Categories:Cooking Lessons - Cooking 101 Potatoes Side Dishes
Perfect baked potato has crisp skin and is light and fluffy inside. Learn how to choose and prepare potatoes for cooking by following a few simple tips.
Perfect Baked Potato Recipe:
Olive oil, vegetable oil, or butter
Coarse salt or sea salt (optional)
How To Choose Potatoes for Baking: Any potato can be baked, but for the perfect baked potato with the desired flaky texture, it is recommended that mature, baking-type potatoes such as the Russet potatoes be used. Russets are known as a starchy potato, a baking potato, or a mealy potato. The starch gives the potato it’s characteristic fluffiness.
A sprout of any size can be toxic, but you would have to eat many sprouts to get sick. Do not buy potatoes if they have sprouted or have a green tint to the skin. The same is true for potatoes that turn a greenish hue. A potato in this condition is “light-struck” which causes a build-up of a chemical called Solanine. This is a natural reaction to the potato being exposed to too much light. The green part, if eaten in large quantity, can cause illness.
When baking a large amount of potatoes at one time, choose potatoes with uniform shapes and sizes; they will cook more evenly and get done at the same time.
Adjust the rack in your oven to the middle position and preheat oven to desired temperature (see Cooking Temperature Chart below).
Rinse and scrub (I use a stiff-bristled brush) each potato under cold running water, as you will be eating the skins of these perfect potatoes. Don’t soak the potatoes (that will make them soggy. Do not use hot water or you’ll start cooking the outside and the inside won’t catch up). A majority of the vitamins and minerals are found in the skin, so don’t throw it away. Dry each potato thoroughly with a clean towel.
Look the cleaned potatoes over and remove any bruises or discolored spots with the tip of your knife.
Pierce each potato deeply with a fork or sharp knife four (4) times on each side at approximately 1-inch intervals. This will allow steam to escape during the baking. If you do not pierce the potatoes, they may explode during baking in your oven. You do not want this to happen as it makes a terrible mess in your oven!
Wrapping the potato in aluminum foil will produce a soft skin (not crispy). Technically this is steaming rather than baking (as the moisture in the potato remains trapped) and the light, flaky texture will be missing. The texture of a steamed potato is entirely different from that of a perfect baked potato. Save yourself the trouble and expense of wrapping potatoes in aluminum foil and serve perfect baked potatoes. My suggestion is to NEVER use aluminum foil when baking potatoes!
For a soft potato skin, rub the outside of the potato with olive oil, vegetable oil, or butter over the skins. I like to roll the potatoes in coarse or sea salt after rolling in the oil and before baking. Place coarse salt onto a small plate. Roll potatoes lightly in the salt. The skin is so yummy to eat when baked!
Bake on racks of oven until tender.
Bake according to the Temperature Chart below. Do not overcook potatoes as the insides will be dry, so it’s important to be vigilant.
Cooking Temperatures for Perfect Baked Potatoes Every Time:
Conventional or Regular Oven:
(about 5 ounces or 150 grams each)
45 minutes at 400 degrees F.
60 minutes at 350 degrees F.
90 minutes at 325 degrees F.
Place the potato directly on the oven rack in a preheated oven. Place a baking sheet (I put a piece of aluminum foil) on the lower rack (below the potatoes) to catch any drippings.
(about 5 ounces or 150 grams each)
45 minutes at 375 degrees F.
60 minutes at 325 degrees F.
90 minutes at 300 degrees F.
Convection ovens cook up to 20% faster than regular ovens. Also, the food in a convection oven is cooked at a lower temperature than in a regular oven to achieve the same results.
The general rule is to decrease your oven temperature at least 25 degrees lower than a regular oven.
Potatoes are done if tender when pierced with a fork and the internal temperature reaches 210 degrees F. I always use my meat thermometer to test for doneness. You can also test for doneness by gently squeezing the middle of the potato (using a pot holder). If it gives in easily to your touch, it is done.
This is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right. To learn more about this excellent thermometer and to also purchase one (if you desire), just click on the underlined: Thermapen Thermometer.
The higher the oven temperature, the shorter the cooking time will be and the crustier the skin. Larger potatoes will take longer to bake. Bake potatoes along with whatever else you are baking and gauge the cooking time according to oven temperature.
Turn the potatoes over halfway through the baking time to prevent browning of the undersides where they touch the oven rack.
Potatoes are done if tender when pierced with a fork and the internal temperature reaches 210 degrees F. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness. You can also test for doneness by gently squeezing the middle of the potato (using a pot holder or oven mitt). If it gives in easily to your touch, it is done.
When baked to perfection, remove potatoes from the oven. Slit across the top with a sharp knife. Gently pinch (squeeze) in each end of the potato towards the middle (using your thumb and index finger). The potato will then pop open and loosen the fluffy white interior from the skin. Be careful as there will be some steam.
You now have a perfect baked potato – All you need to do is top it with your favorite topping and enjoy!
What goes good with the Perfect Baked Potato – the Perfect Steak!
Learn how to Cook the Perfect Steak.
Comments from readers:
I’m a good cook. A while back I was looking for alternate baking times for potatoes so I could synchronize with other oven dishes. Your tutorial – it’s that good – on baking potatoes nailed the subject. I used to be a tech writer years ago. Your informative, tight, and expert writing is about as good as it gets. Thanks.- Jack Labusch, Niles, Ohio (10/16/14)
I had never made a baked potato before. I remember the ones my mother used to cook when I was a kid being really dry but I wanted to make one, so I googled it and found your site. My baked potatoes were delicious and I have you to thank for it. They’re now a regular staple in my ever-burgeoning cooking repertoire. Thank you so much. I so appreciate a recipe that turns out beautifully. – Diane (12/20/13)
I was just looking online at new ways to bake a potato AND I SAW YOUR SITE. PERFECT just like you said with no aluminum foil used and salt, pepper, and butter on the outside – perfect cook times. They were amazing! I don’t think I came up for air, it was the best baked potato I’ve ever had at home or anywhere else! – from Facebook (10/30/13)
Hi Linda – Your recipe is perfect. I am a terrible cook and have always assumed you have to wrap a baked potato in Reynolds Wrap. I have also cooked them at too high a temperature. I followed your instructions and they turned out perfectly. You are right – the consistency is totally different. – Regards Cindy (4/21/13)
I’m 55 years old and tonight I cooked my very first baked potatoes. I don’t cook much. I didn’t cook my first chicken until I was 50, the list goes on. I don’t particularly like baked potatoes but my husband does. During our 15 year marriage, I did a bake potato for him once a few years ago in the microwave – it was edible. I think! Tonight I decided it make him real baked potatoes with his dinner and decided to look up how to do it. I found your website and followed your directions to the letter (except my husband doesn’t like a lot of salt so after baking with the olive oil and sea salt, I wiped off the sea salt before serving). He said he could still taste the salt and they were two of the best baked potato’s he has ever eaten. I didn’t have them but wanted them to be good for him and they were. From a hopeless cook and an American abroad, thank you so much for the Perfect Baked Potato. Cheers – Karen Harland, Middleton St. George, England.