How Long to Microwave Small Potatoes for Fluffy Insides

Microwaving small whole potatoes for just 5-8 minutes is all it takes for tender, fluffy results every time.

Cooking potatoes is a staple skill for any home cook. Mashed, baked, roasted, fried – potatoes are so versatile and pair well with just about any cuisine. But boiling or baking potatoes takes a lot of time. When you’re short on time, the microwave can cook small potatoes in a fraction of the time. But getting the timing right can be tricky. Undercook them and they’ll be hard and raw in the middle. Overdo it and you’ll end up with mushy, rubbery spuds.

This detailed guide will walk through exactly how long to microwave different sizes of small whole potatoes, from 1-inch baby potatoes up to 3-inch potatoes. You’ll also learn key tips on selecting the right size, poking holes for even cooking, adding water, and testing for doneness so you can enjoy tender, fluffy potato insides every time.

How Big of a Potato Should You Choose for Microwaving?

The size of the potato you select is crucial for microwave cooking success. Smaller potatoes are ideal candidates while larger spuds can undercook and remain dense in the middle if microwaved whole. Let’s look at the pros and cons of different potato sizes in more detail:

Baby potatoes around 1-1.5 inches in diameter are on the small end of the spectrum. These tiny potatoes will microwave in just 2-4 minutes. Their low moisture content means they can cook through very quickly. However, their reduced water content also means they can become dried out, shriveled, or cracked more easily if overcooked. Keep a close watch and stir or rearrange occasionally while microwaving baby potatoes.

On the larger end, potatoes over 3 inches in diameter are not the best choice for microwaving whole. Their wide, thick center resists cooking through entirely and retains raw denseness even after 6+ minutes of nuking. You’re better off cutting larger potatoes into smaller pieces before microwaving. Or use a lower power setting and cook for longer periods to allow time for the heat to gradually penetrate to the middle. For whole potatoes cooked through from skin to core in just 5-8 minutes, look for petite to medium spuds sized 2-3 inches across.

Notice Tip

For evenly cooked potatoes from the skin to the center, select small to medium potatoes about 2-3 inches in diameter.

Poke Holes in Potatoes Before Cooking for the Best Results

Poking holes in potatoes before microwaving is a small but important step that makes a big difference in the final texture. It allows built-up steam to escape freely rather than splitting the skin or turning the interior to mush.

Use a standard fork or specialized microwave potato piercing tool to rapidly vent potatoes before cooking. Aim to poke deep holes about halfway into the potato, spacing 4-5 vent holes evenly around all sides. Skewer from multiple angles to create channels that run to the center. This prevents steam from getting trapped within the dense interior. Potatoes vented properly with angled fork holes cook up lighter and fluffier. Resist the urge to over-spike potatoes into a pulpy mess. Just a few strategically placed steam vents lead to better results.

Notice Tip

Poke holes about halfway down with a fork 4-5 times all over the potato before microwaving. This prevents bursting and leads to fluffier spuds.

Microwave Times for Different Small Potato Sizes

Below are general guidelines for how long to microwave common potato sizes. Keep in mind microwave power can vary, so cooking times may need adjusting.

  • 1-2 inch baby potatoes – Start checking at 2 minutes, up to 4 minutes max. Stir or rearrange halfway for the most even cooking.
  • 2-inch diameter potatoes – Microwave for 4-6 minutes depending on maturity and moisture level. Check at 4 minutes then add more time if still too firm.
  • 3-inch potatoes – Cook for 6-8 minutes. Potatoes this size run the risk of being underdone in the middle if not cooked long enough.
  • Medium potatoes microwaved whole take about 6-8 minutes. For larger potatoes over 3 inches, cut into pieces first to ensure the inside cooks through.
  • Cut potatoes cook faster, around 3-5 minutes for cubed pieces. Stir or rearrange smaller cubes halfway through.

Keep in mind microwaves vary in power, so adjust cook times up or down as needed. The times above reflect an average 1000-1100-watt microwave. Higher wattage over 1200 will cook slightly faster.

Notice Note
  • 1-2 inch potatoes: 2-4 minutes
  • 2-inch potatoes: 4-6 minutes
  • 3 inch potatoes: 6-8 minutes

Should You Add Water When Microwaving Potatoes?

Adding a small amount of water before microwaving potatoes can significantly cut down cooking times. The extra moisture generates steam which heats and cooks the potatoes faster than their natural moisture alone.

A good rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon of water per medium-sized potato. Over-saturating with too much liquid risks soggy, mushy spuds. Water is optional for very small new potatoes which already contain ample moisture. Larger, drier potatoes may benefit from 2-3 teaspoons. Stir or flip potatoes halfway through cooking to evenly distribute the added water. While not always necessary, a splash of water can accelerate microwave steaming and prevent dry, cracked skin on certain types of potatoes.

Notice Tip

Adding 1 tsp of water per potato can help speed cooking, but skip adding extra moisture for larger spuds over 3 inches which retain enough already.

How to Tell When Microwaved Potatoes Are Done

It can be tricky to judge the doneness of dense potatoes cooked in the microwave. Here are some methods to test when they’re ready:

  • Pierce all the way through with a knife. It should slide in and out of the center easily without resistance when potatoes are fully cooked.
  • Press gently on the sides. Potatoes are perfectly done when still slightly firm but with a pillowy softness on the ends.
  • If concerned they’re underdone, let stand for 1-2 minutes. The insides will continue steaming and cooking through without getting overdone.
  • Err on the side of undercooking. You can always microwave for an extra 1-2 minutes. But overdoing it results in an unappealing mushy texture.

Use a combination of the knife test, gentle pressing, standing time, and checking cook times to determine when your microwaved potatoes are fluffy on the inside while retaining their shape and firmness.

