Use Paper Towels For Perfect Microwaved Baked Potatoes

When they debuted in the late '40s, microwave ovens represented the pinnacle of modern miracles with their ability to heat anything in seconds. Nearly a century later, we've found countless uses for microwaves that streamline lengthier cooking methods. Now, you can cook rice, steam vegetables, and defrost meat in a matter of minutes.

Learning that you can bake potatoes in a microwave was an especially joyous discovery; reducing cooking times from over an hour to 10 minutes or less is a legitimate cause for celebration! That said, there are a few caveats to this revelation you'll want to follow unless you want a dried-out potato. Wrapping potatoes in moist paper towels is a crucial step to attain a moist and fluffy interior.

Potatoes consist of about 80% water, a favorable factor that accounts for that pillowy, soft, steamy interior. In fact, it is this large water content that prevents potatoes from drying out during a long baking process. While water content depletes gradually during storage and baking, the mechanism behind microwaving causes water to evaporate at a much faster rate. Therefore, wrapping potatoes in moist paper towels acts as an evaporation buffer that helps the potato retain the water it needs to stay moist and fluffy.

How to use paper towels for perfect microwaved baked potatoes

The first step to perfectly microwaved potatoes resembles that of conventional baking. Poke holes in a raw potato with a fork, along its perimeter. This is a critical step to help water vapor escape slowly from the thick, mostly impenetrable skin of the potato. Next, wet paper towels thoroughly under running water before wringing them out and wrapping them around the potato.

While wet paper towels will provide added moisture to compensate for the moisture lost during the microwaving process, they inhibit that desirably flavorful and crusty skin. Therefore, using paper towels to microwave your potato represents just one step in the right direction. 

The key to crispy skin? Remove the wet paper towels for the final stage of the baking process. After cooking the paper-towel-wrapped potato for five minutes in the microwave, remove the potato and discard the paper towel. Coat the skin with a thin layer of olive oil, then put the potato back into the microwave — uncovered — for the final one to two minutes on high for crisp, flavorful potato skins.