Making the perfect baked potato couldn’t be easier, and the results are practically guaranteed as long as you follow a few simple steps.
Start With The Right Spuds The process of creating the perfect baked potato actually starts in the produce aisle. There are many potato varieties but only certain types will deliver that uniquely hearty yet light and fluffy texture we’re looking for. The best baking potatoes are those with the highest starch content.
Russets (often sold as Idahos) have the most starch of all potato varieties and are the undisputed winners when it comes to baking. They’re generally long rather than round and have a thick, coarse brownish skin. Their dry, mealy texture makes them a bad choice for moisture-based preparations like boiling or mashing, but it delivers the perfect lightness when cooked in the dry heat of an oven.
If Russets aren’t available, all-purpose potatoes like Yukon Gold will do a serviceable job. They’ll cook well and will taste fine, but finished product will be heavier, moister, and distinctly less fluffy. No matter what kind of potatoes you’re buying, don’t just grab the first bag on the pile. Check them out to make sure the skins are smooth and unbroken, with no bruises, sprouts, green spots, or wrinkles.
The Baking Process: Utter Simplicity When you’re ready to start cooking, scrub the potatoes well under running water. Select potatoes that are roughly the same size, so they cook at the same rate and none turn out overcooked and dry or undercooked and hard.
Pierce the potato in 10 or 12 evenly-spaced places with a regular fork. This is important; piercing allows the internal steam generated by cooking to escape, which prevents them from exploding and enhances the fluffiness.
Immediately before cooking, rub the potatoes lightly with vegetable oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. This will create a final product with skin that’s crispy-tender and delicious.
Don’t wrap your spuds in aluminum foil to bake. That will result in an oven-steamed potato and the texture and flavor will suffer.
Pre-heat your overn to 400 degrees and place the potatoes directly on the center rack. If your spuds are large, count on an hours’ cooking time; medium potatoes will probably be done in 45 minutes. If you’re also baking something that requires a lower temperature, potatoes are endearingly adaptable. Add about 15 minutes to the expected cooing time if you’re cooking at 350 degrees, and 25 to 30 more minutes if your oven is set at 325.
Check for doneness by gently squeezing the spuds. If they feel soft and give under your fingers, they’re done. You can also check for doneness by inserting a fork in the thickest part of the potato; if it slides in easily, the potato is done.