The loaded potato skin: Often found at diners and bars, but best served at television-watching events in your own home—the Super Bowl, March Madness, and the like. Perfect in its classic form (cheese, bacon, and sour cream), it also lends itself to countless adaptations. See how to put your own spin on potato skins, and how to master the basic recipe to begin so you get perfectly crisp results every time.
We start with a baked potato in every case, and then give it a little special treatment (butter + broiler) before adding toppings, whether that’s the basic sprinkle of bacon bits and cheese and a dollop of sour cream, or something different. You can keep the skins on their lowbrow playing field by stuffing them with barbecued chicken and coleslaw, or fancy them up with salmon, crème fraîche, and caviar—or come up with your own combos. These are all perfectly acceptable meals on their own, but wouldn’t suffer for the addition of a salad.
Expecting friends? Then pull out other game-day all-stars to supplement your spread: quesadillas, chicken wings, and maybe some finger-friendly green beans (for health, of course). The next morning, use up the leftover potato filling in a hearty breakfast potato cake.
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How to Make Crispy Potato Skins
1. Start with smaller russet (or baking) potatoes, about 3 inches long. They should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand, and be free of any green spots or sprouted “eyes” as well.
2. Thoroughly scrub the potatoes and dry them well. Making sure they’re clean is obvious, but making sure they’re completely dry also ensures they’ll bake instead of steam.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle. You won’t need a baking sheet yet, since you’ll cook the potatoes right on the rack (so be sure it’s clean, or line it with foil).
4. Pierce each potato several times with a fork or sharp knife tip. Place them right on your oven rack and bake for about 50 minutes, or until the skins are crisp and you can easily slide the point of a knife into the potato.
5. Transfer the potatoes to a wire rack to cool and turn the oven up to broil. While your oven heats up, your potatoes should cool down enough for you to handle, but heat-proof gloves can help if you have sensitive fingers.
6. Slice each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. You don’t need to scrape all the way down to the skin, but remove most of the innards (leaving about 1/4 inch of potato flesh in the shells), and save the rest for another use, like potato cakes or gnocchi.
7. Place the potato skins on a baking sheet (evenly spaced apart) and brush the insides of each potato skin with melted butter. If you prefer, you can use cooking spray, ghee, or grapeseed oil, but you want a light yet full covering of some sort of fat. Whatever you use, sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, then flip the potatoes over and do the same thing to the skin on the undersides: fat, salt, pepper.
8. Broil them, skin side up, for 2-3 minutes or until the butter starts to foam. Keep a close watch on them because the butter can burn in a flash.
9. Flip the potatoes over and broil for another 2-3 minutes. You just want the top edges to brown and crisp. As soon as they do, take them out.
10. Fill the potato skins with your choice of add-ins and broil for another 4-5 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and melted. Don’t add things like coleslaw or sour cream yet, or anything else that will wilt or melt away completely; save those for topping at the last minute and load your potato skins up with cheese, fully cooked meats, and other sturdy ingredients that will benefit from a bit of heat here.
11. Remove from the oven and dollop with any additional toppings. This is where you’d add your sour cream, slaw, caviar, or other more delicate additions. And then: devour!
Follow these tips for perfectly crisp potato skins every time, and try some of our favorite topping combos below, or use them as inspiration for your own unique inventions.
Cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, sour cream, and chives, all in a crisp potato shell. A classic for a damn good reason. Get our Easy Potato Skins recipe.
For when you need a little more green, but don’t wan to skimp on cheese (or carbs) either. These are perfect with ranch dressing for dipping. Get our Broccoli-Cheddar Potato Skins recipe.
Having your own personal potato boat filled with the traditional nacho toppings (beans, cheese, hot sauce, sour cream, avocado, and salsa) is not only fun, but automatically fixes the issue of soggy tortilla chips. Feel free to add any cooked meat you like too, and switch out the ‘cado cubes for guac. Get our Loaded Nacho Potato Skins recipe.
Tangy-sweet barbecue chicken, creamy-crunchy coleslaw, and perfect potatoes…this is basically a whole picnic in one bite (okay, maybe two or three bites). Get our Barbecue Chicken and Coleslaw Potato Skins recipe.
Reuben sandwiches are obviously great, but it’s hard to prepare a bunch for a crowd, and they’re often a little much. Making them in the form of potato skins is a perfect answer to both problems. Get our Reuben Potato Skins recipe.
The same thinking applies to the Philly cheesesteak—turn it into potato skins and you have what may be the ultimate party snack. If you’re in the Cheez Whiz camp, there’s no reason you can’t use that in place of provolone. Get our Philly Cheesesteak Potato Skins recipe.
Okay, one more sandwich-inspired take: tuna melts, but in the form of potato skins. Maybe this sounds weirder, but you would probably happily eat an actual tuna melt sandwich alongside a pile of fries, right? Then this makes perfect sense! (And it’s seriously delicious.) Get our Tuna Melt Potato Skins recipe.
No, we’re not getting off this fish and potato train just yet (or ever, honestly). This potato skin is more delicate than most, with smoked trout pâté and fresh greens nestled into the crisp skin, and nary a speck of cheese in sight. Maybe it is more garden party than Big Game party, but it’s tasty any time, any place. Get our Smoked Trout Potato Skins recipe.
To finish, the fanciest of them yet. Potato skins’ warm crisp contrasts perfectly with smoked salmon’s cool, soft bite, and the classic accompaniments of lush crème fraîche and snappy, salty pops of caviar is just right. Earmark these for Oscar night too. Get our Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche, and Caviar Potato Skins recipe.
Head over to our Super Bowl headquarters for more Super Bowl recipes and party tips and tricks. And check out what fellow Chowhounds are making for the Big Game.
Or Just Order From Your Favorite Pub
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Note: This post was originally published on March 7, 2011 and was updated on January 18, 2019 with new links, images, and text.