Exploding Potatoes

I can’t figure out why the microwavable potatoes you can buy in grocery stores don’t explode. I actually purchased one to study it. The brand was EZ Baker. The unwrapped potato had no discernible holes in it. I zapped it as directed on the package, and there was no resulting potato shrapnel. I can’t see how these spuds vent steam. How do they work?

Thank you.

I’ve never seen such a thing as a microwavable baked potato. All the microwavable potatoes I’ve seen have been cut into pieces. How long did the directions have you cook it for? At what power? Did you inspect it for microperforations before you cooked it?

I don’t waste money on microwavable potatoes. I buy regular potatoes (and yams) that aren’t too big, and just wash them and throw them in the microwave without even puncturing them. There’s a “potato” button on my microwave, and I just hit it and “power.” Works every time.


The directions said to zap the potato for 4 minutes. I did inspect the potato and saw no perforations, micro or otherwise. I figure the plastic shrink wrap, which stays on the potato while it’s cooking (sounds more and more appetizing, doesn’t it?) must have micropores, not that I could see them. But it’s the potato itself that puzzles me.

When I’ve microwaved potatoes in the past, I’ve always just used regular potatoes, scrubbed and pricked with a fork, but I actually don’t like microwaved potatoesl, as the skins don’t get chewy like they do in the oven. I only bought the EZ Baker to try to figure out how it works. I obviously failed.

Thanks for the responses.

Thank you, DrDeth. I did not see any explanation on the site. Did I miss something? Idid learn that the potatoes require 7 minutes to microwave (I’d said 4. Sorry.) and that the name is Easy Baker (not EZ Baker, as I’d stated).

Maybe these are special low-moisture potatoes, but wouldn’t there be enough steam generated to blow them apart?

There was a thread a few weeks ago that mentioned baking potatoes in microwave, in which Fourtyfold suggested baking potatoes on lower power for a longer period of time. (We’re talking about regular standard-issue potatoes, not some specially-bred microwaveable potatoes.)

I’ve been experimenting. My best approach so far is something like:
– Wash potato. Poke some holes (never tried without doing this, so maybe it doesn’t matter.
– Leave potato wet on outside. Don’t dry it.
– Place on ceramic or china plate in oven.
– Cover with inverted glass bowl. (Still need to experiment with omitting this and see what happens.)
– Nuke 10 to 12 minutes on 60% power.
– May help to turn it over at half-time so the skin doesn’t get welded to the plate.

This was a great improvement over my prior strategy, which was 8 to 10 minutes on full power. The skins got overcooked and leathery. The above plan is better, and with some additional fine-tuning I think it can get a little better still. Credit to Fourtyfold for the basic suggestion.

and go with the thinnest skin as possible, we had perfect nuket potatoes last night, paper thin yellow skin, like on a yukon, but the inside was nice and mealy like a classic russet. Nom!

Thanks for all the suggestions on nuking potatoes. Maybe if I try some of them, I’ll like potatoes cooked this way better. I’m still puzzled by why they don’t explode. There must be a reason.

I put the plain, washed potato in the microwave for some amount of time (I forget how long-- maybe 5-10 mins? I’m VERY bad with microwave times) just short of done. Then take out, slather with oil (usually peanut because of high smoke point) and put in 450-500 degree oven (which was preheating while potato was in microwave), for about 10 minutes. You get the tender insides with the roasty-toasty skin in 20 minutes instead of one hour for regular baked potato. Wrapping potato in foil, or putting in any kind of container steams it, but I want the finished product to have some quality of baked-ness.

I am mystified myself. I think it’s the wrapper.

Here’s a WAG. Explosions occur because local pockets inside the food heat unevenly. Some places will boil before others cook, and that crates steam which tries to expand, possibly causing an explosion.

Perhaps the wrapper functions as an evener, so that the entire insides of the potato cook at the same speed. If nothing is much hotter than its surroundings, then no explosion will occur.

I don’t know what exact mechanism in the wrapper would make this work, though.

For russets I just put them in for 4 minutes on high. No holes, no plates, no cover, no nothing; just riding around on the turntable.

After the 4 minutes on high, let them sit 4 minutes. Then turn them over and nuke another 4 minutes on high, rest another 4 minutes, then eat. Practically speaking, the last 4 minutes rest happens while I’m plating the meal, getting drinks, etc. So the total process is still pretty quick.

