The Best Way to Split and Load a Baked Potato
Lately I’ve been eating a lot of baked potatoes, mostly Yukon . Like most things that hang in the oven for a long time, they are hot, hot when they come out, making them difficult to cut. But waiting for a hot potato to cool before putting the filling in is a bad strategy: you need heat to melt the butter and cheese. Here’s how to split and load a hot potato without burning your little fingers.
Cut potatoes with a fork, not a knife
The knives cut to create a smooth, smooth surface, which is not what you want when loading baked potatoes. (The oil will slide right off.) You want the inside of your potato to be bumpy and fluffy so the oil can seep into the crevices. To do this, stick a fork into the top of the potato a few times in a zigzag pattern, then press on the ends to open up the inside, ready to receive a lot of oil.
Don’t burn your little fingers
Baked potatoes are best served hot, which is not considered skin-friendly. You can use a (and dirty) clean kitchen towel to gently press down on the ends of the potatoes, or you can use the same kitchen tongs you used to remove the potatoes from the oven. Instead of crushing them with the end of the tongs, which could cause the potatoes to explode, position the potatoes about halfway up the handle and then squeeze lightly. (But, of course, a tea towel will work too.)
Add cheese before sour cream.
Many people load their potatoes completely in the wrong order. They go with butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon, and scallions when they should come with butter, cheese, sour cream, bacon, and scallions. This order allows the cheese to melt. So, add the first two ingredients, knead everything a little, then cover the potato and let it mix to form an aligole-like base layer of potato magic. Let it sit for a minute or two, then open it up and add the sour cream, bacon bits and scallions.
Extra credit: give it a salt crust
Nothing against a bare butt, but why not add some glitter? Start by rubbing your potatoes with your favorite fat – I like bacon fat (economical) or duck fat (a bit more expensive). Then roll it in fine or medium coarse salt and bake as usual for a shiny, savory crust.