The perfect Hot Pocket is gooey on the inside, crispy on the outside, and piping hot all the way through. One bite takes you back to simpler times, from school lunches to late-night dorm snacks, when the wafting scent of a processed cheese made you the envy of all your friends. In a perfect world, your first thought when biting into a Hot Pocket should be, “Wow, these little pizza burritos really hold up to my rose-tinted nostalgia,” and not, “Hmm, this tastes… more rubbery than I remember?”
Luckily, I’ve got good news: If you’ve outgrown your teenage taste buds but still want to enjoy everything the humble Hot Pocket has to offer, you totally can. It just comes down to how to cook Hot Pockets the right way. To find how to cook a Hot Pocket for the best results, Mythical Kitchen’s agent of chaos, Josh Scherer, and Sporked’s very own Jordan Myrick teamed up to test seven different ways of cooking Hot Pockets (we used pepperoni Hot Pockets), in search of the very best one.
Our meticulous and highly effective judging process hinged on five major criteria:
- Filling: Are we dealing with a flavor explosion, or a flavor implosion?
- Crust: Is the crust doughy, crispy, flaky, or fake-y?
- “Goo” factor: Does it “goo”? (Further explanation not needed.)
- Crunchability: Just how audible is that crunch?
- Cooking difficulty: Can any regular person make this, or does the cooking technique require a Michelin star?
Here our definitive rankings of how to cook a Hot Pocket, from worst to best:
7. Sous Vide
Coming in dead last to the shock of absolutely no one, the sous vide method not only received the lowest score of the bunch, it actually received no score, yielding zero after zero at every stage of our judging criteria. And rightly so. I’ll keep my thoughts and feelings on the subject simple: Jail. Jail to Josh, who came up with this idea and insisted on doing it in the first place. Jail to Jordan, who made me try it with them “for the integrity of the article.” Jail to all those involved. This food was an atrocity.
Cooking instructions: Don’t. If for some reason, you decide to ignore our advice, seal the Hot Pocket in a zip lock bag and place it in a 180° F water bath for 20 minutes, then deal with the consequences of your own actions.
6. Microwave (without Sleeve)
How does microwaving a Hot Pocket in the sleeve compare to tossing that sucker onto the turntable butt-naked? What we found may seriously shock you.
I’m kidding. That was clickbait, written with the purpose of keeping you here, right here, with me, forever. As expected, that sleeve is good for something other than protecting the bread’s innocence–it also keeps the crust from getting too rubbery.
Cooking instructions: Unwrap the Hot Pocket. Throw away that crisping sleeve. Place on a microwave-safe plate. Cook on HIGH (1100 watt oven) for 2 minutes (for lower wattage/compact microwave, cook on HIGH for 3 minutes). Let sit for 2 minutes to complete cooking, and enjoy.
5. Microwave (with Sleeve)
This classic, tried-and-true method of cooking Hot Pockets requires minimal effort and still yields pretty solid results. You get the perfect blend of molten cheese and herbed sauce, even if the pepperoni is chewier than pepperoni probably should be. The crust may not be as flaky and crispy as it could be, but you can pick it up without permanently altering your fingerprints, and that’s always a plus. Most importantly, one bite will transport you right back to your golden years: high school! Gosh, we all loved high school, didn’t we?
Cooking instructions: Unwrap hot pocket and insert into the crisping sleeve. Place on a microwave-safe plate. Cook on HIGH (1100 watt oven) for 2 minutes. For lower wattage/compact microwave, cook on HIGH for 3 minutes. Let sit for 2 minutes to complete cooking, and enjoy.
4. Toaster Oven
In terms of our incredibly advanced and completely infallible point system, the toaster oven and conventional oven were neck and neck. They both earned top marks for bubbly, evenly melted cheese, visible goo strings, and an audible crunch. It all came down to the Hot Pocket’s longevity–aka, how edible it tasted after staying out for a bit. The toaster oven Hot Pocket was not great at room temp.
Despite being lower on the list, I feel it vital to note the one advantage to using a toaster oven is, of course, time. Patience is a virtue I simply do not possess, hungry or otherwise, and these little ovens simply preheat faster than their larger counterparts.
Cooking instructions: Preheat toaster oven to 350° F. Unwrap Hot Pocket and place on the rack. Do not use crisping sleeve in the toaster oven. Bake between 22-28 minutes (results will vary by toaster oven), flipping once if desired, then carefully remove.
3. Conventional Oven
The oven outperformed its smaller, faster cousin, the toaster oven. Overall, the oven-cooked Hot Pocket’s crust and filling held up better over time. If you’re cooking hot pockets for a large party (which, yum? We should do that more often?), the oven would be your best bet. You can cook in larger batch sizes, and it’s okay if they sit out for a while, since they still taste pretty dandy at room temperature.
Cooking instructions: Preheat oven to 350° F. Unwrap hot pocket and place on baking sheet. Do not use crisping sleeve in the oven. Bake for 28 minutes, flipping once if desired, then carefully remove.
2. Air Fryer
If you’ve already read our take on the best way to cook pizza rolls, this should come as no surprise! Pizza rolls are basically teeny tiny hot pockets, are they not?
The air fryer earns all the accolades here. It’s speedier than the oven, and the crust comes out with a golden, bubbly crisp. The convection heat cocoons the flavors into a cheesy, sumptuous, beautiful butterfly ready to spread its gooey wings.
Now, that being said, I have one bone to pick with the air fryer: Not everyone owns one!
Cooking instructions: Here’s how to cook a Hot Pocket in an air fryer. Set air fryer to 360°F. Remove Hot Pocket from the box, wrapping, and crisping sleeve. Cook for 16 minutes for one Hot Pocket and 18 minutes for two Hot Pockets.
1. Deep Fryer
Even though deep frying received the second-lowest score on cooking difficulty, it still beat all the competitors. And that’s because the results were, quite literally, jaw-dropping. Everyone who tried it audibly gasped. I took one bite and felt like someone punched me in the face. In a good way!
A deep-fried Hot Pocket has a crust so golden you could sell it at a pawn shop, and there’s a flavor explosion activated by all the oils seeping into the filling’s pepperoni, sauce, and, seasoning. I would serve these at a wedding. Even Ben Wyatt, Parks and Rec calzone connoisseur, would be proud.
Cooking instructions: Fill a deep fryer with enough oil to completely cover the Hot Pocket (3-4 inches). You can use any type of oil, but canola oil, vegetable oil, and peanut oil are all especially good for frying. Heat the oil until it reaches 350° F. Pat the Hot Pocket with paper towels to remove any condensation on the outer crust. Fry for 2-3 minutes. Remove and let drain and cool on a paper towel-lined plate.
Josh and Jordan’s journey to find the Hot Pocketful of Dreams was, needless to say, epic. Bards will sing about the Sin of Sous Vide for generations to come. Poetry entitled To Sleeve or Not to Sleeve: That is the Burning Question will grace the history books. So, how to cook a Hot Pocket for the best ever Hot Pocket? You gotta deep-fry it. But if you’re wondering how to cook a Hot Pocket for nearly as good results but with way less effort? Air fryer.