If you are busy with work and household responsibilities, there’s a good chance that you don’t have a lot of time to prepare your own food. At least, that’s true for a lot of home cooks. According to the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association, one Atomik survey found that 69% of American parents often don’t have enough time to plan their weeknight meals in advance. The reality is that most people are so busy with their daily lives that whipping up fresh dinners doesn’t seem possible.
The good news is that there are a few ways that you can still enjoy delicious whole foods at dinner time. Some of these ways don’t require much time to plan or cook. One of the most effective strategies is to prepare a piping hot round of baked potatoes and use these as a base for other healthy foods, like vegetables and protein. The best part is that you can repurpose the leftovers that are hanging out in your fridge and use them for future meals.
Of course, if you are going to make baked potatoes, there’s no reason not to make them taste fabulous. From Phil Vickery’s tips on quick potato preparation to Martha Stewart’s controversial secret ingredient, celebrity chefs have a tip or two for how to give this simple meal an elevated taste.
Phil Vickery: Put a spoon in your potato
Baking a potato with a literal teaspoon inside might sound odd at first, but British celebrity chef Phil Vickery swears by this unorthodox strategy. In an episode of the ITV program "This Morning," Vickery revealed that placing a small metallic spoon inside your potato before placing it in the oven can be a major time saver (via YouTube). The chef explained that — if you don’t have a metal skewer on hand — a teaspoon can work like a skewer to help heat the potato’s interior.
Indeed, metal is known for its ability to conduct heat, meaning that a simple teaspoon can help cook your potato from the inside. Not only will this tip help your baked potato cook more quickly, but it will also cause it to cook more evenly. This will leave you with a potato that is smooth and creamy throughout. As a bonus, the quick cooking time will potentially keep your electricity bill on the low side, or at least lower than it would be if you had kept your oven on for longer.
The only downside to Vickery’s culinary method is that you absolutely cannot use it when cooking baked potatoes in the microwave. When placed in the microwave, metal utensils like teaspoons can catch on fire, per McGill University.
Poppy O’Toole: Throw them in the air fryer
It’s no secret that cookbook author Poppy O’Toole is the queen of the air fryer. She even has an entire cookbook dedicated to this fabulous piece of kitchen equipment. O’Toole has a recipe for air-fried baked potatoes, which don’t even require an oven.
In a TikTok video, the celebrity chef revealed that she prepares her baked potatoes by starting them off in the microwave. Then, O’Toole throws her potatoes into the air fryer to finish them off.
As the cooking expert explained in her video, this unique two-phase cooking process allows her potatoes to take on different characteristics: "That makes it super golden on the outside … and then that middle bit is super fluffy and delicate." In addition to helping you achieve that perfect consistency, O’Toole’s advice can allow you to keep your meal below budget. The chef herself called it both energy and cost-efficient.
Ina Garten: Boost the flavor with whipped feta
Celebrity chef Ina Garten may be known for keeping things simple. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to elevate baked potatoes. The Food Network star recommends topping your baked potato with a generous scoop of whipped feta (via Barefoot Contessa). She makes this by blending feta, cream cheese, and other ingredients in a food processor. In this delightful combination of cheeses, the mild buttery flavor of the cream cheese balances out the salty tanginess of the feta. This gives you a whipped topping that is both creamy and pungent, making it the perfect way to add complexity to your dish.
In terms of texture, the airiness of whipped feta is delicious to bite into. It can even accentuate the natural fluffiness of your potato. When exposed to heat, both cream cheese and feta tend to soften. This means that when you add this cheesy blend to your piping hot potato, it will be even easier to mix it into your dish. As an added bonus, feta tends to pair well with veggies. You could even serve your whipped feta baked potatoes with a fresh tomato and cucumber salad.
Guy Fieri: Brine your potatoes first
Sometimes good things are worth the wait. This is the case with Guy Fieri’s baked potatoes. The celebrity chef’s recipe takes almost a whole day to make, but the results are spectacular.
Rather than just taking a raw potato and tossing it into the oven, Fieri recommends first soaking it in a basic salt brine for anywhere between two to eight hours (via Food Network). This will help your potato skin absorb more flavor, all while preventing it from growing soft and mushy in the oven. The longer you let your potatoes soak, the crispier your skins will taste and the creamier the inside will be.
