Potatoes are among the easiest side dishes you can make and goes well with many different entrees. Potatoes are rich in potassium, niacin, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and fiber if eaten with the skin on. While there are some ways you can cook potatoes faster, poking holes in them with a fork does not actually speed up the process. It is, however, a recommended step to avoid unwanted consequences if you are baking the potato in the oven.
The main reason for poking holes in a potato before cooking is to avoid the risk of explosion. Like any vegetable, potatoes contain water. As an unpeeled potato begins to cook, that moisture converts to steam, which increases the pressure beneath the skin. Sometimes that pressure becomes to great that the potato explodes, creating a mess and ruining your side dish. Poking holes in the potato helps relieve that pressure. Note that this technique applies only to baked potatoes, not boiled potatoes.
Poking holes in a potato is straightforward, but there are a few things you should know about the technique. The important thing is to penetrate beyond the superficial layer of the skin. Insert the fork at least an inch deep, and do it several times to allow the potato to release steam properly. You only need to poke your potatoes when baking them with the skin on. When boiling potatoes, poke them with a fork to check that they are cooked through.
Cooking time for potatoes depends on several factors, including the size of the potato and the method of cooking. At 350 degrees F an average-sized baked potato takes about an hour to an hour and a half to cook completely. Cooking the same potato in a microwave only takes about 6 to 10 minutes. Boiled potatoes take a little longer than microwaved potatoes, so allow about 20 minutes for a boiled potato. As a general rule, the larger the potato, the more cooking time it requires.
If you’re short on time, a true oven-baked potato may not be the best option. However, there is one way to speed up the cooking time without burning the potato. Inserting a sterilized metal nail into your potato decreases cooking time. Metal has a higher heat transfer rate than the potato, so the heat from the oven travels to the center of the potato faster. Remove the nail before serving.
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