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My brother in law was telling me the other day that he just sticks whole potatos into the microwave wrapped in wax paper for a quick snack. Is this ok/safe? If you do this, do you have other suggestions to make it tastier? I haven't tried it yet, but am tempted!

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Just put them on the glass turntable. No bag or wrapper required. Potatoes have natural skins, designed for the microwave. If it explodes your are overcooking it –  TFD Oct 22 '12 at 20:28

8 Answers 8

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Before microwaving (or baking, for that matter) a potato, I always poke it deeply with a fork several times to let steam escape. I prefer the taste of a baked potato to a microwave potato, but will often speed up baking a potato by microwaving it for a few minutes first. You can definitely microwave until done.

After it is done, butter and salt and pepper are good, simple accompaniments. Shredded cheese melts nicely over the warm potato, but a crispy melted cheese poured over the potato is really amazing. Other good toppings would be sour cream, bacon, chives, green onions, and caramelized onions.

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Amen on the poking. In the central US, they sell potatoes cleaned and wrapped in plastic with a "Microwave Ready" sticker on them. I never buy them since they cost 3x as much. –  Adam Shiemke Aug 17 '10 at 12:45
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@Adam - I've seen those. In five minutes I can get the same result at home for a lot less (even calculating five minutes of my time). –  justkt Aug 17 '10 at 13:23
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What is "a crispy melted cheese"? –  Dennis Williamson Aug 18 '10 at 0:05
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The advice I heard in college was "Cook until it bursts. Note how long it took. Next time, don't cook as long." –  Marti Oct 26 '10 at 22:34
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I have also microwaved first to reduce time while frying potatoes for breakfast. –  Manako Oct 27 '10 at 20:04

Seconding poking with a fork. Once you explode a potato in the microwave, you will never, ever do it again.

I actually like to do a hybrid for a quick snack. I'll preheat the toaster oven before microwaving. As soon as the potato is done in the microwave, I'll rub the outside with some olive oil, sprinkle kosher salt on it, then give it another 5-10 minutes in the oven/toaster oven to crisp up the skins. A lot of people will microwave-only cook them, but I don't really like a potato without a crispy skin. These don't get as properly crispy as a fully oven-baked potato would, but they're much closer than just microwaving, which tends to make skins a little soggy.

Another option for quick snacks: bake a bunch of potatoes at once, and turn them into twice-baked. These reheat really quickly and you can microwave or bake them (to reheat), both are quick reheat methods compared to baking an entire potato.

You can find recipes online, but the general idea is that you bake the potatoes, cut them in half, scoop out the insides, mash them with butter/milk/sour cream/bacon/salt/cheese/chives/onion (whatever you want, there's really no wrong way here), and then scoop that mix back into the hollowed out shells. Then, you bake them again for a short amount of time.

They're delicious, and they're quick to reheat - bonus, they also freeze very well, so I make a batch of 10 potatoes (which comes out to 20 twice-baked halves) at a time. Here is a recipe that is a great start as a guide for cooking times, but you'll find there is a ton of room for experimentation with ingredients here.

One thing to keep in mind is that some people believe nutrients will be destroyed in the microwave, so if that's a concern it might be worth baking them fully in the oven (I know, much less convenient, just throwing it out there). Caveat: some articles online not only refute that, but suggest that oven cooking may also destroy nutrients. It seems that it depends on the food item in question, along with cooking time and comparable method (boiling, steaming, baking). See related question about microwaves vs nutrients.

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Do you have any evidence to back up the claim that "a lot of nutrients will be destroyed in the microwave". The stuff that I've read says that nutrition loss varies by cooking method and length, so microwave vs. stove can go either way depending on exactly what is done. –  KeithB Aug 17 '10 at 13:58
    
Honestly, it's just what I've been told, I don't know the science behind it. Myth 2 here: pyroenergen.com/articles/microwave-nutrients.htm supports my claim, but I've also read things that refute it. I'll edit my response to say "may" - very good point Keith. –  stephennmcdonald Aug 17 '10 at 14:44
    
So my original comment was based on "what i was always told", which as we all know isn't always right. Apparently (after some research) I'm finding that this is a very touchy subject even among nutritionists. I updated my answer to link to a few articles with very different claims between them. I'm going to open a question about microwaving and nutrients. –  stephennmcdonald Aug 17 '10 at 14:51
    
Microwave/nutrients question opened: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/5343/… –  stephennmcdonald Aug 17 '10 at 14:57
    
I've been microwaving potatoes for decades, with and without poking with a fork, and none have ever "exploded", including those I overcooked. Please don't propagate this myth. –  Rob Oct 23 '12 at 12:09

I will be one of the first people to say that it is not safe.

I have no idea what happened. It was three small potatoes, on a plate, in the microwave (before that, I had only done a single potato at a time). I put 'em in the microwave while I was taking a shower, as I was going to make a hash for breakfast.

When I came out of the shower, there were two charred remains of a potato, one of which was glowing. I have no idea what happened to the third potato. Maybe it was reduced to ashes.

The burning smell was bad ... it took me months of repeated cleanings trying to get the smell to go away, but it was nasty. And the tray in my microwave broke a few weeks after the incident (just randomly cracked in half) ... I have no idea if they were related, but I blame the potato.