Because Fieri’s method creates intense contrast between the potato skins and the flesh, it helps make a baked potato strong enough to support heavier fillings. For example, if you are looking to stuff your potato with some richness, you can fill it with this baked brie bowl. Alternatively, you can serve your baked potato with something meatier, like instant pot BBQ pulled pork. Either way, the crunchier texture of your potato skins should be perfect for holding in a delicious stuffing.
Vivian Howard: Forget the aluminum foil
It’s not uncommon to see home cooks wrapping their potatoes in aluminum foil before popping them into the oven. After all, this seems like an easy method to keep the kitchen mess-free. However, television chef Vivian Howard says this is actually a massive mistake. The star once even uploaded an Instagram photo of a sad-looking potato with the caption: "Hi. I’m a potato baked in foil. I have soggy, tasteless skin," according to Yahoo Finance. As if that weren’t clear enough, Howard shared a separate post stating it’s best to bake potatoes without a wrapping.
While Howard’s delivery might sound rather intense, she has a point. When you wrap your potato in aluminum foil, the moisture from inside the tuber cannot adequately evaporate. Instead, the liquid will work its way to the outside of your potato and become trapped underneath the foil. In the end, this build-up will leave you with a soggy, mushy mess.
To avoid this situation, Howard says to keep things simple. Douse your raw potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place them in a pan and throw them in the oven. Foil is not necessary.
Pati Jinich: Melt the cheese inside the potato
Mexican celebrity chef Pati Jinich knows a thing or two about cheeses. When making baked potatoes, she suggests adding a special combination of cheeses directly into the tuber’s fold.
On an episode of her show, "Pati’s Mexican Table," Jinich recommended throwing some Polish kielbasa sausages onto the grill (via WTTW). After cooking for a bit, she recommends stuffing them inside a partially-cooked potato along with Oaxaca cheese. Finally, she recommends closing these ingredients inside the potato. Afterward, Jinich recommends topping the cooked product with crumbled Cotija cheese.
In her recipe, the mild Oaxaca cheese contributes a buttery flavor and smooth consistency. Since you will actually melt this delicacy inside the potato, it will spread through the flesh, giving your dish a creamier texture and boosting its overall flavor. Meanwhile, the thicker pieces of crumbled Cotija will add a bit of contrast to your plate, thanks to the cheese’s strong flavor.
Emeril Lagasse: Use only three ingredients
It can be tempting to load a baked potato with everything from scallions to chili. But Emeril Lagasse suggests toning things down. The celebrity chef prefers to keep his baked potatoes simple. Rather than stuffing them until their jackets burst, Lagasse says to stick to seasoning. He uses only salt, pepper, and olive oil (via Emerils).
To make baked potatoes the Lagasse way, you can start by coating your potatoes in olive oil. Afterward, you can add a dash of salt and pepper to the skin. This won’t just ensure that your potatoes will have a decent flavor, but it will also help the skins crisp up enough that they will take on a crunchier texture.
But when you’re making a recipe as simple as Lagasse’s, the quality of your ingredients matters more. The celebrity chef recommends using Idaho potatoes for this dish. These tubers will taste best. You should look for Idaho potatoes with a deep brown color that’s fairly consistent across the skin. Don’t forget to clean them well before cooking. Lagasse recommends holding the potatoes under running water while scrubbing them.
Alex Guarnaschelli: Switch out plain potatoes for sweet potatoes
Sometimes, the best way to boost the flavor of your recipe is to change up your ingredients. According to Alex Guarnaschelli, one of the best ways to make your baked potato meal extra tasty is to use sweet potatoes. In this fantastic substitution, the sugary earthiness of the sweet potato provides a whole new level of flavor. The nutty-yet-sweet filling of this tuber allows you to pair it with elevated toppings like caramelized vegetables, spinach curry, or even a maple granola garnish. As an added bonus, the vibrant orange shade of this ingredient will add a splash of color to your plate, upgrading the presentation of your whole dinner.
However, Guarnaschelli’s recipe isn’t foolproof. The TV chef told People magazine: "The most important thing in the entire recipe is to fully cook the sweet potatoes before cutting them open and mixing the filling. An under baked potato has a starchy, tasteless way of ruining the party." To prevent your potatoes from coming out raw, Guarnaschelli recommends buying smaller potatoes, which cook all the way through more quickly.
Bryan Wolley: Wrap your potatoes in bacon
To turn your basic baked potatoes into "baked potato bombs," TV chef Bryan Wolley says to wrap them with bacon. According to Cooking with Chef Bryan, the best way to achieve this is by baking your potatoes, wrapping them in raw bacon, then returning them to the oven.
