Potatoes potatoes everywhere and not a one is cooked
October 2, 2006 10:23 AM   Subscribe

QUICK!!! I need help baking about 50 potatoes in 1 oven!!!

I need to bake 50 potatoes, to be ready to serve all at once tonight. How can I do this? How long should I bake them.... What temp... I need step by step if possible, including keeping them warm if I need to do more than one smaller batch at a time. I've never cooked this many at once before!!! Thanks for all your help!!
posted by tdreyer1 to Food & Drink (22 answers total)
Take a breath- unless your oven is really small, I don't see why you won't be able to cook them all at once.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:31 AM on October 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Microwave them for 7-8 minutes, wrap them in foil, then finish them in a 400-degree oven for 10-15 minutes prior to serving. That's how most restaurants manage. Put as many in at once as you can fit.
posted by briank at 10:39 AM on October 2, 2006

Do you have two racks for the oven? Space them far enough apart that you can put potatoes on each rack. This way, you'll be able to leave space between each potato to promote air circulation in the oven (more even cooking).

But I'm not completely sure why you're panicking. It's a lot, sure, but I don't think it will require any special treatment.
posted by raedyn at 10:41 AM on October 2, 2006

(I'm not a commerical cook though, so what do I know?)
posted by raedyn at 10:52 AM on October 2, 2006

Wash and wrap each one in foil (dull side out) and pierce with several fork holes if potatoes are more than 4 oz., lay 'em directly on the racks, and bake at 350 degrees F. Typically you bake small numbers of average sized russet potatoes for an hour like this, but with 50, you're going to need to plan to extend that time by 15 to 30 minutes, so start ahead of time by at least an hour and half. You are, after all, asking your oven to bring 15 to 20 pounds of mass up to cooking temperature (assuming average sized potatoes), and that will take an ordinary oven a little time. You can keep the potatoes warm in the oven, for up to 30 minutes or more, by shutting off the oven a bit before the potatoes are fully done (test with fork), and letting the residual heat of the oven finish them, while keeping them warm.

If you prefer to coat the potatoes with oil before baking, you can skip the aluminum foil, as both oil and foil act to keep the potatoes from drying out while baking. But you will need a cookie sheet or something under them, to prevent making a mess of your oven, and this can problematic if you only have 2 racks, with this many potatoes.
posted by paulsc at 10:53 AM on October 2, 2006

1) put potatoes on rack

2) turn oven on to 200o to 300o

3) wait.

now, for specifics, it takes 45 minutes to properly bake a potato at 180o. If it was 5-10 potatoes, I'd say leave it at that temperature, but because you're doing so many more, the temp needs to be higher.

Just remember, it's really hard to (horribly) over-cook baked potatoes, so turn up the oven and keep them in there for a while. I'd say roll the taters once every hour.

If your potatoes are done after 1 or 2 hours, turn the temp down to low, and just keep them warm. A pan of water wouldn't go amiss, to keep the skins from drying out completely (but only once the potatoes are done).

IANAMFP (I Am Not a Mass Food Preparer), and I haven't ever cooked this many potatoes at once, so this is all a guess.

P.S. the microwave option will work, but if you microwave them 1 at a time, it'll take 7 hours to get through all 50 potatoes. 2 at a time will take 3.5... 4 at a time brings it down to a more reasonable 100 minutes.

I'd put 10 in the microwave for 10 minutes (be sure to rotate every 3/4 minutes), covered by a wet napkin (to keep the outside spuds from drying out.) You'll still need an hour or two to finish the potatoes, but microwaving does give you a nice head start.
posted by hatsix at 10:56 AM on October 2, 2006

ALWAYS POKE POTATOES WITH A FORK BEFORE BAKING. You don't want asploded potato bits everywhere, do you? They don't do this every time, but once is enough to hammer home the lesson for life. Poke with a knife, fork whatever. But please, poke.