Notice Note

Check doneness by sliding a knife in and out easily, pressing gently, letting stand for 1-2 minutes, and not overcooking.

Avoid Rubbery, Mushy Potatoes by Not Overcooking

It’s easy to go from perfectly cooked potatoes to unappetizing mush in the microwave. The fine line between tender and overdone can be crossed in just 30-60 extra seconds. Monitoring cook times closely prevents overcooking rubbery or mushy spuds.

Stick to the recommended microwave times for the size potato you are cooking. Resist exceeding the maximum times stated. It’s better to slightly undercook and then cook a minute or two more if needed. But there’s no turning back once potatoes are over-nuked past the point of no return. For larger potatoes, cut into smaller pieces to ensure even thorough cooking. Stir and rearrange smaller cubes midway for uniform heating. As always, venting steam properly before starting helps prevent mushiness to begin with. Mastering the ideal microwave times for different potato sizes takes practice but prevents disappointing texture.

Notice Tip

Don’t overcook. Follow the recommended times for each size, stir halfway, and stand for 2 minutes before serving to prevent rubbery potatoes.

How to Microwave 2 Medium Potatoes at Once

Cooking multiple potatoes in the microwave at the same time is convenient but can lead to uneven results if not done properly. Here are some tips:

  • Arrange the potatoes on the outer edges of the turntable, not overlapping in the center. This allows microwaves to penetrate and heat all sides.
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of water to generate extra steam when cooking 2 potatoes together.
  • Microwave on high for 6-8 minutes depending on size. Medium 2-3 inch potatoes will take about 8 minutes.
  • Stir or flip potatoes over halfway through. Rearrange their position as well so the one on the outer edge moves closer to the center. Evenly distributing microwave energy results in evenly cooked potatoes.

With the right technique, you can prepare two potatoes at the same time in the microwave. Be sure to adjust the arrangement and water amount as needed when cooking more.

Notice Note

When microwaving two medium potatoes:

  • Arrange on edges, not overlapping
  • Add 1-2 tbsp water
  • Cook 6-8 minutes, stir halfway

Use a Potato Piercer Tool

A potato piercer, or microwave potato venting tool, makes poking uniform holes easy.

  • It pierces evenly spaced holes rapidly with no risk of stabbing yourself with a fork.
  • The long-handled design lets you grip and pivot easily to vent all sides including the ends.
  • Most piercers create 8-10 deep holes that release steam rapidly for cut cook times.

Investing in a potato piercer for a couple of dollars can take the frustration and guessing work out of prepping potatoes for the microwave.

Add Butter and Seasonings After Cooking

It may be tempting to add butter, oil or seasonings to potatoes before placing them in the microwave. But holding off until after cooking leads to better flavor and texture.

Fats like butter and oil heat unevenly in the microwave resulting in extremely hot spots that cook erratically. Herbs, spices, and salt can become bitter or burnt-tasting when microwaved. For best results, cook potatoes then toss with butter to melt and absorb after removing from the microwave. Sprinkle on chopped fresh herbs, garlic powder, salt, pepper, or any other seasonings once the potatoes are fully cooked. While loading up potatoes with flavors before cooking may seem convenient, wait until after microwaving for optimum taste and mouthfeel.

Use Microwave Potato Bags

Special reusable microwave potato bags are convenient for quickly nuking spuds.

  • Place 1-4 potatoes in a vented plastic bag and microwave for 6-8 minutes.
  • The bag traps in steam to expedite cooking up to twice as fast.
  • Follow the package instructions, shake the bag halfway, and add water if needed.
  • Caution: Potato bags can easily overcook potatoes into mush if not monitored.

Microwavable potato bags provide an easy mess-free way to cook multiple potatoes simultaneously.

Troubleshoot Dense, Underdone Centers

Despite best efforts, you may still end up with a microwaved potato that’s cooked through on the outside but with a hard, raw center. Luckily, a dense underdone core can be remedied with a few simple tricks.

If the middle of your microwaved potato remains uncooked, dice up the potato and return the chunks to the microwave for 2-3 more minutes. This allows the exterior to transfer heat to the inside. For a more gentle approach, mash chunks of underdone potato to evenly mingle raw and cooked bits. Wrapping the entire potato in plastic wrap and letting it steam off heat for 5 minutes allows carryover cooking to continue without overdoing the edges. With a little improvising, an unevenly cooked spud can still be salvaged into a fluffy, fork-tender side dish. Don’t let an underdone middle potato go to waste using these microwave troubleshooting techniques.

Reheat Leftovers Without Drying Out

Leftover baked potatoes present a tricky challenge. Simply throwing cold spuds back in the microwave leads to lackluster results – dried-out shards rather than the soft, fluffy interior you crave. For better leftovers, wrap potatoes in a damp paper towel and microwave in 30-second bursts just until heated through. The moisture prevents drying as they reheat. Or, cover with a wet paper towel and bake at 300°F for 30 minutes for gentle, even warming.

Dicing, mixing with sautéed aromatics like onion, and baking in a casserole dish revives textures and flavors. With care, day-old potatoes can taste freshly baked. The key is adding humidity during reheating and not overcooking. Follow these tips to breathe new life into leftover baked potatoes.

Conclusion

Following this definitive guide takes the guesswork out of microwaving potatoes. The keys are choosing the right small 2-3 inch size, piercing holes to vent steam, using cook times of 4-8 minutes depending on potato size, adding a bit of water for faster cooking, and not overcooking to the point of rubbery skin and mushy centers.

Master these simple microwave potato tips and you’ll be enjoying fork-tender whole potatoes in under 10 minutes any night of the week. Microwaved spuds are an easy side to pair with chicken, fish, steak, or as a fast meal all on their own.

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