Microwaving food can be a tricky business. It will either be easy and simple to just heat through a dish.
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The potato has humble beginnings and it was brought to Europe by Spanish explorers such as Christopher Columbus who visited the New World. These days, potatoes are one of the most important crops in the world, trailing only behind rice, wheat, sugar cane, and corn.
Unlike plants that grow above ground, potatoes (tubers) are much more productive because even if the green part falls over, the potatoes still grow. In fact, one Lebanese farmer dug up a huge potato in 2008 that weighed almost 25 pounds. The potato was larger than most human heads. You can make lots of mashed potatoes with that!
Or it can be a long and frustrating process that ends in a big mess. We have all accidentally exploded soup in the microwave. Or, as happens surprisingly commonly, set fire to a potato.
Setting fire to a potato in the microwave might sound hilarious and ridiculous. And it is. Until you find yourself staring through the glass as a potato ablaze slowly rotates.
Then what do you do? (Hint: read on or scroll down for some very important safety tips for microwaving food).
Microwaves are usually used for just reheating food. But that’s not all they can do. They aren’t called microwave ovens for nothing.
There are many different foods and dishes that you can actually cook in a microwave. Some of the best dishes are those made with potatoes (as what savory dish wouldn’t be improved with some fluffy carby loveliness?)
So, how long should you microwave a potato for? This, as with cooking any food, depends on several factors. These factors are:
- Potato type
- Microwave strength
- Cooking intentions
These are all pretty basic things but they will have an impact on the results of your cooking.
So, read on for the best tips and tricks for microwaving a potato. As well as a few delicious potato recipes that can be quickly and easily made in the microwave.
First up, size. This is one of the most important factors.
The length of time to microwave a potato mostly depends on how big it is. This is because the heat and microwaves will need to penetrate the potato to heat and cook it.
The bigger the potato, the longer it will need to be in the microwave.
The average-sized potato is around 4-5 inches long. This size potato will take around 15-20 minutes to cook through. It will likely take longer but it’s best to start out with 15 minutes.
Then, if more time is needed, return the potato to the microwave for an additional 10 minutes. Repeat, or reduce the time to 5 minutes, as needed.
Types of Potatoes
The type of potato will also make a big difference when it comes to how long it takes to microwave.
For example, a standard baking potato will take much longer than a sweet potato. This is due to the density and texture of the flesh.
A white baking potato has very dense and heavy flesh. This is why they are so thick and heavy when mashed or cooked. A sweet potato (which is a fibrous complex carbohydrate) has flesh that is much less dense.
So they will microwave much more quickly. It is also why white potatoes are not considered to be one of your 5-a-day.
For sweet potatoes, size is also important. But, generally, sweet potatoes will cook in the microwave in around 10 minutes.
If you have very large sweet potatoes, then they might take a bit longer. But, similarly to white potatoes, you can keep returning them to the microwave for incremental periods of time.
The strength of your microwave will also have a bearing on how long you should microwave a potato.
While there is some variation, there isn’t a huge difference between microwaves. Due to the density of potatoes, it’s best to heat them on HIGH.
This will cook them much more quickly than in other settings.
What you intend to do with the potato is another important factor in the cooking time. For example, if you plan to eat the potato as it is with a topping then you will need to cook it until it is thoroughly cooked.
If you plan to finish it off in the oven, then you need to cook it in the microwave for a slightly shorter time.
The potato will take a while to cook in the oven but it will still heat it up a lot. You don’t want to cook it completely in the microwave, otherwise, it will become overdone and burn in the oven.
Microwaving a Potato Step by Step
So, now you have some very important information about microwaving potatoes.
But, if you’re not sure how long to microwave a potato for, you’re probably also unsure of what else you should do with it.
So, to help you out here is a very simple step by step guide to cooking a potato in the microwave.
There are a few different potato recipes that can be made in the oven but this is for the simple process of cooking a potato until it is soft. (Read on or scroll down for a few more recipe suggestions).
Microwaving a Potato
- Microwavable plate/dish
- Pierce the potato. This is a very important step. As the potato cooks, steam will build up inside it. If you don’t give the steam somewhere to escape, then the potato will potentially explode. This is not ideal.So, to stop your lunch from exploding, you should pierce the skin and flesh of the potato when it is raw. It is best to do this with a fork.Simply take a fork and stab the potato a few times. Try to get a little bit into the flesh but not too far. The most important thing is to pierce the skin.
