For Spectacular Fluffy Baked Potatoes With Crispy Skin, Make ‘Em in Your Air Fryer

In our potato-centric worldview, this air-fryer method makes the very best baked potatoes.

Overhead view of air fryer baked potato
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

In my potato-centric worldview, there are two types of people: the pessimists, who view a basic baked spud as a bland and boring waste of carbohydrates, and the optimists, like myself, who view the baked potato as one of life’s greatest culinary joys. The potato-enthusiasts understand that a properly baked potato can stand on its own with just a bit of butter as a stellar side, but is also a perfect blank canvas for heaping with toppings like sour cream, chives, bacon, all the cheese you can handle, or whatever creative direction you choose to take with your baked potato. (I personally love gouda with sautéed mushrooms and garlic and a sprinkle of tarragon).

But to fully appreciate the loaded baked potato experience or even to simply savor an unloaded baked potato, the potato needs to be fully tender with a uniformly fluffy interior encased in properly crisped skin and well seasoned throughout so that every bite is delicious. The air fryer is the perfect way to create this ideal baked potato, and it does it much faster than a conventional oven too. With no need to preheat, a typical air fryer takes just 40 minutes to bake two fluffy, tender potatoes vs. over 20 minutes preheating time and about an hour cooking time in a conventional oven. Not only do you not have to wait for the air fryer to preheat, you also avoid heating up the whole oven for just two potatoes. The high heat and constant air flow of the air fryer also guarantees the skin crisps while the interior bakes evenly.

There are a few key steps to baking perfect potatoes in your air fryer—many of which overlap with the prep and finishing technique that Daniel has already discussed at length in his guide for how to bake the ultimate baked potato. Here’s a brief breakdown.

Tips for Getting Perfect Baked Potatoes in the Air Fryer

Puncture your potatoes: Jabbing your potatoes with a sharp knife or fork is more than just a great form of anger management—it also allows some steam and excess moisture to escape from the inside of the potatoes as they are cooking, which results in a drier and fluffier interior once cooked. It also eliminates the small risk of the steam building up inside the potato and causing it to explode (I admit that an exploding potato sounds kind of cool, but if you’ve ever cleaned potato fragments out of the inside of your oven, you know it’s not a great thing). 

Oil and season your potatoes before cooking: Rubbing the potatoes with oil before baking turns the skin pleasantly crisp when baked, rather than leathery and tough. Simply use your hands to rub it all over, or you can be fancy like me and use a pastry brush for an even coating. Even when scrubbed thoroughly, potato skins still have an earthy taste because, well, they grow in the earth! I find that a light sprinkle of salt and pepper over the oiled skin seasons the exterior to cover up any unwanted lingering earthy flavors once baked.

Don’t preheat the air fryer but do bake at a high temperature: We found in side-by-side testing that preheating the air fryer made no difference in the final texture or cook time of the potato. So save yourself the five minutes of waiting for your air fryer to preheat. In our tests, we found that cooking the potatoes at 400℉ guaranteed the crisp skin we wanted, so don’t be afraid to crank up the heat on your air fryer. 

Rest your potatoes: Remember the childhood game of hot potato where you’d pretend a ball was a steaming hot potato burning your fingers, and you needed to throw it as fast as you could? Well, we’re not playing that game here in real life. Avoid burning your fingers and just let the potatoes sit on a plate for a few minutes once they’re done cooking. They’ll still be plenty hot and steamy to enjoy, but not burn-the-skin-of-your-fingers level hot. Just make sure to not let the potatoes sit too long before slicing into them. As they cool the remaining steam inside the baked potato will turn back into water and turn the potatoes wet and gummy inside.

Butter and season the potatoes thoroughly after baking: This is Daniel’s technique for ensuring every bite of the potato is properly seasoned, and it’s worth the time. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, split each potato open from end to end and use a spoon to scoop the flesh into a bowl, then mix butter, salt, and pepper into the flesh before scooping the mixture back into the potato skins. 

If this seems a bit fussy to you, you can technically skip this step and just cut open the potatoes and butter and season the cut tops of the flesh and mash it with a fork right in its skin, but they won’t be perfectly seasoned, and if you’ve just spent 40 minutes waiting for perfectly fluffy baked potatoes, don’t you want to spend the two extra minutes to season them properly? The answer is yes. I’m telling you to scoop and mash and reload.

Your gorgeous potato canvas is now properly prepped and ready to eat or top with fixings. Add whatever you want, such as the classics of sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, and chives, or experiment with whatever flavor combinations strike your fancy. I’d venture to say the final result is great enough to turn anyone into a baked potato devotee.

Using a fork or paring knife, lightly prick each potato all over several times. Rub each potato with oil. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. 

Overhead view of prepping potato
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Place potatoes in air fryer basket, spaced evenly apart. Place basket in air fryer and cook at 400°F until the potato skin is crispy and a paring knife inserted into the center of the potatoes meets little to no resistance, about 45 minutes. (Center of potatoes should register between 205°F to 210°F with an instant-read thermometer.)

Two image collage of potato in air fryer before and after
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Transfer potatoes to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice each open lengthwise and scoop flesh into a mixing bowl. Add butter, season with salt and pepper, and roughly mash, just until butter is incorporated but potatoes are still chunky.

