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Potatoes are one of those vegetables that can take a long time to cook. Their dense nature and size mean that whether you love a white potato or a sweet potato, getting them tender to the core just takes a while. You can speed up the process when boiling or roasting or frying by cutting them up small or slicing them thin or even grating them.
But when you want a baked potato, the whole thing shifts. A white medium to large baked potato takes at least an hour in the oven to be tender all the way through, and to get a sweet potato soft and caramelized can take more than an hour and a half. Some people try to speed up this process by pre-cooking partially in a microwave, but that can create a strange rubbery texture. And parboiling will overcook the outer part of the potato giving it a watery mouthfeel.
How to make a baked potato in half the time
So how do you get all the flavor and texture you want from a baked potato in half the time? It is simpler than you think. Cut the potato in half.
Think about it: A baked potato, whether white or sweet, is designed to be split in half and then anointed with butter, sour cream, cheese or other toppings anyway! Even if you love your baked potato simply seasoned with salt and pepper, you are going to split it first.
Related—Our Best Baked Potato Recipes
Why baking a potato cut in half is great for more than just saving time
By cutting your potatoes in half lengthwise and placing them cut side down on a greased sheet pan before cooking, you will do two things. One, you have made them half the thickness, so they will cook through in literally half the time. And two, you create an opportunity to get flavor and texture on the cut side of the potatoes. The side against the sheet pan will brown and crisp, which will give a little bit of textural contrast, and terrific flavor. I bake my potatoes in a 400° oven; this high heat will allow the cut sides to brown instead of steaming against the pan, and you should get tender results in between 20-30 minutes depending on the size of your spuds.
The extra bonus? The skin on the topside of the potato will also get extra crispy. For a white potato, it will get a lovely crunchy texture, especially if you oil it and season it with salt. For sweet potatoes, the thin skin will become shatteringly crisp instead of flabby and chewy.
Of course, this is also a great way to make potatoes if you are going to make either potato skin appetizers or use them as a base for twice-baked potatoes or loaded stuffed potatoes, as the shell will be hardy enough not to fall apart during assembly.
Baking halved potatoes is an easy time-saver that can make fabulous baked potatoes easy and quick enough for weeknights, and delicious enough for dinner parties.