Did you know baked potato skins were invented in Chicago?
The story goes that Rich Melman, the founder of Lettuce Entertain You, wanted to help his patrons eat healthier. This was in 1971 and he noticed that everybody kinda skipped over the good (read: healthy) stuff at the salad bar.
He’d read that sailors would eat the peels of potatoes because they contain tons of nutrients. BAM. Potato skins were born.
(There are two other restaurants that claim the distinction of inventing this delicious appetizer, but we don’t care about them, do we?)
His first version may not have included the now requisite bacon, cheese, and sour cream. That’s OK. We’ll forgive him.
In restaurants, potato skins are typically deep-fried. After an incident with a grease fire in my kitchen in 2002, I’ve stayed away from pots of bubbling oil. Instead, I’ve found a way to bake the skins so that they’re crispy and flavorful and not good for you at all.
Bacon. I cook the bacon, and then baste the skins with the grease and bake them in a hot oven.
Bacon makes everything better.
Speaking of bacon and potatoes, check out this recipe for the best bacon potato salad ever.
How to make Bacon Baked Potato Skins
The recipe is very simple. Bake the potatoes (in the oven, not the microwave). Let them cool until you can handle them. Cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides. You’ll want to leave a thick rim of flesh to give these skins some heft.
And, DO NOT THROW AWAY the insides. Save them to make mashed potatoes or gnocchi.
While the potatoes are cooling, cook the bacon in the oven. Once that’s done, you’ll brush the skins with the bacon grease and cook them in the same pan. (Brilliant, I know.)
After you’ve flipped them so that the whole skins are the right amount of crispness and firmness, turn them face up and add your fillings. The traditional filling is bacon and cheddar cheese. However, my mom’s lactose intolerant, so she’ll substitute goat cheese. That’s really good with ham. You can add whatever you want. The potato skin is your palette.
After you’ve added your toppings, you’ll put the skins back into the oven for a few minutes.
Ready to make some easy baked potato skins? Here you go!
- 5 russet potatoes
- 5 strips of bacon
- 1 cup cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you want)
- Sour cream
- Green onions (or chives)
- Salt and pepper to taste (or whatever seasoning floats your boat)
- Preheat the oven to 350°
- Clean your potatoes and prick them with a fork. I usually prick in a line where I plan on cutting the potatoes in half.
- Put on the middle rack in the oven with a sheet pan below them to catch any wayward juices. They'll be done in about an hour. Stick a fork in to determine whether they're ready. If the fork goes in easily? Done.
- Let the spuds cool.
- Line a sheet pan with foil or silicone mat and add the bacon strips.
- Put the bacon in the oven and turn the temperature up to 425°.
- Once the oven hits that temperature, turn the bacon. Set the timer for five (5) minutes.
- Keep checking the bacon about every five (5) minutes until it's at your desired crispness. This is subjective, so no way I'm going to give an exact time. No. Way.
- While the bacon's cooking, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides. KEEP THIS GOODNESS for another recipe.
- After the bacon is done, brush the potato skins, inside and out, with the grease that's in the pan. If you can't cover the entire skin, use some oil spray or other grease to make sure the skins are coated.
- Put the skins on the pan cut side down. Bake for ten (10) minutes.
- Turn skins over and bake for another ten (10).
- Like bacon, how firm and crispy you want your skins is subjective. If you need more time, go for it.
- Once they're done to your liking, turn them over and start adding your fillings. If you've got seasonings you want to add, like Everything Bagel seasoning or Seasoned Salt, sprinkle them on first.
- Cook for another five minutes.
- Done! Serve with condiments and a smile.