How Nails Can Help Bake Potatoes Faster And With Fluffier Results

A baked potato is one of the most comforting foods, but while throwing a potato into the oven is easy enough, you might not have the hour or more it takes to wait for it to cook. Innovative baked potato lovers have come up with numerous techniques to speed up the process; some opt for using the microwave, which reduces cooking times by over 50%. However, microwaves jeopardize texture, so you'll end up finishing off microwaved potatoes in the oven to crisp their skin.

Another technique uses potato nails specifically engineered to help the spuds cook faster while also enhancing their fluffy, pillowy texture. Baked potato nails are kitchen-ready stainless steel or aluminum skewers with a spike on one end and a thin coin-shaped stopper on the other. Similar to the spoon hack or wrapping a potato in tin foil, the nail acts as a conductor, drawing heat into the center of the potato.

Depending on whether you use aluminum or stainless steel, potato nails shave off between 7 and 11 minutes from oven baking times; aluminum is a better heat conductor than stainless steel. The real magic, however, is in the texture of the final result; the peel remains pliable yet firm, while the interior assumes an unparalleled soft, airy, and fluffy texture.

How to use potato nails

You can find potato nail sets for sale online or at hardware stores like Home Depot. They're kitchen-safe utensils that won't leach harmful components from metal into your potatoes. If you don't have potato nails, you can also use regular metal skewers that you use to grill meats and other vegetables.

Despite using a nail to conduct heat, the first step in any baked potato recipe is to poke holes in the potato; this will allow the steam created from the potato's water content to escape during the cooking process, preventing it from bursting. Next, you insert the nail until the coin stopper is flush with the potato skin. Some recipes recommend sticking two or more nails through the potato for increased heat conduction.

Bake the nail-impaled potato at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 40 minutes. Cooking times and texture will vary depending on the size of the baked potato, the altitude where you're cooking, and whether you use a convection or normal oven. To ensure a crispy and flavorful skin, a helpful tip is to coat it with olive oil and season with coarse salt.