Overhead view of slicing the potato
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Scoop mashed potatoes back into skins. (You can refill each skin, making 2 potatoes, or use all the mashed potato to refill only one skin, making 1 overstuffed potato.) Using your hands, reshape each stuffed potato back into a classic baked potato shape.

Add toppings of your choice. To melt cheese, add it first, then return potatoes to the air fryer set at  400°Foven until cheese melts, about 30 seconds1 minute; alternatively, use a torch to melt cheese. Serve right away.

Special Equipment

Air fryer

Italian Sausage and Peppers Sandwich

Plump, perfectly cooked Italian sausages with lightly sauced, charred and creamy peppers and onions all nestled into a sub roll.

Overhead view of sausages and peppers
Serious Eats / Victor Protasio

Hamburgers, hotdogs, pizza, and pie—all of these are foods that would easily make a top-ten list of classic culinary Americana. But we'd argue an Italian-American sausage and pepper sandwich is just as deserving of a spot. Whether you're wandering a street fair in a crowded city, grabbing a bite at a baseball stadium, or hitting the rickety rides at a traveling carnival, you're likely to spot a concession stand featuring a large griddle loaded with juicy Italian sausages and a tangled pile of tender peppers and onions. Stuffed into a sub roll and handed unceremoniously to you on a paper plate, it's a sandwich that's quietly familiar, rarely talked about, always present.

It's an easy sandwich to make at home as well. A proper Italian sausage sandwich should have a nice snap when you bite into it. The fennel-scented sausage should remain juicy and bulging (but not bursting) in its taut casing, topped with wilted, charred, and lightly sauced bell peppers and onions, all nestled into a hearty sub roll. It’s relatively quick (under 45 minutes) to make and relies on a number of pantry-friendly seasonings you probably already have on hand. The key to this homemade version’s success is the cooking method.

Overhead view of spooning peppers onto sausages
Serious Eats / Victor Protasio

The best way to achieve perfectly cooked and “snappy” sausages that are plump, not wrinkled, is to first simmer them in a flavorful sauce until they register 145°F (62℃) before finishing them in a skillet for a properly browned exterior. Kenji uses a similar technique and rationale for grilled sausages, pointing out that if you cook a sausage directly over high heat, the casing and outer layers will quickly get very hot, causing them to contract while the raw meat in the center won't have contracted at all. The frequent and undesirable result is the casing bursting open, expelling all the sausage juices into the pan, never to be recovered. You’re left with a sausage with a leathery exterior and a dried out and possibly still raw center.

Gently simmering the sausages first ensures the outer casing and the interior meat cook through at the same rate. A moderate and consistent heat avoids any fast contracting of the casing which could cause it to tear or wrinkle later on. Better yet, simmering in an intensely seasoned broth with garlic, fennel, and dried Italian spices infuses the sausage with even more flavor during cooking.

While the sausages are simmering, the iconic duo of peppers and onions are wilted and browned in a skillet. I prefer to use a cast iron skillet for optimal browning, but a stainless steel or even a nonstick skillet would work fine— just omit the preheating of the empty skillet in step 3.

Overhead view of sausages browned in skillet
Serious Eats / Victor Protasio


The sausages are then quickly browned in the skillet before a portion of the concentrated tomato-based cooking broth is stirred into the pepper and onion mixture and cooked until the broth is reduced and the vegetables are well coated. Stuffed into a sub roll, it's time to take a bite. The only question is, which American scene does the flavor take you to?

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add half of the garlic, Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and garlic is lightly browned, about 1 minute. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in chicken stock and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.

Two image collage of toasting fennel seeds and stirring in tomato paste
Serious Eats / Victor Protasio

Add sausages to the tomato mixture. Return mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat as needed to maintain gentle simmer, until sausages registers 145°F (62℃), 8 to 10 minutes; remove from heat.

Overhead view of sausages added to tomato mixture
Serious Eats / Victor Protasio

Meanwhile, heat an empty large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, then add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and heat until shimmering. Add peppers, onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Add the remaining half of the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. 

Two image collage of peppers cooking and adding garlic to softened peppers in pan
Serious Eats / Victor Protasio

Using tongs, push onion mixture to the edges of the skillet and place sausages into the clearing in the center of the skillet. Sear the sausages over medium-high heat, flipping sausages and stirring vegetables occasionally, until sausages are well browned in spots, about 4 minutes. Transfer sausages to a plate. 

Two image collage of adding sausages and flipping them over in pan
Serious Eats / Victor Protasio

Stir 1 cup of the cooked tomato mixture into pepper and onion mixture in the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and vegetables are well coated, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. 

Overhead view of adding liquid to pan
Serious Eats / Victor Protasio

Place 1 sausage in each bun. Divide pepper and onion mixture evenly among buns, spooning any remaining sauce from the skillet over top. Serve.

Overhead view of spooning peppers onto sausages
Serious Eats / Victor Protasio

Special Equipment

Large saucepan, large cast-iron skillet

Notes

Italian seasoning blend is usually made from a mixture of dried herbs including oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, and marjoram. Feel free to mix up your own version using whichever of those dried herbs you have on hand.

Red pepper flakes can vary significantly in their level of spiciness, as does an individual's tolerance for heat. Use more or less depending on the intensity of heat of your red chile flakes as well as your heat preference.