The humble spud is one of the most versatile vegetables. It is inexpensive, readily available, easy to cook, and there are so many things that we can do with it to turn it into the most scrumptious dish. One of the simplest is to cook a baked potato in the microwave on a paper towel.
The poor potato has been given a bad name by those people who think, erroneously I might add, that it is fattening and unhealthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like with anything else in your diet, it is not good to eat potatoes in excess, but if eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet, potatoes are very healthy.
What Are the Health Benefits of Potatoes?
Potatoes are filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These are all vital components of our daily nutritional requirements. They are rich in fiber and are a valuable source of carbohydrates, needed for energy.
The belief that potatoes are bad for you is really a misconception. It is not the potatoes themselves, but rather the other ingredients that many people often use to cook them with, which can be detrimental to your health.
Using large quantities of oil packs extra calories into your simple spud, while adding loads of salt is not good for you because it can raise your sodium levels to an unhealthy state. Of course, it is also delicious to add all sorts of toppings to your potato, and many of these can be unhealthy and fattening. Later on in this article, we will give you some ideas and suggestions for delicious and healthy toppings for your potato.
If you eat a medium-sized baked potato daily, this would be considered by dieticians and nutritionists to be a perfectly acceptable part of a healthy eating plan. There are a few different ways to make a baked potato, and we will look at all of them, but the easiest and quickest is to make a baked potato in the microwave on a paper towel.
What is the Best Way to Cook Potatoes?
It is possible to cook your potatoes in many different ways. The method that you choose really depends largely upon your personal preference. Of course, it does also depend on the dish with which you are pairing your potatoes. For example, I think that most people would agree that burgers go best with fries, as does fried fish. Your Sunday roast, on the other hand, will go best with a crispy roast potato.
You may choose your cooking method based on health and diet factors. For example, roast potatoes sizzling in hot oil may taste utterly scrumptious, but they will be a lot less healthy than a baked potato heated in the microwave.
The most common methods of cooking potatoes are
- Baked, either in the oven or microwave
- Sauteed in a pan
- Fried in oil
- Boiled in water
- Roasted in a little oil
- Stewed in a pot with meat and other vegetables
What are the Most Common Varieties of Potatoes?
There are numerous different varieties of potatoes available. Some are more suited to certain types of cooking than others. The varieties that you will find in the shops are not always the same all year round. They are often seasonal and are area dependent. Different agricultural zones are better suited to different varieties, because of fluctuations in climate.
Some varieties are very common and are available in most potato-growing regions. Others may be more difficult to find and will only be available at certain times of the year.
Do not confuse the ordinary potato with the sweet potato, or yam. These are two very different vegetables, and each is more suited than the other to specific dishes. They have different flavors, textures, and nutritional values.
There are three different types of potatoes, namely
- Waxy potatoes – these potatoes have a smooth texture, almost like wax, and are firm. They will not disintegrate or fall apart when you cook them but will keep their original shape. They are particularly good for potato salad, scalloped potatoes and roasted potatoes.
- Starchy potatoes – these potatoes, as their name suggests, have a higher starch content. This makes them more likely to fall apart when cooking. They are wonderful for mashed potatoes and are also good for making a baked potato in the microwave on a paper towel.
- All-purpose potatoes – these potatoes are really in between starchy and waxy potatoes. They don’t fall apart when cooked, because they have less starch than starchy potatoes, but they are not as smooth and firm as waxy potatoes. They really are all-purpose and will be good in most potato dishes.
These three categories are very broad, and each one has so many varieties that it can be a little overwhelming when you are trying to make your selection. Some of the most popular and commonly found varieties are:
- Russet: This starchy potato is also called a Burbank or is sometimes known as an Idaho potato. It has light brown skin with an uneven texture. It is good for mashing, baking and frying.
- Rose Finn Apple: This waxy potato has a slightly pinkish tinge to the skin, but the flesh inside is golden yellow. It will be good either boiled or deep-fried and is excellent for salads.
- Red Bliss potato: A waxy potato, this small, round potato has a thin red skin. It will make delicious, crispy roast potatoes. It is also good in stews and soups.
- White Rose: This is a round or oval-shaped potato with golden-colored skin. It is a waxy potato with white flesh, good for boiling or sauteing, and other methods since it is an all-purpose potato.
- Yukon Gold: This is my favorite all-purpose potato. It has thin, yellow skin with yellow, creamy flesh. They have a unique flavor and are wonderful when roasted, baked, or boiled.
- Purple potatoes: This unusual all-purpose potato has deep purple skin and purple flesh. They are good for all types of cooking, and because of their vibrant color, they look particularly good in salads.
How Do You Select the Best Potatoes for Your Dish?
