Take a potato. Bake it. Baked potato. Ok, there’s a little bit more in how to make a baked potato. But it isn’t difficult and there are just a few tricks that will help elevate your potato game to perfection. So, read on and take notes to kick your spuds into high gear.
It is a fairly simple concept in and of itself. Apply heat to the root vegetables and the starches inside will absorb moisture and soften up. A similar process happens when rice cooks as well. So when it is done cooking we have something edible instead of a hard, crunchy root.
The goal of a baked potato is to get the inside perfectly fluffy, yet moist. This entails cooking it fully through so that it is no longer tough, but not cooking it so much that it begins to dry out. It is a delicate balance and can take a little practice to truly get down right.
For something truly incredible, try using these perfectly baked potatoes in other dishes that start with cooked potatoes. Twice-baked potatoes, breakfast potato hash, potato salad, or baked potato soup.
Tricks for Good Spuds
Always start with a deep scrubbing of your potatoes. An inexpensive vegetable brush can help to thoroughly clean all of your vegetables before cooking. This is just good practice to wash and sometimes scrub all produce before using and eating. Especially for root vegetables, give them a good scrub before you think about popping them in your mouth.
This next tip of mine may be a bit controversial. I recommend wrapping potatoes with foil before baking. I think this helps to keep them from drying out. They also have less tendency to overcook when wrapped. However, it also doesn’t give as crispy of an outside skin, which some people love. For a crispier skin, you can take potatoes out of the foil for the last 15 minutes or so of cook time.
Before closing the foil and tossing everything into the oven, brush the potatoes with butter or olive oil. Then sprinkle them with salt and pepper for the bake. This adds a whole lot of flavor and protects against drying them out.
And finally, put the potatoes on a baking sheet. You don’t want any butter, oil, etc. dripping down in your oven. It will start burning and smoking. Then the smoke will leak out of the oven and create a big haze in your house. Then you have to open windows and turn on fans to clear things up. Definitely not speaking from personal experience, I heard it from a friend it happened to once…
Baked Potato Creations
A baked potato alone isn’t the most appetizing, even when cooked perfectly. It just doesn’t have enough flavor by itself. You need a little something to go with it. Add more than a little and you can have yourself a full meal with the potato as the base.
For a classic baked potato use any of the following toppings: butter, sour cream, chives, chopped bacon, shredded cheese, dill, and cheese sauce. This potato can be served as a side – especially with a great grilled steak. It can also be served as a meal.
But to really elevate the humble baked potato to full meal status, try topping it with something outside of the ordinary: pulled pork, chili, broccoli and white cheddar sauce, shredded turkey and gravy, buffalo sauce and gorgonzola, bbq chicken, or pesto and chicken.
And you can really make a night of it by having all of the toppings available at a baked potato bar. This is a very simple meal for a large group. The potatoes can easily stay warm for a while. Everyone can customize to their heart’s content. And honestly, who doesn’t love the starchy goodness of potatoes?
How to Make the Perfect Baked PotatoCourse: SidesDifficulty: Easy
From basic side to full-on meal, the humble baked potato is a versatile food – so learn how to make them flavorful and fluffy
6 large russet potatoes
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
- Wash and scrub the potatoes, then poke them on all sides with a fork to give steam an escape while cooking
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C)
- Tear out 6 foil sheets, large enough to fully wrap an individual potato
- Put a potato in the center of a foil sheet, top with 1/2 tbsp butter, salt, pepper, and wrap it together, pinching the top closed
- Repeat step 4 with all remaining potatoes
- Place the wrapped potatoes on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for 50 minutes
- After 50 minutes, test the potatoes by sticking a knife or fork through the largest one and seeing if it slides through smoothly. If so, it is done, if there is still resistance, keep cooking and checking every 5 minutes until done
- Once they are done cooking, pull them out of the oven and open up the foil to let them cool slightly, then remove them from the foil and serve with whatever toppings are desired