Potatoes are such an integral part of American agriculture that numerous boards, agencies, and coalitions were created to focus solely on potato consumption. Today, these organizations aim to dispel myths about potatoes, while promoting its nutritional content as well as its role in a healthy diet. Part of the reason that potatoes need extensive marketing relates to public perception of what a potato really is. Most people assume that potatoes are classified as starches, similar to pasta or rice. In reality, potatoes are a tuber vegetable, and contain little to no fat, sodium or cholesterol. Most potatoes also carry a high amount of Vitamin C and when eaten with their skin, can be a good source of potassium.
Potatoes can be prepared in a number of ways, from boiled, to fried, and even sautéed. In baking, a potato is first scrubbed with water, then pricked by the tines of a fork or blad of a knife, rubbed with oil, and placed in a hot oven for about an hour. Once cooked, the baked potato is split open to be enjoyed.
Because potatoes are so versatile, they go well with fat laden accompaniments like butter, sour cream and cheese. For decades, preparing potatoes with one or all of these products was an acceptable side dish to steak and other cuts of meat. As the general populace becomes more health conscious, and health science continues to advance, eating a meal as described above, has essentially fallen out of favor. Perhaps this is why potatoes, especially baked potatoes, need public relation strategies to breathe new life into their uses. Instead of using fat heavy dairy products to accompany potatoes, many nutritionists recommend topping baked potatoes with steamed vegetables or a serving of salsa. Other options for baked potato toppings include a sprinkling of freshly chopped herbs, mashed roasted garlic, or hot chicken broth.
Baked potatoes are also being marketed as a stand alone meal, rather than a side dish. As their starchy flesh is heavy in texture, many consumers will experience a full stomach sensation from eating a baked potato.
Now that microwave ovens are common place in home kitchens, preparing a baked potato has become relatively easy. Instead of an hour in an oven, baked potatoes can be prepared within minutes using the microwave. Some microwave models include preset programming especially designed to create baked potatoes.
When preparing a baked potato, most chefs will discourage the use of aluminum foil. Wrapping a potato in foil will cause the potato to steam, rather than roast, and the skin will be soggy. Due to the number of people who enjoy potato skins, it’s best to leave off the foil and allow the skin to crisp.