We Tested The Best Ways To Cook A Baked Potato

·5-min read
Photo credit: Delish UK
Photo credit: Delish UK

Let’s talk baked potatoes: one of our absolute favourite simple dinners. And it is simple, isn’t it? Just whack it in the oven for an hour and a bit and end up with a fluffy, crispy, luscious baked potato to load with grated cheese and beans. Simply stun.

BUT WAIT. You can also cook baked potatoes in the microwave! AND in the air fryer! The oven might *seem* like the obvious choice, but does that really make it the best?

We took to the Delish kitchen to test the three most Googled methods of baking a potato: the oven, the air fryer, and the microwave. All three have their merits, from crisp factor to fluffiness to speed, but if you’ve wondered which is the way to go for the baked potato to end all baked potatoes, you’re absolutely in the right place!

In the name of science, we prepped each of our baked potatoes the same way (and we suggest you do too for maximum results):

  • You want a potato that’s high in starch and low in moisture. Think: Russet, King Edward, Maris Piper.

  • Since (we’re assuming) we’re going to be eating that skin, let's make sure that it’s SPARKLING clean. After all, potatoes come from the earth and soil isn’t exactly known for its delicious or nutritious properties. Scrub it with a nice bristly brush. No need for soap, though.

  • Dry it thoroughly. To us, baked potatoes are all about that jacket, and if you want crispy skin, you need that potato to be bone dry before it hits the heat.

  • Prick it all over, using a fork, so that it doesn’t explode. Literally. Potatoes are full of water and when you cook them, that water turns into steam. Pricking your potato all over gives that steam somewhere to escape.

  • Lastly, season the potato with oil, salt and pepper. Some people might argue that this step isn’t necessary, but to us, oil makes *such* a difference in taste and texture to the finished potato skin. An unoiled potato skin is dryer, thicker and a chewier, whereas oil adds a crispier, cracklier, and generally more appetising casing.

Potatoes prepped? It’s time to take on the heat…

How To Bake A Potato In The Oven

Bake at 180℃ for 1hr to 1hr 30 minutes. Full recipe here!

Pros…

Baking a potato in the oven is a super hands-off method. You get one to one and a half hours to get on with other things, watch a TV show, chillax, whatever you want!

The oven gives the baked potato super crispy skin with lots of deep caramelised flavour that you can only get from extended periods of time in the oven.

Likewise, cooking the potato for a long time helps to really evaporate lots of the water from the middle of the potato, resulting in a super velvety, fluffy interior.

Cons…

Time. Baking a potato in the oven takes minimum one hour plus preheating time, which is a pretty long time for a supposedly easy and simple meal.

If you’re not cooking anything else at the same time and you’ve got your oven on *just* for this, the oven isn’t exactly a very energy efficient way of baking a potato.

Overall rating...

7/10. A tasty time is guaranteed, but huge waste of energy. ☹️

Photo credit: Delish UK
Photo credit: Delish UK

How To Bake A Potato In The Air Fryer

Air fry at 200℃ for 40 mins, turning halfway. Full recipe here!

Pros…

The air fryer is MUCH faster than the oven - and far more energy efficient, too. This is a great option for maximising crispiness while also cutting down on time and energy costs.

The air fryer’s potato skin is SUPER crisp. A great one for the potato skin fiends.

The flavour is less sweet and caramelised than an oven baked potato. Instead, the air fryer gives it a more savoury smell and texture akin to crisps. Get in.

Cons…

The middle isn’t as fluffy and velvety as the oven baked potato, it’s slightly firmer and forms larger chunks when broken up.

Air fryer baskets vary in size, but in general, you can only fit one or two potatoes in an air fryer basket at any given time, meaning if you’re cooking baked potatoes for more than two people, you’d have to do them in batches.

Overall rating...

8/10. An energy-efficient stunner! Albeit a bit more chunky than smooth (but aren’t we all after two years of a pandemic?)

Photo credit: Delish UK
Photo credit: Delish UK

How To Bake A Potato In The Microwave

Microwave on high (900W) for 7-8 minutes, turning halfway. Full recipe here!

Pros…

You might think of the microwave as the cheat’s option, but when we tried this method in the Delish kitchen, we were genuinely surprised by what a fluffy and creamy interior texture it gave!

It’s super speedy, meaning you’ve got a baked potato in less than one eighth of the time it takes in an oven.

Cooking in the microwave is one of the most energy- and cost-efficient ways to cook.

The microwave really draws the seasoning on the exterior of the potato into the skin, giving it a delicious flavour.

Cons…

We can we honest. This is hardly the prettiest of baked potatoes…

The finished baked potato is wrinkly rather than crispy, although this is perhaps a pro for those people who don’t much like the skin of a jacket potato?

If you forget to turn your potato halfway, you’ll end up with a tough spot where the potato rests against the plate in the microwave and gets some extra cooking.

Overall rating...

6/10 She’s a bit soft around the edges, not to mention wrinkly, but she sure packs a velvety, flavoursome punch.

Photo credit: Delish UK
Photo credit: Delish UK

Final thoughts?

All three methods obviously have their merits, but when it comes to time efficiency, crispy skin and minimal energy usage, the air fryer is our clear winner.

The air fryer offered the most shatter-y skin and gorgeous aroma, even if the fluff factor wasn’t quite there. But surely, any potato loaded with salted butter or tuna mayo is going to be outrageously delicious with a crispy skin like that, even if its centre is a little bit on the firm side.

Plus, what a great excuse to crack out that air fryer you impulsively bought once upon a time?

Photo credit: Delish UK
Photo credit: Delish UK
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