The heat-4-rest-4 seems to work better than nuking for say, 8 minutes on 50% power even though that *ought *to be the same total energy.

When I forgot to pierce potatoes before microwaving them…well, let’s just say I only did that once. Aren’t the same principles at work as there are when a potato is in a hot conventional oven? I once spent the better part of a Saturday cleaning a potato-encrusted oven. In my defense, I’ve only made the mistake once in a regular oven and once in a microwave. I do learn from my idiocy. Sort of.

Dr. Deth, I think you may be onto something with the wrapper theory. I just can’t figure out how it would work. I wonder what would happen if I unwrapped a raw Easy Baker and put it in an oven with no piercings. Sadly, my dread of cleaning up the possible mess outweighs my scientific curiosity.

They have these ‘baking bags’ for microwaved potatoes. They do make a great potato, somewhere between regular microwave and oven quality. When I got mine, the directions said to wash, leave wet, wrap in a paper towel and set the microwave on full power and the minutes according to the potato size. They take about as long as just pricking and sticking them in the old fashioned way.
The bag is just a handicraft really, something for those with the time and ambition to sit and stitch together and sell as a side income. Not much more than cotton, padding and a fabric with your choice of design on it. I bought mine at a local restaurant, after receiving a recommendation from a friend. Got two of 'em now. Google ‘potato baking bag,’ read whatever claims they make as to how it works and why you should use it, I won’t recommend a specific site because I think half of what they claim is just from a pitchman, and the other half the actual reason as to why it works. I’ll let you pick and choose.
I had my concerns about not pricking my potatoes when I first used the bag, but I figured what the hell, if it explodes, it is inside a paper towel, inside a cotton padded bag. Can’t be too much of a mess. It works, no need for pricking. Much to my surprise, since I can remember, I’ve known better than to put an unpricked potato in the microwave, and I had this lesson re-taught in high school and college biology (yeah, college, I was surprised to hear the prof warning adults not to blow up potatoes in their microwaves).
I believe the insulation of the padding, the towel and the fact that the potato is wet shields it from uneven heating. I can buy that. I often test my potatoes and find them a little firm yet, so I will simply put them back in, hit the timer for twenty seconds to get the steam going and let them wait until the rest of the meal is done. Steam goes along way in getting a good potato in the microwave. But I cannot understand why you can buy a potato in shrinkwrap, no real moisture in it, and have good results. It’s not like the plastic is insulation, I would think it would shrink and melt rather than work.

I’ve ‘baked’ dozens of potatoes in the microwave and none has ever exploded. In the UK we don’t have specific microwaveable varieties, just potatoes, usually sold by breed. I think the skins are porous enough to let the steam out.

Some of the responses whetted my curiosity. Why would some people who don’t prick potatoes before baking/zapping them NOT have exploding potatoes? So I did more research. A number of sites indicate the explosions are caused by potatoes having moist interiors and tough skins. I’m betting that if you use a thinner-skinned potato variety, explosions are far less likely. The Easy Bakers probably have very thin skins. (I didn’t notice this but frankly paid no attention to the skin after ascertaining it had no holes in it.)

In my defense, I didn’t deliberately put potatoes in either a conventional or microwave without poking holes first; I just got distracted and forgot.

What I usually do now is partially cook (pierced) potatoes in the microwave, then switch them to the oven. It’s faster, and I still get skins with texture.

Thanks for all the responses.

Same here. I usually jab them with a fork a couple of times before I put them in, but I’ve forgotten in the past and not suffered any exploding tubers. They tend to make a bit of a whistling sound and bubble as the steam forces its way out through weak points in the skin.

In case anyone is still interested…I actually e-mailed the company that markets Easy Bakers back when this discussion was active and just got their reply today. In my ongoing efforts to advance Potato Science, here’s the reply:

That last sentence is pretty incomprehensible to me, and I have an odd compulsion to run home and check the vegetable bin in my fridge to see if my potatoes are breathing, but I think I get it now.

As one more data point in the poke vs. exploding debate…

The first time that I caught Mr. Horseshoe putting potatoes into the oven sans holes and was all “But they’ll explode!” I got this response, and only this response: :dubious:

He’s never had one do that to him in his life. So, eventually, I quit worrying about it. A decade and countless potatoes later, not a single explosion. Not even so much as a crack or a poof although I can hear them whistle like Colophon described.