- Place on a microwavable plate/dish. This is another important step for microwaving any food. (Read on or scroll down to the Microwave Safety section for more information on this).
- Season the potato. This isn’t a step that many people choose to follow as you can easily season the potato after you have cooked it. But whichever you choose please, people, season your food. As you have already pierced the potato skin, any seasoning will leak down into the potato as it cooks. This is a much more efficient option than adding seasoning afterward. The best way to season the potato is with melted butter, salt, and your choice of herbs or spices. Melt some butter in a bowl (in the microwave) and then add in the salt and seasoning.Mix this together. Then, you can either drizzle, rub, or brush the butter and seasoning over the potato. Make sure that it is fully covered.
- Cook! Now it’s time to cook the potato. If you have the setting available, turn the dial to the potato option on your microwave. Otherwise, turn the dial to the highest setting. Then, cook for 10 minutes.After 10 minutes, take the potato out and test the softness. Make sure to poke it again with a fork.It’s possible for the potato to feel cooked from the outside but still be raw inside. If it still feels hard inside, cook it for another 5-10 minutes. Repeat as needed.
- Eat! Now your potato is cooked, you can eat it however you like. Just remember that it will be incredibly hot when it comes out. Especially on the inside.
Depending on the type of microwave you have, you will potentially have some very specific settings.
While a lot of microwaves simply have a timer or numbers indicating a setting. Some have settings for specific foods. For example, many have settings for popcorn or for fish.
Some, usefully, have a setting specifically for potatoes. If your microwave has this, then it’s definitely a good idea to use it. It will cook the potato slightly differently and give you a better texture.
Using a microwave is one of (if not the) most efficient ways of cooking food. Especially cooking a potato. But, as with an oven, it does come with some hazards.
When it comes to potatoes, there are a few to remember. The most important things to remember for microwaving a potato are to:
- Use a microwavable plate/dish. This might seem obvious but it’s still important to remember. If you use a plate or dish that isn’t microwave safe, then it can become damaged. This is true for cooking any kind of food. But, with a potato, it is tempting to simply place the potato in the microwave without a plate or dish.
As it will stop the plate or dish from becoming too hot to handle and then eat off. But, placing the potato straight on the microwave rotating plate isn’t a good idea. For one, it will become damp.
You will likely have noticed that microwaving food can often result in them being wetter and soggier than if it had been cooked in the oven.
This water often accumulates on the sides of the microwave, including on the rotating base. If you place the potato directly on the base, then it can potentially soak up this water.
A soggy potato is not something anyone wants.
- DO NOT USE FOIL. When baking potatoes in the oven, it’s common to wrap them in foil. This is a good idea, especially if you have seasoned them. But, you must never ever use foil in the microwave.
Using metal in the microwave will likely damage the microwave oven and also be potentially very dangerous.
This is because microwaves cannot penetrate the metal. So they deflect off the surface of the metal. This damages the microwave oven itself. It can also start a fire.
Wrapping a potato to cook in the microwave won’t have the same effect as in the oven. So there really isn’t much point in wrapping it in foil. But you should still never put metal in the microwave.
Cooking Potatoes in the Oven
Of course, you can cook potatoes in the oven. But this will take a very long time. Up to 2 hours, if not longer. Even for sweet potatoes. So if you have the option of using a microwave, it really isn’t worth the wait.
But, one reason some people prefer to bake potatoes in the oven is due to the texture. When cooked in the microwave, a potato will come out softer but still quite dense.
When cooked in the oven, a potato will come out fluffy with a crispy skin.
If you prefer fluffy potatoes with crispy skin, there is a workaround. You can partially cook the potato in the microwave and then finish it off in the oven.
This will reduce the cooking time massively and allow you to still have the delicious texture you love.
The most common reason for cooking a potato in the microwave is to skip the hours it takes to bake a potato in the oven.
But a microwave oven can actually be used to make several potato recipes. Here are just a few of those delicious recipes.
Microwave Roasted Potatoes
Roast potatoes are one of the best sides in existence. They have the perfect combination of crispiness and fluffiness. And are just a joyous carb to devour.
But, as with most potato recipes, they take a long time. Sometimes once you have boiled the potatoes, it’s easier to just mash them up and consume the carbs in the easiest and most direct way.
BUT. There is another way. You probably read this title and thought “What? You can’t roast something in the microwave”. But yes, yes you can. And here’s how:
Microwave Roasted Potatoes
- Potato peeler (or knife)
- Oven-safe dish (Not metal!)
