Baking a potato is simple. Baking a perfect baked potato requires a little extra work, though (but only a little!). From choosing the right potato to prepping exactly the right way, follow these simple steps and you’ll always have a golden, crisp skin surrounding a fluffy, white center.
What you’ll need
- Baking potatoes.
- Butter, olive oil or vegetable oil.
- Course or sea salt (optional, but highly recommended)!.
- Meat thermometer (optional).
Selecting a Spud
Sure, you can bake any ol’ potato. But for the perfect baked potato, you need a special spud. You’ll want a large, mature potato — a baking-style potato, like a Russet. Baking potatoes are starchy, which makes the potato extra fluffy. You’ll want to choose potatoes that are the same general shape and size so they’ll bake more evenly.
It should have an even brown skin without too many spots, sprouts (which are poisonous in large quantities) or bruises. Avoid potatoes with a green cast, as well. The green color is a result of being exposed to too much light (they call it being light struck), which causes a build-up of solanine. Eaten in large quantities, this can cause a bad reaction.
Proper Potato Preparation
- Before you start, preheat your oven with the rack moved to the center. The hotter and shorter you bake it, the crispier the skin will be. So use 400 degrees F for crispy, 350 degrees F for medium-crisp or 325 degrees F for softer (cook times in step seven). If you’re using a convection oven, reduce these heats by 25 degrees.
- Wash the potatoes in cool running water using a stiff-bristled brush (potatoes can be pretty dirty).
- Carefully remove any small spots or bruises with a sharp knife.
- Pierce the skin four times on each side with the knife, going at least a 1/4-inch in. This will allow the potato to let off steam while baking (don’t skip this step or your potato may explode)!.
- Rub the outside of the potato with oil or butter. For a little extra flavor, put some course salt on a plate and roll the potatoes in that, as well.
- Unless you want a soft-skinned potato, do not wrap the potato in aluminum foil — that’s steaming, not baking.
- Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack to bake. You’ll want to turn them halfway through and check them frequently after the 40-minute mark to ensure they don’t overcook, but you should bake them for 45 minutes for crispy potatoes (at 400 degree F), 60 minutes for a medium-crisp potato (at 350 degrees F) or 90 minutes for a softer-skinned potato (at 325 degrees F).
- Potatoes are done when they reach an internal temperature of 210 degrees F. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, they’re done when you squeeze them (with a potholder, of course) and it gives easily to the touch.
- Serve with your favorite toppings!
Take a look at: How to Cook Rice? Perfectly Fluffy Every Time
More Potato Tips
- The larger the potato, the longer it will take to bake.
- If you’re cooking more potatoes, it will take longer to cook.
- To serve, slit (don’t cut all the way through) the potatoes lengthwise across the top and, with your thumb where you started the slit and a finger where you finished, gently squeeze to push out the fluffy insides. (Be careful, it’s hot)!