Always look for heavy, firm potatoes that have no blemishes. Don’t buy potatoes that have soft spots that are darker than the rest of the potato. Avoid potatoes that are sprouting from the eyes. This is a sign that they are not fresh.
Potatoes that appear to have a greenish tinge should not be eaten. A potato will start turning green when it has been overexposed to light. This causes the production of a chemical known as solanine. The name ‘Solanine’ comes from the Latin word ‘sol’, meaning ‘sun’. Solanine is produced as a result of exposure to sunlight. It is toxic and can make you feel quite ill if ingested.
When it comes to potatoes, I have found that bigger is not always better. Often very large potatoes are lacking in flavor and are sometimes floury in texture. I prefer small to medium-sized potatoes. I always look for clean, smooth skin that is not wrinkled.
Where Do You Store Your Potatoes?
Potatoes will spoil very quickly if exposed to light. They should be stored in a cool, dark cupboard with ventilation. If they are kept in a humid area, they will start to sprout. Although many experts advise against keeping potatoes in the fridge, during the intense heat of summer I have kept potatoes in the crisper drawer in the fridge for up to two weeks and they have been perfect.
Can you Freeze Potatoes?
Raw potatoes do not do well in the freezer. They will go watery and will be soft and spongy when thawed. Only certain types of cooked potatoes can be frozen successfully. Mashed potatoes will be fine, as will potatoes cooked in a stew or casserole. But roasted potatoes, or fries, will be soggy and unappetizing after freezing.
Let us now look at our favorite way to cook potatoes. The easiest, and healthiest, is to bake them in the microwave.
Baked Potato in the Microwave on a Paper Towel
Select your potato and wash it well. Dry the potato thoroughly. Using a fork, prick a few holes in the potato. This will allow the steam to escape and will prevent your potato from splitting open.
Your potato will be delicious if you brush it very lightly with a little olive oil and sprinkle with some salt, but this step can be omitted if you want to avoid adding oil and salt.
Place a piece of paper towel on the turntable in your microwave. This will keep it clean and absorb the moisture from the steam. If you are cooking a single potato, place it in the center of the turntable.
If you are cooking more than one, try to choose potatoes that are more or less the same size. Place the potatoes along the outer rim of the turntable, equidistant from each other. For example, imagine your turntable as a clock face. If you are baking four potatoes, place them at 12, 3, 6, and 9. This will ensure even heat distribution so that the potatoes cook evenly.
How Long Does a Potato Bake in the Microwave?
The length of time needed to bake the potatoes depends on three things
- The number of potatoes you are doing at the same time
- The size of the potatoes
- The power, or wattage, of your microwave.
If you want to understand how the power of the microwave affects the cooking, a 1000-watt microwave is extremely powerful and will cook quickly and efficiently, while a 700-watt or less will be slower and may not cook as evenly.
A single medium-sized potato in a high-powered microwave will cook in about 5 minutes. A very large potato will need an extra minute or two. Usually, if you double the number of potatoes, you should double the cooking time, less one or two minutes. So four potatoes will take between 16-18 minutes.
Halfway through the cooking time, pause the microwave and open the door. Carefully turn the potatoes, using a glove or a cloth to protect your hand, as it will be very hot. This will help to ensure even cooking.
How Do You Know When the Potatoes are Done?
Pierce the potato with a thin skewer or a fork. It should be soft, but not mushy. If it is still hard inside and you struggle to get the skewer in, it will need another minute or two. If the skin is starting to wrinkle and go hard, it is overdone.
Can You Eat the Potato As Soon As it is Cooked?
With all microwave cooking, “resting time” is important. The food will continue to cook for a few minutes after the microwave is switched off because the heat will still diffuse as it evens out. You should let your potato rest for 5 minutes before eating it. This also allows it to cool slightly so that you are less likely to burn your mouth when eating it.
Some Ideas for Yummy Fillings
If a plain baked potato sounds too dull, and you want to liven it up, you can cut it open halfway and stuff it with delectable fillings. These are our favorites
- Grated cheddar cheese, mixed with a little sour cream and onion soup powder
- Smoked salmon or mackerel pate
- Chicken, cut up into small pieces and mixed with a little sweet chili sauce
- Minced beef or bolognese
- Tuna mayonnaise
- Egg mayonnaise
- Chopped tomatoes and peppers mixed with Thousand Island sauce
I have saved my best tip for last. When cooking a baked potato in the microwave for your lunch, cook a few extra. They can keep in the fridge for up to a week. You can then quickly heat up and serve with your favorite filling. A meal in a minute! Don’t think of it as eating left-overs. I plan for it, so I love calling them “plan-overs”. This will be a real time-saver and will simplify your life. You won’t have to think about what to eat for lunch!