- Olive oil
- Seasoning of choice
- Peel the potatoes. You can either do this with a potato peeler, a knife, or you can even scrub the skin off. (Scrubbing is the least wasteful way as it stops you accidentally taking off potato flesh).
- Chop the potatoes. Just as you would for oven-roasted potatoes, chop them up into cubes.
- Place the potatoes in an oven-safe dish (Not metal!). Then season. Drizzle with oil and add some salt, herbs, and/or spices. Garlic, parsley, and thyme are traditional options. But you can use whichever seasonings you prefer.
- Make sure the potatoes are completely coated in seasoning. Then place them in the microwave. Cook on HIGH for around 10 minutes. Then, take them out and test the softness. Unlike a baked potato, you don’t want them to be too soft.
- You can serve them like this or you can finish them off in the oven. This process will soften the potatoes but won’t crisp up the outside in the same way that the oven will. The choice is yours!
Hasselback potatoes are kind of halfway between a baked potato and roast potatoes.
They are a great way of cooking potatoes and being able to enjoy a denser texture, rather than a fluffy one (if that’s what you prefer). Here’s an easy recipe for Hasselback potatoes:
- Seasoning of your choice
- Take one potato of around 4-5 inches in length. Do not peel the potato. Slice the flat edge of the potato every 3mm or so. Try to reach about ¾ of the way into the flesh.
- Season. Melt some butter and add some salt and herbs and/or spices of your choosing. Then, using a spoon or a brush, apply the seasoned butter along the cut side of the potato. Make sure the mixture gets into the groves you have cut.
- Place in the microwave and cook on HIGH for 10 minutes. If you choose to add cheese to the potatoes (which we very much recommend you do) remove the potatoes and add the cheese after 8 minutes. And then serve and enjoy!
(One potential problem with Hasselback potatoes is that they will take a little longer than roast potatoes due to their size.
You will only be able to do a few at a time. But, they will still be quicker in the microwave than in the oven!)
Mashed potatoes might not be the most obvious potato dish to make in the microwave but it is possible.
The decision on whether to make mashed potatoes in the microwave depends on how you like your mash.
If you prefer whipped, creamy mash then this might not be the best option for you. It is possible but it won’t be quite the same.
Read on a little to the end of this recipe to find out why, plus a few tips. But, here are some simple steps for this very simple recipe.
- Microwavable dish
- 3-4 Potatoes
- Choose your potatoes. The number depends on how much mashed potato you want to make but around 3 to 4 average sized potatoes are best. Place them in a microwavable dish. Unlike other microwaved potato recipes, don’t pierce or score these potatoes. This is usually done to allow the steam out. But for these potatoes, keeping the steam in actually helps.
- Heat in the microwave for 10 minutes on HIGH.
- Remove the skin. This is a little tricky as the potatoes will be very hot. So use a knife and fork. And remember that there is steam inside, so keep your fingers clear and don’t peer over the top of them. (Else you will get a face full of steam).
- Mash! Taking either a fork or a potato masher, mash the potatoes.
A Tip for Creamy Mash: Adding a spoonful of butter is a great way of adding some flavor to mashed potatoes. But, if you prefer creamy mashed potatoes, adding some milk or even cream is a great idea. But, this still won’t be quite as creamy as potatoes that have been boiled.
This is because boiled potatoes will take on water but microwaved potatoes will be dried out a little. Don’t be tempted to add any water.
At this stage, it will just make the potatoes watery. (This is why you shouldn’t pierce the skin before microwaving the potatoes. The steam will moisten the potatoes).
Potato skins are a very popular side, especially at a BBQ or potluck. They are loved for having a crispy skin filled with fluffy flavored potato.
But can you make these in the microwave? You sure can! Here’s a simple recipe for microwaved potato skins.
- Pierce the skin of two potatoes. Then, rub them with oil and some seasoning and place on a microwave safe dish or plate.
- Heat in the microwave for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, turn the potatoes over and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Remove the potatoes and leave them to cool slightly. This will allow the skin to toughen up a little. In the oven, potato skins will crisp up. In the microwave, they will become soft. So leaving them to cool will make them easier to scoop out.
- Once the potatoes have cooled down enough for you to handle, cut them in half lengthwise. Be very gentle and careful as the potato skins will still be soft and can rip easily. Once you have scooped out the flesh, place it in a bowl.