Also, I think baked potatoes are best when you use both butter/oil AND foil -- first butter them, then wrap in foil. The skins will be moist and delicious.

it takes 45 minutes to properly bake a potato at 180o

That's 180 degrees Centigrade. You'll want about 350 degrees Farenheit.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:06 AM on October 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

Microwave them for 7-8 minutes, wrap them in foil, then finish them in a 400-degree oven for 10-15 minutes prior to serving. That's how most restaurants manage. Put as many in at once as you can fit.

I think they do that to save cooking time, not fit more potatoes in one space. There's no reason not to cook the potatoes in the oven only for a longer time, unless you do not have enough space for all 50 potatoes. Then saving time may become of more import, since you want to serve them all at once. This would still give you about 15 minutes between batches though. I wouldn't really know how to keep them warm except for the oven...

As for how to cook, I pierce them with a fork, oil up the skin, sprinkle a little salt on them, and in the oven they go for about an hour. No foil. Works great for me.
posted by splice at 11:08 AM on October 2, 2006

Potato spikes will lower the baking time since the spike will conduct heat into the heart of the potato.

I've used ordinary stainless-steel (NOT steel nails, which may be galvanized or have some sort of coating on them) before for the same purpose. Since the nails are shorter than the spikes, I put one in each end of the potato. Note that the spikes and nails will be very hot to the touch. They are also meant for the oven and not for a microwave.
posted by forrest at 11:12 AM on October 2, 2006

The foil is unecessary unless you need to keep them hot for a long time.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2006

I wouldn't really know how to keep them warm except for the oven...

Keep them wrapped in foil on top of the oven, as the surface will have a nice gentle heat to it as you move through these 50 potatoes.

We had exactly this issue one Thanksgiving when, as a young couple, we suddenly had more guests for a Thanksgiving dinner party than we expected. Our solution was to go Microwave for the 7-8 minutes, and then cycle them through the oven with the other dishes. It worked fabulously...that is, until my wife spilled hot oil over her hand, but that's another story.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:49 AM on October 2, 2006

We all understand about a thermostat, right? You set it to a temperature and it stays there. It may take longer to get to that temperature with the spuds in there, but this is not like cooking meat to a certain internal temp. Just put the potatoes in like you would normally, and check for when the oven heating light turns off. Time the cooking from there. When you would normally take them out, they'll be done.
posted by mzurer at 12:11 PM on October 2, 2006

Foil will make them steam, which you don't want. I recommend rubbing a bit of oil on them (for extra tasty crispy skin) and baking them in the oven as one of the previous responders suggest.
posted by pyjammy at 1:00 PM on October 2, 2006

I would estimate that if you try to cook them all it once it's going to take you about 3 hours. No way is it going to happen in an hour unless you use the microwave. Do not listen to the people who say it can be done reasonably quickly in the oven because you will have a bunch of people over waiting for their potatoes (or whatever kinky plan you have for them) and they will not be done.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:31 PM on October 2, 2006

I don't trust poking; I always run a shallow slit all the way around their equators with a sharp knife. I don't use oil, either - just wash them, slit them, plonk them on the racks, and bake until they start smelling like baked potatoes.

Put the bigger ones on the top rack.
posted by flabdablet at 4:06 PM on October 2, 2006

"We all understand about a thermostat, right? ..."
posted by mzurer at 3:11 PM EST on October 2

1) Not every oven has an "element" light, such as gas or older electric ovens...;-)

2) Presumably, a person would pre-heat the oven normally, to 350 degrees Farenheit. If not, and they put 16 to 20 pounds of mass in a cold home oven (of normal electric self-cleaning type design), it will do what any thermostatically controlled heater with a simple controller does: turn on maximum heat to rise to temperature as quickly as its heater/burner limitation allows, given the combined mass of the oven and the mass to cook. The mass (in this case, potatoes), having some thermal latency (because potatoes are not an efficient conductor of heat energy, and will take some time to come to cooking temperature clear through), will then cause the system to ocillate between it's upper and lower deadband control points, at a faster cycling rate than it normally would if the oven were empty, until the mass has come to nominal oven temperature, which for potatoes still cooking, will be near the end of the cooking time. At that point, the heat source will only be called upon to add heat to overcome insulation and external vent losses, and return to it's steady state on/off cycle behavior, as if the oven were empty like any normal 2 mode controlled system will. The overall cooking time will be similar to the time for pre-heating the oven, and cooking the potatoes thereafter, but the ones on the bottom rack may not get as "done" as those on the top rack. Pre-heating the oven is done outside any consideration of cooking time, and is done to create even baking conditions in all parts of the oven.

