Culinary incompetence - the baked potato

How do you fuck up the preparation of a baked potato?

The cafe in my work has dished up two really atrocious baked spuds, on two separate occaions, and I’m not sure what’s going wrong with them. The interior is too soft and tastes watery and awful.
If i had to make a list of things you cook that are unfuckupable, I’d have placed the baked spud at #1. So I was wondering what is the likely reason why it tastes so poor. Is it being cooked wrong, or deteriorating on storage, or what?

Maybe it’s the wrong variety of potato.

This. Never bake a red potato, or any of the waxy varieties.

Or they were microwaved rather than actually baked.

If they bake them wrapped in foil they can be really watery like that.

Sounds like the result of reheating a previously baked potato, or maybe keeping it in a steam table.

Now going way out here, it might have been a waxy red potato that was originally microwaved while wrapped in foil* and reheated in a steam table.

*Use an appropriate microwave safe dish if you try this at home.

I microwave potatoes regularly. Poke holes in the potato with a fork prior to 'waving (so steam can escape) and the result is very similar to oven-baked. Microwaving is better, I would say, because the skin does not turn out so tough.

Moved from General Questions to Cafe Society.

samclem, Moderator

I partially agree. Or partially disagree. I always zap the potato to get the interior started on its way to cooked, then bake it the rest of the way in the oven. It doesn’t take as long, and you can really crisp up the skin in the oven. That’s the best part of the potato.

Thanks, I’m not sure how they’re going about baking them, I should ask.

I thought foil in the oven was standard potatomanship?

This is also what I do. No foil.

Negative. There’s really no advantage to doing that, and you don’t get the crispy skin that some folks like. I think my mother even used to oil the skins lightly. We usually nuke them: a good-sized russet usually takes about 8 minutes on high, turning it over once. You can wrap it in foil to keep it hot for quite awhile afterwards.

Coating them with oil (ideally olive oil) will give them an excellent flavor, appearance, and texture to the skin.

The advantage to baking in foil is the same as the disadvantage: You don’t get the crispy skin. Some people prefer the skin crispy, some prefer it not crispy.

That’s a steamed potato. They do cook more quickly, but the skin is soggy instead of being the best part.

The foil might also help contain the mess when you forget to poke holes in the potato before you put it in the oven and it explodes all over the place. Not that I’d know anything about that.

how’s this self-cleaning thingy work again?

Personally, I think microwaving a baking potato to be an atrocity. It just gives you overheated mushy starch.

Baking is the way to go. I’ve used this very basic recipe for a few years, and well, it’s great. Crispy skin, soft creamy center. The first time I prepared a potato this way I thought, “oh! This is how potatoes are supposed to taste!”

I do modify in that:

I use a brush to apply the oil (I use olive oil most of the time.) The brush makes the oil coating lighter.
I usually don’t pierce the spud. My opinion is that if you cook them the right amount of time, it’s unnecessary. They only “explode” if you over-cook. Oven thermometer or thermocouple + proper timer makes piercing unnecessary, plus I think piercing makes the potato weep goodness and nutrients (no cite here, just a WAG) as it cooks. I like to end up with an intact potato.

My mother used to put a long nail (I think they were aluminum) lengthwise in the potato. What was the deal with that?

Actually a microwave potato boils out more internal moisture in steam than a baked potato, if done properly. It’s just a matter of time and degree. So that doesn’t explain the “watery” description to me. But on the other hand, sometimes one slowly “dries” the potato by dry and long bake, and sometimes one steam dries a potato by microwave. Not unlike freeze drying.
Maybe they are being stored improperly?

My WAG: the nail conducted heat to the center of the potato…for decreased cooking time, maybe?