- If you like the texture of the skin as it is, you can leave them as they are. If you would prefer them crispier, then you can place them in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. (Or until they have reached the desired texture).
- Now take the scooped out potato flesh and mash it with a fork. Add any kind of seasoning you like.
- Next, take the potato skins and fill them with the flavored potato. You can place this back in the microwave or oven for 5 minutes. Or you can eat them as they are. Just remember that they will likely soften a little in the microwave or crisp up more in the oven.
Baked potatoes are the most popular recipe for microwaving potatoes. Some will simply eat a potato with some butter on it.
This is delicious (what’s better than butter and carbs) but it is a little plain. So, to help you liven up your baked potatoes, here are some different topping ideas:
- Cheese. Cheese is a classic option for baked potatoes. Especially for cooking in the microwave. Cheese easily melts in the microwave. So heat the potato for around 8 or 9 minutes. Then, take the potato out and cut it open a little. Add some butter and then some cheese. Then return the potato to the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Chili. Chili is an amazing option to put on a baked potato. This is a great idea if you have some chili leftover and don’t want to spend time boiling and draining rice. Potato and chili are a great combination. This is a super quick way of using up chili without too much hassle.
- Sour cream and chive. This is a great choice for a BBQ. You can microwave a potato and then finish it off on the grill. It will crisp up nicely. Then, you can add some cool sour cream and chives (or other herbs and spices of your liking).
- Egg and hot sauce. This is a topping that is delicious on ordinary white potatoes. But it’s even better on sweet potatoes. Either make a fried egg or scrambled egg, add it to a freshly microwaved potato (that has already been topped with butter and salt). Then add the egg/s and hot sauce. Simple and delicious. This is a quick and easy way of making a slightly different breakfast. (Especially if you don’t have time for anything else. It’s an ideal lazy weekend brunch food).
Now you have a good understanding of how to properly cook a potato in the microwave. You also have a few ideas and recipes to try out.
These are all great ways of microwaving a potato. But to make sure you make the perfect potatoes, here are some tips and tricks to follow.
- Don’t rush. This is a big one. Unlike with most ovens, you can see the timer counting down on a microwave. Even though microwave ovens cook much more quickly than a conventional oven, watching this timer can make you impatient. Trust that the timing is correct and leave it alone. Don’t keep opening the door to see how it’s doing.
- Don’t leave it alone. Although you shouldn’t be watching and staring at the microwave, you also shouldn’t leave it unattended. This might be one of the appeals of a microwave. As you can set the timer and let the microwave do the job. You don’t have to keep watch as you do with a conventional oven. But it’s also not a good idea to leave it. Sure, you can take your eyes off it to do other things. But we wouldn’t recommend leaving the kitchen. Although microwave ovens are safe to use, there is still the risk of damage. The potato could overheat and explode. Or even (in rare cases) catch fire. If you are in the kitchen when something like this happens, you will be able to catch it and deal with the situation. If you have left the room, you will be oblivious which could lead to the situation getting out of hand before you can deal with it.
- Don’t use the dish you are going to eat off. This might seem like making some unnecessary dirty dishes. But it will be really helpful. Heating a plate or dish on HIGH for 10 minutes is going to make it very hot. It will be so hot that you will likely need a cloth or even oven gloves to take it out. Then, if you need to carry it to the table you will again need a cloth. You will also need placemats to protect your table. You will need a trivet to protect your worktop. And it will be too hot to eat off your lap.
So, treat the plate or dish as you would a baking tray from the oven. You wouldn’t eat food straight off the baking tray.
Take the plate or dish out and then transfer the potatoes to another dish that is cool and can be eaten off.
This might seem like a little thing. But trust us, it will make all the difference. (Enough of a difference for that extra plate or dish to wash up).
So, there you have it! You now know everything you need to know (and more!) about microwaving potatoes.
You can now use your microwave oven to make a wide range of potato dishes. This is probably much more information than you were expecting.
Most people just microwave a potato so that they can make a speedy baked potato. But there is so much more that you can do.
Microwaving potatoes is super quick and easy. It will cut out hours from your cooking time. Microwave ovens aren’t magic and can’t be used for everything.
And they won’t give you the same results as a traditional oven will. But they are great when you don’t have the time (or the will) to wait hours for a potato that you will eat in minutes.
So, get cooking and save so much of your time and enjoy your carby snacks.