Yesterday, I wanted a baked sweet potato (actually an orange yam) for dinner, on the of the soft delicious ones that you get in the south. But every time I’ve baked sweet potatoes, they’ve come out tough or not fluffy. So I turned to my best buddy, Google. What do you know, Cooks Illustrated did this whole thing on making the perfect fluffy baked potato. Unfortunately, to access the article you had to sign up for a free 14 day trial, but you also had to supply a credit card. So I kept googling and eventually I found a newsgroup text link from like, 1997 or something, when people still communicated with each other in basic text forums, not in comments or blogs. It was cute, in an old fashioned way.
Anyway…to make a perfect fluffy baked potato, the posters said that Cooks Illustrated found that you have to bake the potato without piercing it. That’s interesting. I’ve always pierced my potatoes before baking them, even if I wrap them in foil. But Cooks found that if you bake the potato with no vents, the steam cooks from the inside and keeps it moist. Then, as soon as you take it out of the oven, slice a cross in it and squeeze. And you only need to bake for 35-45 minutes at 450 degrees and they found that you can use shortening on the skin or wrap in foil, but neither improved or detracted from the final results.
So I tried this last night with both a sweet potato for myself and a regular potato for Tom. Don’t be a dunce like me and forget to put some foil under the sweet potato to catch any of the juice that runs out. Otherwise, at the 45 minute mark, I took them out and popped them open. When I popped the sweet potato, it was like looking at a candied yam from a can. Soft, so very soft, and moist and beautiful in color. I just added butter and it was great. Ok, maybe not great, we should reserve that adjective for the times you dress the sweet potato up with brown sugar or apple butter or something. But it was good and healthy and importantly to me, soft and easy to eat. Not like all the other sweet potatoes I’ve tried baking.
Tom’s potato was fine. He drowned it in sour cream and bacon and cheese, so frankly, I don’t think the fluffy state mattered much.
Obviously, this method is for the oven only – Andrea, Don’t microwave a potato without piercing it. 🙂 But since it only took 45 minutes, you could do that easily. I think there needs to be more experimentation with this method to see if it holds in a variety of kitchens and circumstances, so if you do try it, let me know your results. I for one will be eating more sweet potatoes since it was good and relatively quick.