Poking Potatoes Before Baking Them: The Forgotten Kitchen Trick

  • By: VidJovanovic
  • Date: October 19, 2022
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Have you ever forgotten to poke your potatoes before baking them, only to have them explode in the oven? Don’t worry, and you’re not alone.

It happens to the best of us, and I’m here to tell you that it’s not just a funny story—it’s a warning. Poking potatoes before baking them isn’t just a random kitchen trick; it can make or break your spuds.

If you’ve ever had an explosion in your oven because you forgot this little step, don’t worry: You’re about to learn how easy it is to do right next time.

Key Takeaways

  • Poking holes in potatoes before baking them allows steam to escape, resulting in crisp skin.
  • You don’t need to poke potatoes if you’re planning on mashing them.
  • Poking holes also allow heat to distribute evenly throughout the potato, resulting in a more cooked potato.
  • If you don’t poke holes, your potato may explode during the cooking process.
  • Potatoes should be poked with a fork or knife about six times before being baked.
A few processed potatoes with their skin on.
Poking Potatoes Before Baking Them_ The Forgotten Kitchen Trick

Is It Necessary To Poke Potatoes Before Baking Them?

The answer is yes, and I’ll tell you why. Imagine that you are a potato in the oven.

When your skin begins to brown, your insides begin to become mushy deliciousness, and your relatives begin to wonder if they need to start planning for next week’s meals.

But this isn’t good enough for you! You want more—a crisp outer layer with soft gooey goodness inside.

And there’s only one way for this dream to come true: by poking yourself with a sharp instrument so that the steam can escape from inside while also letting out all of those tasty juices that make everyone swoon over baked potatoes at Thanksgiving dinner.

Baking Potatoes Without Pre-Poking Them Can Cause Them To Explode

A fork holding a potato
Baking Potatoes Without Pre-Poking Them Can Cause Them To Explode

Suppose you’re a regular reader of this blog. In that case, there’s probably one thing that irks you more than anything else: unnecessary prepositional phrases.

I mean, who doesn’t love a good prepositional phrase? They can be really useful in providing context and adding detail to your writing.

But if you use them excessively to the point that they become burdensome and distracting, they could also be the misery of your existence.

This is especially true regarding food-related words like “before baking them” or “after cooking them”—you know what I mean?

When A Potato Is Baked Without Being Poked, The Steam That Builds Up Inside Of It Has Nowhere To Escape

There are many things about the American diet that are taken for granted. Poking potatoes with a fork is one of them. It’s so common you probably don’t even think twice about it anymore.

But did you know that this simple kitchen trick could save your life? Yes, poking your baked potatoes before serving them could be the difference between life and death—or at least prevent a serious injury to your face.

Because while baking potatoes is easy, most people forget one big step: pricking them first with a fork.

If you don’t do this, steam builds up inside the potato during cooking and explodes when you cut into it later (and trust us: we’ve seen it happen more than once).

This can result in potato bits flying everywhere—including all over yourself or anyone else sitting nearby.

This Can Cause The Potato’s Skin To Rupture, Leading To An Explosion

Potatoes on the table.
This Can Cause The Potato’s Skin To Rupture, Leading To An Explosion

It turns out that poking a potato before baking can cause an explosion. The reason is simple: when you poke a raw potato with your finger, the air gets inside the spud and is trapped there as it cooks.

But don’t worry! Suppose you’re careful about how hard you poke it and what kind of pan you cook it in. In that case, there’s no need to fear for your safety or the safety of anyone around you (unless they are particularly sensitive about potatoes).

Pre-Poking Potatoes Allows The Steam To Escape, Preventing Them From Exploding

  • Poke the potatoes with a fork, but don’t worry if you don’t make holes big enough to see through.
  • If you can find an old potato masher like we did, even better!
  • Then, just place ’em on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour or until they are tender when pierced with a knife (45 minutes in my oven).

It Is, Therefore, Necessary To Poke Potatoes Before Baking Them

It is, therefore, necessary to poke potatoes before baking them. It’s a simple, obvious fact that you can easily forget about.

When a potato is baked without being poked first, it will explode in your oven and leave you with a mess on your hands. You could have prevented this disaster if you had pierced the potato before baking it.

If you bake potatoes at home, I strongly recommend you ensure they are properly poked first.

