The Baked Potato Gadget We Wanted to Love — But Didn’t

published Jan 7, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

If there is a trick to getting a nice, steamy baked potato onto a dinner plate faster, I’m in. Baked potatoes are one of the simplest, most satisfying side dishes out there, and they are pretty much a blank canvas for all kinds of toppings. (Although I’m still just fine with salt, pepper, and a knob of butter. Okay, maybe a dollop of sour cream too.) The issue is that they take a while (like, almost an hour!) to cook through. Unless you have baked potato nails.

What Are Baked Potato Nails?

Let’s back up a second. What are baked potato nails? Almost exactly what they sound like. They’re nails, which are made specifically for baked potatoes. The claim here is that pushing a nail through the center of a potato before baking it will cut down on cooking time. How? The theory is that heat will be conducted through the metal nail and down through the center of the potato, adding an internal heating boost, which will help the potato cook from the inside out.

You can find a few different sets on Amazon; I got my hands on this one, which is made by Weber (yes, the grill company!). The nails are sturdy, and the kit even comes with a nail remover. See the v-shaped end on the lever next to the nails? It works pretty much like the nail remover on the end of a hammer. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Do Baked Potato Nails Really Work?

I bought two potatoes, and made sure they both weighed about the same and were about the same shape. I figured even if they weighed the same, if one was shorter and more squat, and the other long and lean, that would have an effect on the cooking time. And I wanted these nails to have a fair shot. I inserted a nail into one of the potatoes. It went in super easily. (No, you do not need a hammer!)

Credit: Janet McCracken

I popped both potatoes into my preheated 400-degree oven (you can also opt for the grill, but it was about 30 degrees out there when I did my experiment and I was not going outside). After about 30 minutes, I started rotating the potatoes and testing for doneness with a sharp knife. At 50 minutes, the potato with the nail in it was perfectly tender. The potato without the nail took another 10 minutes. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

There wasn’t any difference in the texture of the potatoes, and only 10 minutes was saved. In my professional opinion (I’ve run test kitchens for major magazines my entire career!), if you want to save time cooking a potato, just microwave it. I know, the skin won’t get that nice, crispy texture that an oven-baked potato brings to the table, but if you are that serious about it you can microwave the potato until it’s almost done, then pop it into a hot oven for about 10 minutes to crisp things up. You will have perfect baked potatoes in about 15 minutes.

More on Baked Potatoes

Have you ever tried baked potato nails? What’d you think? Discuss in the comments below!