All methods can yield good results, but I’m now convinced that the best baked potatoes — hands down — are made in the air fryer.
When making a baked potato, your choice of spud is key. For baking, you want the starchiest potato you can find, such as russets. “High-starch potatoes (often described as mealy) will generally give you fluffy, tender results and are more prone to breaking down while cooking,” my colleague Becky Krystal wrote in her guide to potatoes. With your tubers in tow, it’s important to give them a good wash to get rid of any dirt stuck on their skins. Then poke them all over with a fork to allow steam to escape and prevent explosions.
Microwaved baked potatoes
During my childhood, my mother would then simply put the potato in the microwave and nuke it for about five minutes until tender all the way through. (You may need to add a couple of minutes depending on the size and quantity of potatoes and the strength of your microwave.) The best part about this method is that it’s the fastest of the bunch, but it results in flabby skin that I often leave on the plate and an interior that’s not very fluffy.
When baking potatoes in the oven, taking the extra step to rub them with oil and add a sprinkle of salt will contribute to crisp skin that is a joy to eat. The traditional oven method yields a delightfully fluffy interior that you might just want to sleep in. However, it takes about an hour in a 400-degree oven to achieve this peak potato, making it the lengthiest option and too long to wait when you’re especially hungry.
Enter the air fryer: It produces results that are superior to potatoes baked in the oven — even crispier skin and the fluffiest interior — in a fraction of the time. You can air-fry as many potatoes as you can fit into your appliance, but note that the cook time directly correlates with the number of spuds, meaning more taters take more time. (Four 8- to 10-ounce potatoes take about 40 minutes. For two or six potatoes, subtract or add 10 minutes.)
Once split open, you can top your air-fried baked potatoes however you like. A sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of black pepper are a must in my book, along with a generous pat of butter. If I’m lucky enough to have a tub of sour cream in the fridge, I love to add a few dollops for its creamy tang. I’ve even enjoyed them topped with leftover red pozole from a local Tex-Mex barbecue restaurant. Some of my other favorite additions include chili, shredded cheese, chopped bacon and chives or scallions.
There really isn’t a wrong way to eat a baked potato, so however you prepare it, feel free to raid your kitchen to come up with your own comforting creation.