Wondering! How to steam potatoes in the microwave? We often get baffled when we find out that the dish we are preparing needs boiled potatoes. But not to worry when, turn to your microwave, pop in a potato, and are sorted. Isn’t that simple?
How to bake potatoes in the microwave oven
A microwave-baked potato is just about one of the simplest things cooked in a modern microwave. What could be easier than taking a well-scrubbed potato, putting it in a microwave, and pushing the Start button?
In Microwave World, this is even easier than boiling an egg!
It just doesn’t doesn’t get any easier, right? And yet, “microwave baked potato” is one of the most common terms typed into Google when people search for microwave cooking recipes.
And that is because everyone wants to know how long to steam potatoes in the microwave?
So, for those of you in a real hurry, the answer is 7 or 8 minutes for an average-sized potato. Then, if it is not done yet, try a little longer…. 🙂
And for those of you who aren’t in such a hurry, here ‘s what we’re going to do.
- First, we’ll describe the best varieties of baking potatoes to use.
- Then we’ll explain how to make the best microwave baked potato,
- and then we’ll compare this with how a baked potato was cooked before the microwave.
- Then, we’ll take a quick look at how microwave-baked potatoes might be cooked in the future,
- and finally, I’ll tell you how you can get crisp and crunchy skins onto your baked potatoes.
How to steam potatoes in the microwave – first, choose your potato.
Perhaps, the most important thing is first to choose the right kind of potato. Potatoes aren’t all created equal. They come in many varieties, and it is essential to choose the right potato.
Baking potatoes have a high starch content and low pectin. Pectin occurs naturally in fruit and has been used for centuries in jellies and jams to keep the shape and provide stiffness. The high starch content in baked potatoes gives them their great white floury and fluffy insides that instinctively make you want to cover them in melted butter.
Boiling and salad potatoes have low starch content and high pectin values, making them much more yellow and waxy than baking potatoes. These hold their shape well when boiled or stewed. But if you try to bake them, often you end up with a hard interior no matter how long you cook them.
The best-baked potatoes are made using large Russet varieties (Norgold Russet, Russet Arcadia, Russet Burbank, Premier Russet, and so on). Sometimes these are just called Idaho potatoes as that is where many of them come from.
Steam or bake potatoes in the microwave – how to make the best ones
Take your Russet potato and wash and scrub thoroughly to remove dirt. Then dry as much as possible with a paper towel.
Next, I brush mine with olive oil. This is not strictly necessary, but to my way of thinking, a microwave-baked potato needs all the help it can get. I then rub a little salt into the skins. Finally, puncture the potato 4 or 5 times with the point of a knife, and it is ready for the oven.
Place the potato on a microwave-safe dish, and then place this onto the revolving glass plate inside your oven. Then cook for 8 or 10 minutes on High for a regular-sized baked potato.
Bear in mind that timings with microwaves are imprecise and depend entirely on the power of your oven. Have you got a small 600-watt microwave, or is it a powerful 1300 watt monster like one of these Panasonic Microwaves?
Large, powerful microwaves cook better-baked potatoes if used at 75% power or lower, with the cooking time lengthened. If your oven has steam sensors , use the microwave baked potato button, which will automatically set the timing.
Then let it rest for 3 or 4 minutes. This is very important. The microwave only generates heat in the first 1½”” depth of the potato. For the insides to cook completely, the heat has to travel from this outer layer of the potato into the center, just as in regular cooking. And letting it stand will allow time for this.
When the time is up, check if it is cooked by pushing a knife into the center of the baked potato.
Then split the potato into halves or quarters. Some folks then put the baked potato back into the oven for another minute to drive more moisture out of the potato, making it fluffier. But I have never found this to make much difference.
Then, cover with butter to taste, and add a filling of your choice.
Fillings can be anything you fancy, but favorites in our house are:
- tuna and mayonnaise, (open a can of tuna, mix with 4 or 5 tablespoons of mayonnaise, add freshly ground black pepper, and top with parsley cut fresh from the garden)
- sour cream, and chives that are picked straight from the garden,
- or just with melted cheese and butter (maybe placed under the grill for a minute to brown the cheese slightly)
The other side of the coin, baking in a regular oven
Although it is not discussed in most microwave cooking recipes on the Internet, a microwave-baked potato is a pale imitation of a potato cooked in a regular oven. I am a big fan of using a microwave for cooking vegetables, but a microwave-baked potato does not match the real thing.
But none of the recipes ever tell you this. So, what’s the difference?
Generally, the best way of making a baked potato in a regular oven is to rub olive oil and salt into a clean, dry potato’s skin and bake for 90 minutes at around 190° Fahrenheit.
