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How To Bake a Potato: 3 No-Fail Methods

Loaded baked potato
Some people say low and slow is the only way to do it right, but I’ve got a few shortcuts that don’t sacrifice taste.
By Natalie Boike

Introduction

I’ve become somewhat of a baked potato pro. For me, there’s nothing quite like a properly cooked, creamy, fluffy baked potato. And they’re so versatile! A simple salt + pepper + butter topping and you’ve got a perfect match for classic Garlic Chicken. Or, go crazy with toppings and make a meal of it. I’ve got the no-fail method to baked potato bliss, plus two super-awesome shortcuts.

Quick Potato Prep

First things first: the potato. I tend to go with a classic Idaho—sometimes called Russet or white potato. You can also use sweet potatoes with killer results. I’ve found there isn’t a potato I don’t like baked. You mainly need to make sure they’re all about the same size so you have similar bake times. That’s the other great thing about baked potatoes: It’s easy to make one or a bunch; the method doesn’t change.

Potatoes on a baking sheet

You’ll also need:

  • a sheet pan or slow cooker
  • a fork,
  • a scrubbing brush,
  • aluminum foil or plastic wrap
  • basic pantry seasonings: oil, salt and pepper.

To get started you’ll have to clean your potatoes. No one wants dirt on their potato skin. Yes, I eat my potato skin! Just like other fruits and vegetables, the skin is where all the vitamins and minerals are. If you cook it correctly, it’s delicious too.

A simple wash in warm water does the trick—no soap needed. Use a stiff bristle brush to remove any caked-on dirt. Make sure it’s a brush you use exclusively for cleaning veggies. If you’ve got a few buds or sprouts use your brush or fingers to break ‘em off. Small bruises and cuts are OK, but try to avoid mangled potatoes. Those are best for Homemade Mashed Potatoes or other uses—when you can cut away the bad parts.

Then, use a fork to poke a few holes in your potatoes. I like to do a few on each side, all the way around. This is an important step! It allows the steam to escape and prevents potato Armageddon in your kitchen.

Now, here’s where you pick your own potato adventure. I’ll start with the purist method.

Method #1: Classic Baked Potato How-To

Rub a small amount of olive oil on your potatoes, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. (Some people even roll their potatoes in the salt, which is A-OK.) Place your potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in an oven preheated to 425°F for 30 to 45 minutes.

Potatoes on a baking sheet

Total time will vary based on oven type and potato size, but not quantity. Just make sure the potatoes are evenly spaced on your baking sheet and you could cook one or 8 per pan. If you’re using a convection oven, you should bake at 375°F for about 30 minutes before testing for doneness. You’ll know your potatoes are ready when the outside is slightly crisp and when you pierce the center with a sharp knife the flesh inside gives way easily.

Pro tip: No need to wrap your potatoes in foil in this method. It will actually prevent you from getting a nice crisp skin.

Method #2: Shortcut Baked Potato How-To

Here’s the reality: I don’t usually have 45 minutes to bake a side dish, and I doubt you do either. So, I like to jumpstart the cooking process with the microwave. Clean and poke your potatoes as described above. Then, wrap ‘em in plastic wrap and pop it into a microwave for 5 minutes. (If you use this trick a lot, you can even invest in or make a reusable potato sack.)

Potatoes wrapped in plastic wrap

Then, carefully remove your plastic wrap and place potatoes on a baking sheet. Season with oil, salt and pepper. Then finish in your 425°F oven. A few minutes in the microwave cuts the oven baking time by about half. Start checking for doneness after 15 to 20 minutes—again depending on your microwave and oven settings, and the size of the potatoes. Summer tip: You could also skip the oven all together and toss your seasoned potatoes on grill for an oven-off dinner.

Method #3: Slow-Cooker Baked Potato How-To

My final trick for baked potato bliss is using the best kitchen appliance invented: the slow cooker. Again, clean and poke your potatoes. Season with oil, salt and pepper. This time, wrap ‘em in aluminum foil and place in the slow cooker. Depending on the size of your ceramic insert, you could cook up to 10 potatoes this way!

Potatoes, wrapped in tin foil, in a crock pot

Set your slow cooker to low and let cook between 6 and 10 hours. Take note: This is the perfect amount of time for a weekday slow-cooker recipe.

Serve It Up!

No matter how you got here, you’ve made it to the best part: eating! Be sure to use your oven mitt to place your hot potatoes on the plate. There are many ways to slice or dice them, but I like to make one big long cut lengthwise, then pinch the potato to open it up.

Opened baked potato

Then, the toppings. If you’ve done it right, all you really need is butter. But, there’s nothing wrong with a loaded potato. In fact, there are a lot of things right about it. Here are a few of my fave topping combos.

  • Loaded: sour cream (crème fraiche if you’re feeling fancy), cheese, crumbled bacon and green onion.
  • Go all-in on veggies and top with steamed broccoli + cheese.
  • Flavored butters are pretty amazing. Start simple with equal parts blue cheese + butter, but the sky’s the limit.
  • Go sweet with a sweet potato and brown sugar, butter and fresh sage topping.
  • Kick up a spicy version with cilantro, jalapeños, plain Greek yogurt and sriracha.
  • You can even make it the star of your dinner and top it with a quick chili.

Share your favorite ways to top potatoes in the comments section below.

Loaded Baked Potato


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