Now, since that incident, I've learned that multiple round things near each other in the microwave is bad (might've been an episode of Mythbusters or Brainiac, I can't remember), so it might've been the fact that I had three potatoes in there at once. It might also have been an imperfect potato (you know how you sometimes get that odd black splotch or a void in the middle of a potato? I have no idea how that might affect microwaving).

Never again will I microwave a potato. Normally, I make a few extras when I'm baking some up, wrap 'em in foil, and stash 'em in the fridge, so I'm all ready for when I want to make a hash, I just didn't have any ready on that particular day.

update : So, in response to today's down-vote ... proof that I'm not crazy (at least not about this one) ... other people who have had flaming potatoes (some with pictures; the third one has an example of the glowing I was talking about):

I'm not going to claim it's a regular occurance, but it's not like I'm the only person to have it happen, either ... it happens often enough that if you're planning on microwaving potatoes, you should be prepared that you may end up with this outcome.

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Wow. Just...wow. Is it terrible that I'm tempted to try this but stick near the microwave and see if I can make the third disappear as well? Every day I find more and more reasons for my wife to hate me being a regular on this site... –  stephennmcdonald Aug 17 '10 at 16:56
    
@Joe - I've also heard that if you have any sharp edges they can spark and catch on fire. Personally I try not to leave my microwave unattended. Bad things always happen when I do that. –  justkt Aug 17 '10 at 17:03
    
@stephennmcdonald : If you're going to try, do it like on Braniac -- outside, nothing near it, etc. It was bad. (I'm serious about the glowing ... like when you're blowing on embers, not like a Glowing One in Fallout 3) –  Joe Aug 17 '10 at 17:12
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Surely this is a case of poor supervision of cooking food more than a safety issue with microwaves themselves? I could leave something on the stove and set it on fire, but that doesn't make cooking on stoves unsafe... –  ceejayoz Aug 17 '10 at 17:49
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@ceejayoz : I shouldn't tell you how I tend to cook the rest of the hash, then, as it's mostly unattended. I have never had anything spontaneously combust on me after a few minutes on the stove. Hours, yes, but not 'press 3-0-0-start and return to charred husks of potato' –  Joe Aug 17 '10 at 19:49

For a nicer texture, microwave the potato 3-4 minutes (more or less based on size of potato)(and after poking the potato well), until it is cooked enough that it gives slightly to a gentle squeeze.

Take it out of the microwave and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before unwrapping and eating.

The alfoil holds in the steam from the potato and continues to cook it, producing a result much closer to oven-baking.

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@TJ - but how do you get the crispy skins? If you can teach me how to do that, I'll be sold on microwaving potatoes! –  justkt Aug 18 '10 at 13:02

Last night, my flatmate popped whole scrubbed potatoes (4x) into a plastic shopping bag (like you get from the supermarket), along with perhaps 2cm of water. She tied the bag up and microwaved the whole lot for 3 minutes.

Perfectly cooked potatoes. I was amazed. She has been cooking potatoes like this for a couple of years with no incidents. But I have always been slightly wary about plastic in the microwave. Apparently in her experience, if you use coloured plastic bags, they leach colour onto the microwave plate...yikes.

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This is basically steaming them, which makes perfect sense, although I'd have to concur about the plastic concerns. I don't worry about plastic wrap or plastic in general, but that particular plastic is almost certainly not microwave-safe. Better to use a covered, microwave-safe dish with this method. –  Aaronut Oct 26 '10 at 22:03
    
@Aaronut - or a plastic bag marked microwave safe. –  justkt Oct 26 '10 at 22:38
    
@justkt: I don't think I've ever seen one of those, but I suppose that would work too... –  Aaronut Oct 26 '10 at 23:16
    
@Aaronut - according to Cooking for Engineers, all Ziploc products are made of microwave safe plastic: cookingforengineers.com/article/99/Microwave-Safe-Containers. The side of a Ziploc box should say. –  justkt Oct 27 '10 at 18:35

I microwave potatoes all the time. The cooking time in an oven is just too long (sometimes up to an hour). 1 potato gets 6-7 minutes and 3 potatoes gets 9 minutes. You might have to flip them over (carefully with a potholder). Obviously wash thoroughly and poke some holes in them first.

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Like most things, doing real cooking in an oven tastes better. –  Rob Oct 23 '12 at 12:11

I have microwave the potatoes and added Birds Eye frozen veggies with the cheese sauce. it is great snack or side dish!

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This kind of disaster should not happen if you:

Make sure the potatoes have some sort of moisture (wrap in plastic, put on a plate with water in it, etc.)

Perforate the potatoes, or cut them in half

Start with less time and lower power, appropriate to the size of the potato. Small potatoes need less time and lower power.

I can make the same thing happen to potatoes in a standard oven. Crank the heat, leave them in way too long...

Unless you are taking a tiny spritz of a shower, that was waaaaaaay too long to leave potatoes in the microwave. Small potatoes -- even ten minutes at top power would likely be too much.

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I suspect this was intended to be a comment to my post about burning potatoes. –  Joe Jan 28 at 1:17
    
And admittedly, after thinking about it years later ... it's entirely possible that I didn't poke holes in them first ... and I know I didn't have any extra water in there. –  Joe Jan 28 at 1:18

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