The Reason Martha Stewart Smashes Baked Potatoes On The Countertop

There's not a lot of smashing going on in everyday kitchens, whether in the professional or home versions. It's generally more like stirring, slicing, tossing, measuring, or carefully coaxing flavor and texture from pan to plate. But Martha Stewart may be onto something when she advocates smashing a baked potato, as she did in an Instagram lunch post liked by dozens of followers. She also demonstrated her unusual potato trick to a member of the Tasting Table team during a visit to The Bedford, her Las Vegas restaurant that opened in 2022.

A baked skin-on potato stands up to a bit of rough handling — certainly more so than one that's boiled or steamed. But why would you do such a thing to a perfectly rounded, steaming-hot tuber that's packed with vitamin C, fiber, and beneficial minerals? After all, depending on the type, potatoes more than earn their plate-place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Purple spuds reign as royalty in the antioxidant kingdom, with its members standing guard against cancer and heart disease while bumping up brain health.

Note there's an "s" fronting the word "smashed." That's way different than mashed potatoes, which usually involve peeled, boiled potatoes that are crushed or whipped into a creamy mound with the aid of milk or cream and butter. Smashing is the rougher, tougher cousin to mashing, and there's a reason Martha gives it a nod.

Smash and dash

Potato smashing lets off a bit of steam, both literally and physically. After a long day of work or chores — or, in Martha Stewart's case, running a world-renowned brand or two — putting baked potatoes on the menu simplifies things, and smashing them on your kitchen counter is just plain fun. No need for kid gloves on this one. 

It's also an easy way to fluff up the inside of your potato after it exits its long oven bake. Smashing the still-hot baked potato loosens up the texture, adds pillowy fluff, and creates a soft mouthfeel even before adding butter, cream, or veggie toppings. This alleviates the awkward at-table experience of each diner semi-politely breaking up the starchy innards with a fork.

To do it the Martha way, use washed, traditional russets or large Yukon gold potatoes, and leave the skins intact. Prick a few holes in the top, brush with olive oil to encourage a crispy exterior, and sprinkle with Kosher or other coarsely ground salt. Bake for about an hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until done.

Now comes the fun part: Wearing an oven mitt or using a clean, thick dish towel, pick up each "really hot" potato and smash it onto your kitchen counter. No need to annihilate the unsuspecting spud; just a single, quick bash will suffice. But you do want to make a tear in the skin, allowing the fluffy insides to burst through. It's not a glamor dish at this point, though you can dress it to your heart's desire.

Perfect toppings on a perfect texture

Now that your potato has spilled its perfectly fluffy guts, it's time to get personal. Create an opening in the skin, and dress the crushed insides to taste. Pressing gently on the crispy skin along the opening might just let a little of the olive oil and roasted salt slide in as well. Add tried-and-true potato toppings such as butter, cheese, sour cream, chives, or veggies — or ramp up the flavor by thinking outside the gastronomy box. "Chopped dill or parsley is a nice touch," Martha Stewart noted in her Instagram post.

Tasting Table got a tasty (and pricy) mouthful while dining with Stewart and her team at The Bedford, including a smashed potato with crème fraîche, butter, salt, pepper, and caviar. Stewart herself demonstrated how to create the tuber masterpiece, and it still graces the restaurant menu today.

It's worth noting, though, that Stewart has been championing smashed potatoes since at least 2013, demonstrating the benefits of her method on YouTube. But there are many variations of the smash-hit method, including ones just waiting to be invented in your own kitchen. Some chefs add herbs or spices before cooking, including parsley and garlic, or dust the jackets with parmesan a few minutes before they've finished baking. With extra-crispy oiled skins and cooked-in flavor, smashed potatoes can stand alone, adorning your plate and palate in delicious simplicity — no wonder Stewart loves preparing them this way.