A staple of sports bars, casual-themed restaurants and efficient home kitchens, potato skins are the best use of leftover baked potaoes. Restaurants use the potato flesh for mashed potatoes and utilize the outer portion for loaded skins because it cuts food costs; restaurants can make around $12 for an item that would otherwise end up in the bin, at the time of publication. If you plan to use a protein for the filling — anything that oinked, mooed or clucked in its former life — you must cook it all the way through first.
Potatoes are a foundation food — you can make them as hearty or light as you like, with just about any protein or vegetable — in other words, they exemplify versatility. If you incline toward the hearty side of the spud, you can make baked-potato skins a stand-alone dish.
Coat the potatoes with olive oil and bake them until tender, about 1 hour in a 400-degree-Fahrenheit oven; lower the heat to 350 F. Cut the tops off the potatoes and scoop out about three-fourths of the interior. Mix the scooped potato with the filling ingredients: shredded chicken, diced bacon, cheese, onions, herbs — you get the idea. Stuff the potatoes and bake them for another 15 minutes.
Reserve the potato shells left over after serving baked potatoes to make the potato skins you find at casual-themed restaurants like T.G.I. Friday’s. Cut the shells in half and seal them in a heavy-duty freezer bag, pressing out the air as you do. Keep the skins in the freezer up to a month for best quality. To make restaurant-style skins without leftovers, bake the potatoes and cut them lengthwise in three pieces. Reserve the center piece for another dish and use the outer pieces for the skins.
Heat the oven to 425 F when you’re ready to cook the skins; thaw the skins at room temperature as the oven heats. Next, arrange the skins flesh-side down on a sheet pan and bake them until hot, about 5 minutes. Turn the skins over and top them as you like; for T.G.I. Friday’s version, use shredded cheddar cheese and chopped bacon. Bake the skins until the cheese melts and top with sour cream and chives.
Potato peels — the thin, papery scraps left over from basic peeling — almost always end up in the trash or compost bin — even in restaurants, where every piece of vegetable trim gets used for stock. They don’t look like much, but with a little TLC, they make an addictive chewy snack. If you plan on using the skins, scrub the potatoes before you peel them.
Heat the oven to 400 F. Next, toss out any peels with green on them. Solanine, the chemical responsible for the green, isn’t harmful in small doses, but children and the elderly might have some issues if they ingest too much of it. Coat the peels with a little olive oil; season them to taste and roast them for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. To serve, pile the skins on a plate and garnish them with shredded cheese, sliced green onions and herbs. Or just serve them with ketchup — kids love these.
Leftover potatoes don’t seem as dangerous as undercooked chicken or ground beef left out on the counter too long, but they can make you sick if you mishandle them. First, all twice-baked-potato variations must reach 165 F when you heat them the second time. Secondly, you can only reheat leftovers one time; more than that and bacteria have a field day while the skins go from hot to cold to hot again.
References and ResourcesU.S. Department of Agriculture: Leftovers and Food Safety
The Kitchn: Here's Why You Should Never Throw Out Potato Peels -- Tips From the Kitchen