Failure To Do So May Result In An Explosive Mess

I’m sure you’ve seen the videos. They usually feature an unsuspecting chef, oblivious to her crime of omission. The potato is peeled, placed in boiling water, and brought out to rest on a plate as it cools before baking.

And then: BOOM! The potato explodes in their face, spraying scalding water all over the kitchen and ruining their outfit with its sticky surface.

It’s not pretty—and it can happen if you forget this simple step: poking holes into the potato before cooking it whole or cutting it into halves or quarters.

The reason for this is simple enough: when potatoes are cooked, gases build up inside them as they expand from being plunged into boiling liquid like water or stock—usually about 10% of their original size during the cooking time (about 20 minutes).

Without releasing these gases through some sort of venting method, such as poking holes into them beforehand (which can be done with a fork), it will eventually cause pressure to build up inside until there’s no other option than for your potatoes to explode all over your kitchen.

Does Poking Make A Difference?

Yes, poking potatoes before baking them does make a difference. It prevents the explosion of potato goop all over your oven.

This is because when you poke a potato with something sharp, you puncture its skin. This allows steam to escape and prevents an explosion in your oven.

The best way to ensure this trick works is by using something sharp like a fork or a knife (preferably one without an edge).

If you don’t have those handy, use any other object with a pointy end, like a pen or pencil. Chopsticks or even your fingers are acceptable substitutes for other cooking utensils.

How To Poke A Potato Properly?

The best way to poke a potato is with a fork. You know how when you put raw potatoes in the oven, they explode all over your kitchen?

That’s because their skins are so thin that steam builds up inside them, causing them to expand and cause their outer skin to burst.

To let the steam out, make holes in the potato. Your baked potato will be nice and fluffy instead of exploding like an angry tentacle monster.

So what’s the ideal amount of times you should poke a potato before baking it? It depends on how big your spuds are: if they’re really small (like bite-sized), then goes ahead and give ’em six or seven pokes; if they’re larger than that (say around golf ball size), then three or four holes should suffice.

And don’t worry about making too many holes—as long as some air gets inside while cooking time progresses, everything should turn out just fine.

Alternative Methods To Poking

You can always use a fork if you don’t have a fancy poking tool.

  • Bake in the microwave: Poke each potato with a fork three or four times and place it on the middle rack of your microwave. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes.
  • Bake in a pot of water: Poke each potato with a fork three or four times and put them in an oven-safe pot with 1/2 inch of water covering the bottom. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (depending on how large your potatoes are). The result will be fluffy baked potatoes that are easy to peel when cooked this way!
  • Bake them in a convection oven: If you have one available to you, consider using it instead of turning up the heat on your conventional oven—convection ovens cook food faster than standard models because they circulate hot air around foods from all directions, creating an even heat distribution within its cavity without having to add extra heat from below as well as above as standard ones do.


We know poking potatoes before baking is a strange concept to wrap your head around. It seems simple, but it makes a big difference when you think about it.

You’re not just helping out the poor potato by poking it before putting it in the oven; you’re also preventing an explosion from happening.

So give your potatoes a little poke before popping them in the oven. And be sure to check out our other articles for more tips on how to cook perfect potatoes every time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to eat raw potatoes, regardless of how they were prepared?

Yes, potatoes can be eaten raw. However, they are not ideal for this type of eating because the skin has a higher moisture content which can cause foodborne illness if not properly cooked.

Can I microwave potato chips instead of baking them?

It is not recommended to microwave potato chips because the moisture in potato chips can cause foodborne illness.

What are the best methods for preparing spuds in advance and freezing them?

One common method of preparing potatoes for freezing is to peel them and then freeze them in slices or wedges. Other methods include baking potatoes, boiling potatoes, or microwaving potato chips.

What other ways prevent potatoes from turning into mush while baking?

One other way to prevent potatoes from turning into mush while baking is to poke them a few times with a fork before baking. This will help distribute the heat throughout the potato and prevent it from becoming too soft.


Vid Jovanovic

I’m Vid Jovanovic and I’m 36 years old. I’m a teacher by profession and my passion lies in baking. I have been baking since my early teens, when my grandmother taught me how to make a simple cake that you can find in any supermarket. My passion for baking grew as I got older and I started experimenting with different ingredients and recipes.