Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Foolproof Recipes…or Do Only Fools Believe That?

I would like to be able to tell someone, “This recipe is foolproof,” and know I’m being honest.  But I know better.  No matter how simple a recipe seems, something can always go wrong.

What could be easier than baking a potato?  Turn on the oven.  Set the temperature.  Scrub the potato.  Place it on the oven rack.  Set the timer.  Come back in 1 or 1 1/4 hours.  Remove and eat.

And yet, when someone else follows this exact recipe, sometimes there is a disaster.  Why is that? Lots of reasons:

Size of the Potato. Huge baking potatoes, often sold individually, may take up to 2 hours to be fully baked, while small potatoes could be ready in 45 minutes.  The inside of the potato can shrink if the potato is in the oven too long.

Temperature. The most popular settings are 400 or 425 degrees, but if you’re using the oven at 350 or 375 degrees, you can still bake your potatoes.  However, the cooking time will be longer.

Piercing. Before baking, stick a metal skewer or spike through the potato.  Or stab it a few times with a fork.  This will allow some steam to escape, which helps keep the potato from exploding.

Rub the Potato Skin with Olive Oil and Salt vs. Don’t Bother. The oil softens the skin and adds some flavor. Try it sometime.

Wrap Potato in Foil. Do this only if you like soft potato skins.

Potatoes in foreground pierced with a skewer.  Potatoes in the back rubbed with olive oil and salt.
(photo by Sammy Mills)
In case you wondered, more than 100 varieties of potatoes grow in the U.S., and only some of them are recommended for baking.

Is your brain ready to explode? Just remember that russet potatoes are the most popular for baking and are also the cheapest.  They’re also the ones most commonly available in 10-pound bags.

For more recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"