Cooked like this, the skin takes on a crunchy crispness that makes it easy to see why they sometimes call these “jacket” potatoes. Often, where the knife points have punctured the skins, the juices coming out of the baked potato turn into a caramelized brown sugar that adds even more flavor.
Inside, the starches that make up the inside flesh of the potato absorb the water and swell up. The fibers fracture, leaving the distinctive white fluffy and floury texture that is such a feature of baked potatoes. All you need to do is add butter and the topping (in summer, sour cream and chives straight from the garden), and you are away.
So why don’t microwave-baked potatoes turn out like this?
The answer lies in how microwave oven works.
Baking in a regular oven is a process of surrounding food with dry, hot air. This is the definition in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.
During baking, the heat penetrates the skin of the food, making its way eventually to the center. Because the skin is the most exposed part, it becomes crisp and crunchy. At the same time, moisture inside the baked potato is trapped inside the hardening skins. It builds up pressure, helping to break apart the starchy fibers, leading to the characteristic fluffy texture.
On the other hand, Microwaves generate heat up to a depth of around 1½” from the surface of the potato. The skin does not toughen up, as the only heat it experiences is inside the potato as the interior warms up. The only heat the air receives is residual heat escaping from the potato itself.
You could say the baked potato is heating the oven!
The Maillard Reaction is the chemical process that produces many flavors associated with regular baking and roasting. But the conditions are just not present in a microwave that enable this reaction to take place.
The name microwave baked potato is a complete misnomer, and the dish should be called a microwave steamed potato!
Microwave baked potato – what will the future bring?
Technologies already exist today that mimic the effect of roasting and broiling in the microwave oven.
I only need to say “Hot Pockets,” and you can see where I am coming from.
In the 1970’s, the large agri-businesses were mainly focused on frozen foods but were keen to get a foothold in the rapidly growing microwave market.
A thin metallic film, called a susceptor, was built into the paper sheet making up the food packaging. The susceptor became very hot when exposed to microwaves, and in turn, then radiated heat back onto the food itself. When positioned very close to the food being cooked, this effectively grilled the food, bringing about the crisping of pastries and small-scale localized Maillard reactions.
We can see this used every day in things like the Hot Pocket Stuffed Sandwiches and Paninis. Susceptors are also used elsewhere in the food industry to produce microwave pizzas, chicken pies, and fish dishes.
And it is big business. Hot Pockets was sold to the food giant Nestlé in 2002 for $2.6 billion. They are now produced on a global scale.
Eventually, expect to see a susceptor-based cling film type of material being produced. Then, you will wrap your baked potato in a sheet of close-fitting material and microwave to get the crisp and crunchy skin we’re all after!
Steam or bake potatoes in the microwave – how to get a crisper skin
If you want to improve the baked potatoes coming out of your microwave oven, there are two ways to do this right now.
The first is to start by heating the potato in a regular oven for 15 or 20 minutes. This preparatory heating will dry out the skin sufficiently to crisp it up. A toaster oven will do the same thing. Then use the microwave to finish off the rest of the cooking. It’s not ideal, but it will probably cut the cooking time in half compared to just using a regular oven.
The second is to get a combination convection-microwave oven, which will carry out the same process inside one oven. Generally, these ovens will blow the hot air evenly around the oven and use microwave power (at around the 30% level) to cook the food internally. Typically, this is a speedy way of baking all sorts of foods to a standard close to that produced by a regular oven. But they are not cheap, in fact, a little more pricey than a microwave oven. Still, their performance pushes you to invest in a combi-microwave-convection oven.
Some nutrients get destroyed while cooking in either method: microwave or on stove gas. More the time it takes to cook, the more nutrients get destroyed. The best part about microwave cooking is that it takes less time than regular cooking and thus saves more nutrients in food.
It would take around 8 to 10 minutes to cook potatoes in the microwave. Make 4-5 holes in the potatoes with some pointed object and microwave it for 5 minutes. For better results, turn over and zap the microwave for another 5 minutes, and potatoes are done.
If you want a soft and dense kind of potato, you should microwave them. But if you would like to have juicy from inside and crispy from outside, you need to cook it in the oven.
It’sIt’s pretty much necessary to poke the potatoes before you put them in the microwave. These tiny holes allow the steam to escape from potatoes while cooking. Otherwise, potatoes may explode, and you will not like that sight.
For that purpose, you need a microwave-safe bowl filled with water and a squeeze of lemon in it. Zap the microwave for a few minutes until steam forms inside. Let the microwave cool down completely, and then wipe out with the sponge.
Hope this in-depth article on, “How to steam potatoes in the microwave” would help solve all your queries around microwave-baked potatoes. If you still have any query or suggestions to share, please comment below.
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