An under-baked, hard potato is an unwelcome surprise to bite into after retrieving from the oven. If it’s been cooking a long while you’re likely wondering what is going on here. After all, everybody wants a soft, fluffy potato and crispy skin to enjoy.
Potatoes that are still hard after baking haven’t had a high enough heat for long enough to soften the starches in the flesh. Cooking for 15 minutes longer or pre-cooking in the microwave should soften the potato. You may need to check your oven temperature if it is faulty.
Some large potatoes can take forever to cook through. Try using medium-sized potatoes if large ones won’t cook through, and keep them all the same size to cook evenly.
In this article, I’ve put together my best cooking instructions for getting the perfect baked potatoes.
Try Pre-cooking In The Microwave
You can cook a “baked” potato completely in the microwave in around 8 minutes (4 minutes on either side). Doing so will give an adequate potato but will lack the crispy skin and the interior texture is a little less soft.
Better is to use both the microwave and the oven. This gives a quickly cooked potato that is given a little extra time in the oven to crisp up the skin and improve the overall texture. Perfect for a quick lunch when you don’t have an hour to wait for baking.
Simply microwave the potato on a plate for 3/4 minutes on either side, depending on the size. Then rub some oil and salt into it and bake in the oven for as long as you can wait. Full instructions are given below.
What Temperature And For How Long?
Baking in a preheated oven at 400F/210C for 45-60 minutes is needed to cook through and crisp the skin. If the potato is softened first in the microwave, they only need 10-20 minutes in the oven.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Preheat the oven
- Wash the potato and scrub off any mud
- Dry them well
- Prick the skin with a fork about 6 times all over
- (If microwaving, nuke it for 4 minutes on each side)
- Rub with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt
- Bake directly on the oven rack for 45-60 minutes, or 10-20 if microwaved first
The potatoes are cooked when the skin is crisp and the flesh feels soft when pressed. You can use a skewer to check it is soft all the way through.
To be fully sure you’ve cooked your potato is to use a probe thermometer like you would cooking chicken or steak. You can buy these pretty cheap off Amazon and they work great. The internal temperature should read 210F/100C.
Cooking time depends on the size of the potato, as larger potatoes will take longer to cook to the middle. Unfortunately, you can’t rush the cooking times if you want a perfectly soft potato!
The skin will become crispier the longer it stays in the oven. If you’ve gone the microwave route, sometimes just a few extra minutes in a hot oven is better than nothing if you’re in a rush.
Baked Potato Still Hard After An Hour Of Cooking?
If your potato is still hard after an hour then it’s time to look at your equipment (unless you are cooking massive potatoes! Try half-pound (225g) potatoes rather than larger ones).
Your oven might not be getting hot enough or not holding its heat consistently to cook properly. That’s the only reason why it wouldn’t cook through as you just need heat and time.
You can get an oven thermometer off Amazon to keep track of the actual temperature and identify any problems. Sometimes ovens run cooler than expected and this gives an accurate reading.
This problem can occur if you are using a toaster oven or other small bench-top oven. They don’t have the size and insulation to stay hot and so aren’t as accurate as larger and more expensive ovens. You might need to cook your potatoes for longer in these – try 1.5 hours.
Do potatoes get hard when overcooked?
Potatoes will eventually go hard when overcooked but this takes a lot of cooking. It is more likely that you have undercooked the potato as the interior goes from hard to soft when cooked.
When baking the potato, the skin goes crisp as it loses moisture. Once the skin is crisp, you know the potato is probably cooked through.
If you keep cooking beyond this point then the interior will start to dry out and lose moisture too. Eventually, the whole potato will become hard because it is so dry. This would take a serious excess of cooking time though – like if you’ve forgotten about it in the oven.
Check out my article on overbaking potatoes for more about under and overcooking potatoes.
Should Potatoes Be Wrapped In Foil To Bake?
Wrapping potatoes in foil traps the moisture in and creates a soggy baked potato. They should not be wrapped in foil so they create a crispy skin.
There is an exception to wrapping potatoes in foil, and that is when cooking them on a barbeque or open flame. Potatoes can be left near some smoldering coals to bake them and so the foil acts as a protective barrier. They would become covered in soot or ash or even burn directly from the flame.
If you like a soggier potato in a conventional oven, then you can wrap them and add some butter. Once cooked they can be opened up and are soft from being basted by the butter.
How Do You Fix Undercooked Potatoes In The Oven?
To soften a baked potato you just need to give it more time in the oven or help it out with a few minutes in the microwave. Larger potatoes need more time to cook through, so an extra 15 minutes at 400F/210C should cook the potato through.
Keep in mind that microwaving a crisp-skinned potato will cause it to become soggy. Microwaves don’t cook with dry heat like a conventional oven, so will cause steam to spoil the skin.
To check the potato is cooked, you should press it with a skewer and receive no resistance. You can also use a probe thermometer and check it is 210F/100C.
Check out my other post for fixing undercooked potatoes in other recipes.
Are hard potatoes safe to eat?
From my research online, hard potatoes are usually fine to eat but can cause some stomach upsets, especially eaten in large quantities. I would advise cooking for a little longer which will be much more pleasant to eat too! Even just a few minutes in the microwave is better than nothing.
Tips For The Best Baked Potatoes
Use a floury potato like a Russet (in the US) or King Edward (in the UK). This gives a better texture as the interior will crumble rather than be waxy. The thicker skins are best for crispy skins.
Opening Them Up
You can slice them open for a clean-cut but to get a fluffier texture you want to break them open. Either make a line of pricks with a fork and press the ends to open up, or hit the top of the potato with a “karate chop” to naturally crack the skin. Sounds silly, but works – I got it from Nigel Slater.
Rub With Oil And Salt Before Cooking
This lets the skins cook beautifully by drawing out moisture and crisping in the oil. Using olive oil adds a nice taste and the salt enhances the overall flavor.
Store them in a cool dark place to preserve them. If they are exposed to sunlight they turn green.
Hopefully, you now know why your potato is still hard after baking. In most cases, it just needs more time, especially if your oven isn’t as hot as you think it is.
Try the microwave method for precooking the potato if you haven’t done it before. It’s a great way to get baked potatoes on the table much faster than the whole time baking in the oven.
If you are still having problems then investigate your real oven temperature with a thermometer!