The difference between cooking a 20 pound turkey for 6 or more hours, and cooking 50 potatoes, is that the potatotes have a far more favorable surface to volume ratio, than does the turkey. Hence, the potatoes allow oven heat to transfer into themselves far faster than a turkey of the same weight will, allowing the mass of the potatoes to become completely cooked at a much faster rate (so long as the oven has the capacity to generate heat at a rate in excess of the potatoes ability to absorb it, which most modern self-cleaning electric and gas ovens sold in North America will certianly have). In fact, the average size of the spuds will have more effect on the cooking time needed, than any other factor. For 5-6 oz russets (medium sized baking potato) 10 to 15 minutes "oven" time (time the oven needs to get the outer skin of the potatoes above 220 degrees, so they start creating internal steam action), and an hour "cooking" time (during which every potato will individually cook, all together), will be fine, if using a pre-heated oven, and putting them all in at once. If you get 50 big 1/2 pounders, you're heating 25 pounds of mass, and each lump of it, in the form of an individual potato, will also take longer to cook through. So, starting with a preheated oven, you'll need 15 to 20 minutes of "oven" time, and perhaps an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half of cooking time, for big 8 oz bakers.

The foil/oil/crispy skin thing is pretty much a matter of how dirty you want your oven to get, what you think is good eating in a baked potato, and how much pre-ordained fat you want to commit your guests to eat, without consulting them. I recommend wash/foil wrap, as it gets the potato on the plate with least chance of drying out, and no added fat or salt (which each guest should add, to suit themselves). But then I again, I think dried out "crispy" baked potatoes are a travesty. If I want potatoes with crispy skins, I rosin fry them.
posted by paulsc at 4:53 PM on October 2, 2006

"ALWAYS POKE POTATOES WITH A FORK BEFORE BAKING. You don't want asploded potato bits everywhere, do you? They don't do this every time, but once is enough to hammer home the lesson for life. Poke with a knife, fork whatever. But please, poke."

I have never seen a potato explode in the oven, and I have cooked many of them. Is this really a concern?

If you have to stack the potatoes, take them out after half an hour or so and rearrange the stacks. I think most regular sized ovens with several trays could easily fit 50 potatoes in single layers.
posted by tomble at 5:19 PM on October 2, 2006

If you microwave potatoes in powerful microwave ovens, or bake them at very high temperatures (400 degrees F, or above), trying to cook them fast, you can create steam bubbles inside them, particularly if the potatoes are mealy (cellulose cell walls breaking down easily), or very fresh (highest water content). You can sometimes hear cooking potatoes "sing," which is a hissing sound they make venting localized steam. But, to my mind, a singing potato is not a happy potato, and I've baked thousands of potatos at 350 F or less, with nary an explosion in their generally unpricked lot. I'm also not one to microwave potatoes that I then try to pass off as "baked."

But, I always suggest other people stick 'em, just in case their oven settings aren't accurate.
posted by paulsc at 5:33 PM on October 2, 2006

tomble, I've even had poked potatoes explode, which is why I now slit them. It's very loud and very messy.
posted by flabdablet at 8:01 PM on October 2, 2006

I've been in the presence of other people's exploded potatoes. The experience scared me enough that I stab them repeatedly before baking. Also, haven't you read the "Little House on the Prairie" series? There's an awful exploding potato story in one of those books. ("Farmer Boy," maybe?)
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:11 PM on October 2, 2006

Definitely "Farmer Boy".
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:24 PM on October 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Hey, tdreyer1 -- what happened?
posted by onlyconnect at 9:37 PM on October 2, 2006

« Older Stopping shoes from acting like sponges.   |   Help me remember a strange children's book? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.