The Controversial Origins Of The Classic Potato Skins Appetizer

If you've ever boozed up at a bar or sat down at a lively grill, you've almost certainly come across a plate of loaded potato skins. This savory appetizer can be shared among friends or consumed alone. Topped with the assortment of ingredients that crown most loaded baked potatoes – rich dollops of sour cream, crispy bits of bacon, shredded cheese, and freshly chopped chives — these comforting treats are as easy to make at home as they are to gulp down. But who, exactly, was the genius responsible for saving shelled-out potatoes and frying them up to serve as vehicles for some of our favorite toppings? What is their origin point? As it turns out ... we don't know.

After a bit of detective work, though, we arrived at a complex answer. R.J. Grunts, The Prime Rib, and TGI Fridays all lay claim to the title of Original Potato Skins Creator. Their arguments are all convincing — but we might never know the true origin of the classic potato skin.

Waste not, want not when it comes to potato skins

TGI Friday's vice president of concept development Matt Durbin told Eater that the chain's potato skins date back to 1974, when an inventive cook decided to plop potato shells into the fryer after being tasked with making a batch of mashed potatoes. "When it came out, he threw our proprietary fry seasoning on it, added cheddar and smoked bacon, and the rest is, as they say, history," Durbin asserted. In contrast, Washington D.C.'s The Prime Rib claims that its potato skins came from a singular cook, who got the recipe from culinary icon James Beard. R.J. Grunts' argument is more different still: Creator Richard Melman asserts that he put potato skins on the menu in 1971, after his brother learned that sailors used to eat potato skins for health reasons.

Though we may not be able to trace the OG creator of this crave-inducing recipe, what we can say for certain is that the crispy, greasy appetizer quickly found its way into both the hearts and stomachs of diners around the world. They're not just tasty, though: Potato skins are packed with fiber and antioxidants. Whoever was the first to realize the value of previously discarded potatoes pieces deserves some serious street cred. The next time you set out to make creamy garlic mashed potatoes and find yourself with excess potato shells, you know what to do.