The Long Step You Can Skip When Making Homemade Tater Tots

Among the many stellar preparations for consuming potatoes, the tater tot is an often underappreciated variety. Typically overshadowed by the gold standard french fry and more popular grated potato varieties like hashbrowns and latkes, the humble tater tot delivers a crisp exterior and a pillowy soft interior simultaneously. Frozen tater tots are unbelievably convenient and versatile, but did you know you can make them at home, too? 

Homemade tater tots leave room for extra customization in terms of seasonings and add-ins, but the process may seem daunting at first — peeling and boiling potatoes, cooling and shredding them, adding flour, parsley, and other seasonings, then shaping and frying them until you have perfectly crisp potato nuggets can take some time. But there's a way to make this project more efficient. Simply skip boiling your potatoes for a quick cook in the microwave. Since the goal here isn't to fully cook them, just soften them enough to make grating them easier, using the microwave is an easy way to make this delicious project more time effective.

How to microwave potatoes for homemade tater tots

How do we get the perfect par-cooked potato? First, wash and pierce them all over with a fork. This will help your microwave cook them as evenly as possible and allow steam to escape, preventing them from bursting open. Adjust your microwave to its highest setting and cook potatoes for two minutes, then flip them to prevent hot spots and cook for another one to two minutes. 

Depending on how many are in the microwave at once and how large they are, you may need to cook them for more or less time to achieve the perfect level of cooked. Expect them to take somewhere between four and eight minutes. Once they're soft enough to pierce with ease, but a bit shy of fully cooked, they're ready. Cool until they can be safely handled and then shred them with a box grater before moving on to the next step of your tater tot recipe.

Other ways to simplify this recipe

Employing the microwave when making tater tots will give you tender potatoes in less time than it'd take to boil a pot of water– but there are other shortcuts you can take to make the rest of the process as smooth and efficient as possible without compromising on quality. 

To effortlessly create uniformity when shaping, use a measuring spoon or a #60 small cookie scoop. Making sure each individual piece is the same size not only adds to their overall visual appeal, it also makes cooking easier. Since they're uniform, you won't have to work overtime making sure differently-sized tots are rotated and removed on their own timeline. 

To avoid the stress of deep frying in hot oil, which will fluctuate in temperature as uncooked tots are added and their cooked counterparts are removed, consider using your air fryer instead. Not only will it quickly preheat and remain at your ideal temperature, but it also more evenly circulates heat, ensuring that each potato pillow becomes perfectly crisp and golden brown — without having to compensate for hot spots. Whether you're making tater tots to enjoy as a side dish or to use in an upscale tater tot casserole that will surely make your Midwestern Nana proud, these tips will make the process faster and more enjoyable.