Sep. 20, 2012 at 2:32 PM ET
Baked potatoes are almost impossible to ruin. Well, with one very notable exception: it is absolutely, positively, essential that you prick each potato liberally with a fork. If you do not, they will explode. One other caveat: if you are the type of person who loves a crisp potato skin, then do not microwave your potatoes. You will achieve that crispier skin only in the conventional oven.
Here's the recipe:
2 medium baking potatoes
Optional toppings: fat-free sour cream, crisp (canadian) bacon, non-fat yogurt, chives, chili, diced ham, broccoli, low-fat cheese, pureed peas, minced herbs, a white sauce, or just plain margarine or butter.
1. Scrub the potatoes well to remove any dirt and dry well. Liberally prick each potato with a fork.
2. Spread paper towels on the bottom of your microwave oven and place the potatoes about an inch apart in the center of the microwave. Microwave the potatoes on high for 8 minutes.
3. Remove the potatoes and wrap tightly in foil. Let stand for 5 minutes. If desired, split the potatoes and add butter, cheese, herbs, or other items and rewrap. Let sit for another 5 minutes.
Note: Never place aluminum foil in the microwave.
Cooking Yams and Sweet Potatoes
Yams can be cooked by boiling, baking, microwaving, or grilling. A large amount of the nutrients in the yam are derived from the skin and it is edible. For the best nutritional reward, either eat the skin of the yam or else remove the skin after cooking.
Boil: Wash the yams thoroughly and prick generously with a fork. Place in boiling water and cook until soft. Drain, cool slightly, and peel. The yam can also be peeled and cubed before boiling for faster preparation. The time really depends on the size of the yam.
Conventional oven: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the yams thoroughly and prick generously with a fork. Place the yams on a baking sheet and bake until soft, about 45 minutes depending on the size of the yams.
Microwave: Wash the yams thoroughly and prick generously with a fork. Place the yams on a paper towel on the floor of the microwave. Cook on high for 3 minutes, flip over and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add 3-4 minutes to the total cooking time for each additional potato. Let the potatoes sit for 3-5 minutes after cooking before eating.
Grill or Broiler: Cut the yam into 1/2 inch slices. Brush lightly with canola oil. Cook over hot coals or below the broiler for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.