginia).

The problem is time. Baked potatoes take too long to be weeknight friendly for us. By the time you heat the oven and get them going, you’re well on the plus side of an hour or more. Some recipes call for as much as 90 minutes.

For a while, we embraced the plastic-wrapped microwave “baking” potatoes you’ll find in some supermarkets. The plastic wrap is apparently breathable, allowing some of the steam to escape. They’re nice and fast, and almost baked. But not quite. The flesh isn’t as fluffy, and the skin has zero crispness.

But that gave me an idea. What if you microwaved the potato for a while, then finished it in the oven? In theory, you would end up with a satisfyingly authentic baked potato, in less time. A little research showed that, as with most of my ideas, I was not the first to have it.

So here’s how we’re enjoying baked potatoes these days—on weeknights, no less. From firing up the oven to cutting open piping hot, fluffy potatoes and dressing them with butter or sour cream or whatever, you’re looking at 40 minutes max. Just enough time to cook some fish, chicken breasts or chops, and toss a salad.

Half-baked Potatoes
Serves 2 (can be doubled, halved, etcetera—see Kitchen Notes)

2 russet potatoes, at least 8 ounces each (see Kitchen Notes)
olive oil
coarse salt, such as kosher salt or sea salt
butter, sour cream, margarine or whatever toppings your heart desires

Preheat oven to 375ºF. While oven heats, scrub potatoes under cold water, dry with a towel and pierce a few times on each side with a fork. Place potatoes on a microwavable plate and microwave for 6 minutes, turning halfway through the process.

Brush potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt, pressing it gingerly against the potatoes (be careful, they are already hot). Bake on an open oven rack, with a lined baking sheet on a rack below (we like using our nonstick Cookina baking sheet liners, but foil or parchment will also work); the potatoes will drip just a little oil or moisture from the pierced potato itself, and you don’t want this to burn onto the oven floor.

Bake potatoes for 25 to 30 minutes, until they pierce easily with a sharp knife and the skins are crisp. Serve with your favorite potato toppings.

Kitchen Notes

One potato, two potato, three potato, more? This recipe is for two potatoes. It would also work for one. As you add more potatoes, you either need to increase microwaving time or do them in batches. At some point, you lose the time-saving advantages of microwaving.

More about the potatoes. Russets or other starchy potatoes are perfect for this technique. So are sweet potatoes. Make sure your potatoes are room temperature when starting out. If they’re refrigerated, all timing bets are off. You really shouldn’t refrigerate potatoes anyway—the cold causes their natural starch to convert to sugar, making them overly sweet. It may also discolor them.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Fazio December 27, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Try grilling them in the end wrapped in foil, dressed with olive oil and kosher salt. If you don’t let them get blackened, you will end up with the tastiest, nuttiest Mickey…maybe an Irish term, but now after our Norfolk terrier Mickey. Cannot be beat. Could skip the meat and just eat that grilled yummy Spud.

Dani H December 27, 2017 at 10:42 pm

I agree with you that just nuking a potato isn’t nearly as good as finishing them off in the oven. I will broil a pork chop or chicken breast in my toaster oven then finish up baking the potato while the meat rests rather than heating the regular oven just for one person.

Happy (almost) New Year’s Eve!

Deborah Lyons Jacobs December 28, 2017 at 8:43 am

I use this technique a lot . Once it goes in the oven, I cook at 425 degrees.

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