This two-part cooking strategy allows the potato time to cook thoroughly without causing the bacon to burn. It also gives the potatoes’ inner moisture the chance to evaporate in the first phase, preventing the bacon from growing soggy in the next one.
What you get is a potato that’s soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. The best part is that the natural crunchiness of the cooked potato skins will combine quite well with the thick, chewy texture of your bacon. The effect of Wolley’s recipe is that the deeper you dig toward the potato’s core, the softer your dish will get.
Sunny Robinson: Use manchego in your twice-baked potatoes
If you are looking for a way to mix up your potato recipe, take a page out of food television star Sunny Robinson’s book. Rather than relying on more predictable cheese choices, Robinson stuffs her potatoes with a combination of cream cheese and Spanish manchego cheese (via Food Network).
This ingredient adds a unique twist, giving a bit of a tangy punch to your potatoes. Although manchego can be a pungent cheese, it probably won’t overwhelm the dish. This is thanks to the buttery neutrality of the cream cheese.
Because Robinson’s baked potatoes taste both creamy and sharp, you can serve them with a variety of different foods. Manchego cheese pairs particularly well with cured hams, such as jamón ibérico or prosciutto. Consequently, you might consider serving your manchego cheese-topped baked potatoes with a charcuterie board. If you are in a festive mood, you could even whip up a pitcher of easy red sangria and then invite your friends over for tapas night.
Jacques Pépin: Add sour cream and butter
When it comes to dressing your baked potato, Jacques Pépin is not about keeping things simple. While many chefs choose between sour cream and butter as a topping, Pépin says he likes to use both. In an episode of the old PBS show, "Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home" (via YouTube), the celebrity chef revealed that his wife inspired him to use the ingredients together. Child was a major fan of this idea, responding: "I’m for her!"
This combination works well. The reason is that the acidity of the sour cream adds some complexity to the rich milkiness of the butter. Additionally, the sour cream creates a silky smooth layer on top of your baked potato, giving a refreshing twist to the beginning of each bite. Meanwhile, the butter will melt down into the flesh of the tuber, making it nice and soft.
Aarón Sánchez: Amp up the flavor with chorizo
If you would like to enjoy some smokier baked potatoes, look no further than celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez. The "Taco Trip" host brings the heat by adding spicy Cacique chorizo to his baked potatoes. In this combination, smoky chorizo seeps into the potato flesh, adding hints of spice to the tuber’s natural earthiness. This pairing has long been popular in some parts of the world. In Spain, it is common to enjoy potato tortillas with chorizo baked inside.
What’s unique about Sánchez’s trick is that the celebrity chef has personal reasons for using chorizo with his baked potatoes. The TV personality shared in his blog: "My Abuela used to make a potato and chorizo dish for us every weekend for breakfast, so I am carrying on the tradition with this recipe. This is the ultimate comfort food to me." Sánchez particularly recommends serving this classic combination to people that you care about, recommending that you make it for big family gatherings.
Alton Brown: Pop your potato open with a fork
People say not to judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to food, presentation matters. Science shows that people tend to rate food higher if the presentation is more beautiful, perceiving better-arranged food as more flavorful. This could be the reason that Alton Brown recommends using a special technique to cut your baked potato. According to the celebrity chef, all you need is a fork and a little bit of style.
For Food Network, Brown described how to do so: "Serve by creating a dotted line from end to end with your fork," the chef advised. Once you’ve used your utensil to loosen this part of the tuber, Brown says to add pressure to each end: "Crack the spud open by squeezing the ends towards one another." Apparently, this is one of the most graceful strategies for opening a potato. The potato should then pop open.
Martha Stewart: Drop your potato
After you remove your baked potato from the oven, you might be tempted to dig in. But Martha Stewart says to slow down. According to the food media personality, there’s one important thing that you need to do before roasting your potato — and it involves your kitchen counter.
Stewart says to smash your potato onto your counter before eating it. As she shared in an Instagram post, "Pick up each potato and smash it straight down on the counter just hard enough to break up and fluff the interior without completely breaking all the skin." This will give you that airy potato texture that so many people love.
Martha Stewart’s baked potato recipe also involves a whole lot of heat. Stewart recommends letting your potato bake at 400 degrees for more than an hour. This will ensure that your potato cooks all the way through, allowing it to grow soft on the inside and form a nice crust on the outside.